Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The Best Time I Got Hearing Aids at Age 32

When you’ve needed hearing aids all your life, and finally get them at the age of 32, mostly the world sounds like water. At first, you crane your neck looking for fountains, but really it’s only traffic. You keep an eye out for waterfalls, but apparently that’s just what air sounds like.

To celebrate, the first day you get your hearing aids, you go to the 540 club for a mimosa and you’re in awe because when you pay, you can hear the dollars rubbing against each other. You can hear your fingers brushing against your jeans. You tell the bartender this and he probably thinks you’re crazy, but he congratulates you like he means it. You sit outside, marveling that the voices of small children from half a block away are making their way into your ear canals. It’s a little overwhelming. You gulp your drink, buzzed on champagne and little flits of Mandarin that carry from the produce store patrons next door.

You go on a date and you put in your hearing aids, and that guy never calls you, so the next time you go on a date, you don’t put them in. You can still hear most things. You’re not all that deaf — just partly deaf. Everything without hearing aids is more flat, more hollow than it’s supposed to be, and your ears left to their own devices can’t catch that “din” that your audiologist explained was the world, was what you’d been missing all these years. Plus, things like this kept happening, which was why you finally booked the appointment:

Cute guy from massage business down the hall: [mumblemumble]
You: I’m sorry?
Massage guy: [mumblemumble]
You: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.
Massage guy: Oh, I was just saying, WHAT’S UP?
You: Right. Ha.

You don’t always wear the hearing aids, because it’s strange, still. Everyone seems closer. Everyone seems high def. The bus is unbearably loud. Your audiologist is very encouraging, even when he can clearly see when he hooks them into his computer that you’ve only logged about 20 hours of wearing time in two weeks. “You’re a natural!” he crows. You feel unnatural.

But some things are beautiful, birds and the rhythmic beeps and booms and scrapes of the city, and some of your favorite music has lyrics and beats you never knew about, so it’s like you’re listening to it for the first time.

Also, when the world is too much, you can shut it off with a click. Most people can’t.

Your friends make fun of you all the time, but affectionately, and your hearing deficit is just a part of you, but actually hearing is a challenge in a way you never expected. You’re like an old person and like a baby at the same time, which for right now, you guess, isn’t a bad way to spend the days.

Melissa Chandler is in San Francisco, writing and enjoying the clackety sounds.

Photo by Palmer Kane LLC, via Shutterstock.

124 Comments / Post A Comment


yay! so glad to read this. hearing loss happens so much! and there still seems to be a stigma with hearing aids, which makes it really difficult for younger people to own it and do something positive about it.

my (lesbian communist) mother suffered through considerable hearing loss for most of her adult life. I always thought she was a cranky person, but it turns out she was just frustrated because she couldn't hear anything! she finally got some super hi-tech little hearing aids about 13 years ago, and has been the happiest camper ever since.

Except when one of her cats plays with it and it ends up under a shelf or pillow somewhere, making a high pitched whine from the feedback that she can't hear because she doesn't have her hearing aids! at which point she calls a friend or family member to hunt for the feedback and find her hearing aid. :-)


@teenie I keep thinking about all the people in Iraq and Afghanistan who've probably suffered a bunch of hearing loss from explosions in the past 10 years. Where are their hearing aids, DOD?!

And given that glasses are accepted and even fetishized, why can't hearing aids be cool?


@laurel They're cool if you're Morrissey c. 1984! (Seriously he wore one on Tops of the Pops as a fashion statement)


@Bunburying I am hoping that by the time I need them (I'm pretty sure I will) they will come in more colours that beige. I mean, that is NO ONE's 'skin colour', let's not even get into how only white skin is 'skin colour'. I'd rather have a funky teal one. It's not shameful, it's another cyborg device, like my glasses or my implanted birth control or the macros I've programmed into my exoskeleton.

lina lamont

@Craftastrophies they already come in SO many colors! Including brown for brown skin. I'd say most patients I see wear black or white to blend with their hair. Kids often wear black or brown to match hair or blue/pink/purple/silver.


@lina lamont Hooray! Maybe I only see older people, with older models, here. Must pay more attention.

(Ps I dig your username)


Love, love, love.@j

Jennifer Culp

This is wonderful. Something like the auditory equivalent of getting glasses and seeing leaves on trees for the first time, and you express it so eloquently.


@Jennifer Culp It's amazing what you don't know you're missing when you gradually lose a sense like that. After I finally got glasses in eighth grade I stared at everything around me like a tourist in a foreign country. Gravel! Leaves! Individual ants! Suddenly there are twice as many stars!


