The Day I Decided to Stop Hiding My Hearing Aids
I stared at the new pair of dark brown behind-the-ear hearing aids that were sitting on the audiologist’s desk before me. I had been secretly dreading this day for several weeks – the day I would have to trade my tiny receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids for a pair of larger and more powerful behind-the-ear hearing aids with custom earmolds.
My audiologist tried her best to balance my two biggest needs when she originally fit me with my first pair of hearing aids: hearing aids that were as small and discreet as possible that would amplify the frequencies I couldn’t hear. Although my audiologist tried to make the receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids work for my hearing loss and the tiny size of my ears over the several months that I had them, nothing we tried seemed to work.
Eventually, I reluctantly chose to switch to a pair of larger and more powerful behind-the-ear hearing aids instead of the receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids, because I was tired of not being able to hear well. This decision was incredibly difficult for me, because while I had begun to accept the fact that I have a hearing loss and that wearing hearing aids is beneficial to me, I still struggled with my self-esteem and being one of the only young adults with hearing loss I knew.
My mind raced and I fought back tears while my audiologist programmed my new hearing aids and placed them on my ears. How would I be able
to hide my hearing loss from others with these giant hearing aids perched on my ears?
I invested all of my energy into hiding my new larger hearing aids for several weeks. My short pixie haircut made it nearly impossible to hide my
hearing aids with my hair, so I decided I had to be creative and come up with a different way to hide my ears from the rest of the world. Since it
was the beginning of spring, I was able to get away with wearing
beanies that covered my ears for several weeks… until the weather became warmer and my friends and classmates started asking me why I was wearing hats all the time, even when it was not cold outside. I was armed with all sorts of excuses – it’s a fashion choice, this hat matches my outfit, I made this hat myself, my hair is a mess today, and my go-to: “Because I want to, that’s why.”
Even though I knew it wasn’t true, I felt as though all eyes were fixated
on my ears as soon as I walked into the room, especially when I entered the
classroom. I felt even more self-conscious and insecure about my hearing loss than I ever had before, and I started withdrawing from social situations as much as I possibly could as a result.
For several weeks after I was fitted with my new larger hearing aids, I began to stop by the bathroom before each of my classes to look at myself in the mirror – not because I wanted to see what I looked like, but because I wanted to make sure my hearing aids were not visible to anyone else. I found it incredibly difficult to concentrate during my classes because my
mind was constantly preoccupied by the fear that I would turn my head in a certain way or my beanie would shift ever so slightly and reveal my hearing aids. My fear of being caught with exposed ears led me to stand in front of the mirror every morning and try my best to make sure my hearing aids were completely covered by my hair and my beanie.
One morning as I was standing in front of the mirror before class, I began to question why I was trying so hard to hide my hearing aids from the rest of the world. The class I was about to go to was required for my major, and focuses specifically on learning about people with hearing loss. I stopped and stared at myself in the mirror as I began to think about what was happening. I was about to go to a class that is dedicated to learning about hearing loss and how to work with people who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing. It was probably one of the safest places on my entire college campus to have a hearing loss. My hearing loss was not really a secret since I used various forms of accommodations in my classes. So why was I trying so hard to hide my new hearing aids?
After a few moments I took a deep breath, pulled the beanie off my head and stuffed it into my backpack, and walked out of the bathroom and into the classroom. My muscles were tense as a million thoughts rushed through my head, but I felt my muscles relax as the class period progressed and nothing bad happened. Feeling encouraged, I didn’t wear my beanie to my other classes that day – and happily, nothing happened; no one drew attention to my hearing aids, and almost everyone treated me the same way they always did.
A few days later, I saw a picture on Facebook of a cochlear implant and a hearing aid someone decorated with washi tape to make it look prettier and more colorful than the boring skin and hair colors hearing aids and cochlear implants typically come in. I searched for more images of decorated hearing aids online, and I quickly decided I wanted to decorate
my hearing aids, too. A large part of the reason why I felt so insecure and
hesitant about wearing my new hearing aids was that my hearing aids were rather large and an ugly shade of brown… but I could easily fix that with a bit of creativity and some colorful decorative tape!
I started experimenting with various colors and designs of washi tape and duct tape. My first “pimp,” as it is called in one of the Facebook groups dedicated to showcasing the numerous ways hearing aids and cochlear implants can be decorated, was a bright purple washi tape with white polka dots. (Anyone who knows me well knows I am obsessed with the color purple, so it’s no surprise my first hearing aid pimp was purple!)
Although my original purpose for decorating my hearing aids was to ease my insecurities and make me feel more confident about my hearing
aids and my hearing loss, it has become so much more. My brightly decorated, colorful hearing aids help me to advocate for myself when needed. Since my hearing aids are very noticeable, I receive quite a lot of questions about my hearing aids and my hearing loss that spark a conversation. My colorful hearing aids help others to remember that I have a hearing loss and I need for them to speak clearly and face me when they are talking to me. It eases some of the frustrations of trying to communicate with people who do not have hearing losses and who don’t automatically know or remember how to best communicate with me. I have been able to help other people who have hearing losses to feel more confident because of my colorful hearing aids, and I have even inspired a few people to begin decorating their hearing equipment as well!
If you feel self-conscious or insecure about wearing hearing aids because you don’t want people to notice your hearing aids and/or you don’t
like the way that hearing aids look, I encourage you to consider decorating
your hearing aids to reflect your personal sense of style. Decorating my
hearing aids has helped me to embrace my hearing loss, learn how to advocate for myself, and teach others about my hearing loss and how to communicate with me effectively.
Besides… who wants to wear boring beige or brown hearing aids, anyway?
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