@Jennifer Culp When my baby sister got glasses at age five, she discovered that leaves existed - and also that my dad had teeny hairs on his arms.


@anachronistique I had glasses by age 9, and when I got contacts at 12, I had peripheral vision for the first time in my memory. I had NO IDEA that people could actually see things that they weren't facing head on. It was awesome, and freaky.

Not at all the same as getting hearing aids, of course. What a lovely piece.

Michaela D@twitter

@Jennifer Culp I got my first pair of glasses around five, in an optometrist office squished into a big box store. Talk about sensory overload! The people! The products on shelves! The signs suspended from the ceiling telling you that electronics were sold three hundred feet to the right! It was unreal, and of course I spent the ride home glued to the window.


@Bebe I got mine in high school. It is as you describe - one of my eyes is nearsighted, one far, so everything was sort of fuzzy everywhere. It was AMAZING to be able to see so clearly.

Then, last year, I got my fancy dark glasses because I was having issues with light. Oh man. Not having to squint all the time? SO GOOD YOU GUYS! I still miss seeing the dark - it's never dark, I always have those little scintillating lights in front of my eyes. But it does make walking into a dark room easier (just look over 'em). It's sort of like that first shower after camping - I wouldn't say it's worth needing glasses to have that moment of revelation, but it's close.


@Jennifer Culp I got glasses at 8 and I couldn't believe how ugly people were. I couldn't see all the tiny imperfections in hair and skin without them and I was quite disappointed. But seeing is awesome.


::sigh:: I'm 39 and need hearing aids. While the loss is subtle now, it will get worse. They tell me that the sooner I get them, the easier it is to adapt. Sounds logical. I'm still a bit in denial, though (I was just informed of this recently.) And the cost! In the meantime, my supervisor has devised a system.. if I'm talking too loudly, she tugs on her ear.


@Peep What a good supervisor!
I hope you're able to do whatever is best for you in terms of getting/not getting them.


Oh my gosh, this is so incredible. Maybe my favorite personal best yes? The Best Time I Read a Personal Best?

Thanks so much for writing it.


@PistolPackinMama I only wish this was longer! I could definitely read more!


@Dusk What you should do is watch some of the "____ hearing ____ for the first time after getting cochlear implants" videos. tears. tears all day.


@spoondisaster Wonderful! My husband will come in and I'll be a puddle of emotions and I'll sob "A Pinner told me to do it!" and he'll roll his eyes and sigh and go put the kettle on for me.


@Dusk "It's okay! A Pinner told me to watch this video and then cry tears of vicarious joy and wonder!"


@spoondisaster Ohmygoodness I immediately burst into tears. Poops, there goes my evening.

Jackie G@twitter

Thanks you for this. I've been considering getting my ears checked because I'm pretty sure I have hearing loss, I've never known anyone in their 30s with them who didn't grow up with them.


Given that someone with a hearing deficit who gets hearing aids has to re-learn to ignore all that spare noise the way a fully-acclimated person does, it's entirely possible that twenty hours over a two week span really is fantastic.


@wharrgarbl i completely agree. my mother had crazy headaches and fatigue for the first month or so. it took her quite some time to get acclimated.


@wharrgarbl And, if I recall correctly, hearing aids make that harder. Unless the tech has gotten way better since I had this convo with my workmate a few years ago - they just make everything louder, so it's sort of hard to sift out the background noise. Which is my (non hearing aid) problem. I get overstimmed so easily. I bought noise cancelling headphones a couple of weeks ago and now I wear them on my commute, often without any music in. My whole life is more amazing and I am less tired. It's incredible!

So yes, I think 20 hours is freaking amazing, it's a lot to process!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Congratulations on your hearing aids, and thank you for sharing. The guy who didn't call you again doesn't know what he's missing. (I would call you, just based on your writing skills.)


This was amazing - thank you for sharing. Even though my hearing loss is not of the kind that can be helped with regular hearing aids, it is lovely to hear about them working for other people! Yay!

I did really identify with this part: "some of your favorite music has lyrics and beats you never knew about". This happened to me when I discovered these amazing headphones that pipe stereo sound into one earbud (for my good ear). There were suddenly, like, bass tracks!


@Alixana OMG, can you tell me what brand? I have only one hearing ear, and that would be super helpful.


I don't know if these are the ones @Alixana is talking about but I found these: http://www.scansound.com/earphones/single-ear-stereo-earphones-1/single-stereo-earphone-with-eartips.html


@Alixana Can you tell me what brand too? My boyfriend is deaf in one ear and I think he would love some.
This is reminding me of this guy who wrote a book recently, he was a music writer and he woke up one morning and couldn't hear. Before he lost his hearing he heard music architecturally and suddenly it was flat and didn't make him feel as it once did. I heard all about it on Radio 4 and it was the book of the week but I am tempted to get it to read properly- it's The Train in the Night: A Story of Music and Loss by Nick Coleman. Anyone read it?


@all Mine are the "Noise Isolating Earbud" from this company: http://onegoodearbud.com/. But the scansound ones look good too - I might actually try them because the One Good Earbuds do not stay in very well when I am running. Deaf-on-one-side people unite!


This is so great. I'm going to forward it to my mother and my sister and my boyfriend, all of whom have poor hearing but won't do anything about it.

Meanwhile, does anyone want to know how flat the world can be when you can't smell?? So very, very flat. And yes, I can taste mostly; I'm just sharing that up front because it's always the first question I get.


@SuperGogo I would love to know about it, I'm intrigued! Taste is the first thing that came to my mind, how else does it affect everyday life?


@SuperGogo My grandfather could taste but couldn't smell, and I always thought he was the only person in the world who had that.


@thenotestaken Scent is funny. It's such an evocative sense (think of how a whiff of purfume or cooking can take you back instantly into a years-old memory), yet it's the easist to get along without it disrupting your day-to-day life much. Most of my family and friends are constantly forgetting I can't smell, even when they've known for years. The only time it poses a danger is not being able to a gas leak, I guess, but my biggest personal anxiety is worrying that I won't realize when/if my apartment or my person reeks of something.

J Walter Weatherman

@SuperGogo One of my favorite people in the world has a seriously dampened sense of smell, and she can't connect scents to memories. Like, she can detect that there is a strong pleasant smell in the room, but she couldn't tell you that it's cinnamon, or bread, or horses.


@Bebe One of my coworkers also has that, from a head injury. Her doctor told her it was actually a somewhat common upshot of whiplash-type injuries during car accidents.


@SuperGogo I don't have complete lack of smell, but it's severely diminished (apparently, it's genetic. My brother has it, too.) You know how people taste a dish, and pick out the herbs and spices used? I wish I could do that.


@Smallison Me too. I can taste the "big" spices like cinnamon and mint and ginger and such, but the subtler ones are lost on me. And herbs? Forget about it. :(

Michaela D@twitter

@SuperGogo I dated a boy born with no sense of smell! I'd be all, "Woah! Do your laundry right now, mother of god!" Yet he was an excellent cook, and baked all these awesome breads, despite not tasting the difference between pears and peaches.


@SuperGogo I would love to hear your 'best time', if that was the context you meant it in, or more comments here, if it was that.

Sometimes I miss living in China, for the smells. There are so few smells here in Australia. A lot of the smells in China would technically be bad smells, I guess, but they're not really bad, just... organic. I realise it's not the same thing, but yes, sometimes living in a cleaner environment makes it seem very flat.

Heat Signature

This is very beautiful and very moving. Thanks for sharing it.

sugar cubism

I love you, the hairpin.


My dad has tinnitus so he is new to the hearing aid thing too. He says eating chips with them in will drive a person nuts! He has also become a quieter person. I guess he was talking loudly to hear himself better?
Good luck and enjoy your more vivid world AND the ability to check out if you want. (That should be a super power or something.)


Are they adjustable, like, are there multiple steps in dB amplification? Also, hearing aids are not a deal breaker unless you're a turd who is shallow and foolish. I agree with ^I'm Right on Top of that Rose, I would also call you based on your writing skills. We do live in the same area callllll meeeee.


@whizz_dumb also you can still sext without hearing, soooo.

lina lamont

@whizz_dumb They should be. Audiologists can start them set low and gradually increase the volume, or they can give a person multiple programs, or a volume control, or some fancy hearing aids make the gradual adjustment automatically! Technology is so cool. Also I love my job.

Oh, squiggles

Great article! It can be so easy to take one of the 5 senses (6?) for granted. Sometimes it is really amazing what you realize when you turn one off, or concentrate on just one over the others. I usually have to close my eyes, vision is such a strong sense, and when I do, the other senses are more intense. Food should probably be eaten with eyes closed about half the time.

I think going someplace really quiet (compared to a city, that is), and turning on the hearing aids would be amazing. Redwood forest?


@Awesomely Nonfunctional "It can be so easy to take one of the 5 senses... for granted."

So very true.

on that note, I'm going to take a walk in the rain through my city, past flowers and children, to eat a delicious gyro and meditate on all I take for granted.

Lila Fowler

@Awesomely Nonfunctional I know I take my ability to communicate with Bruce Willis' ghost for granted all the time.

But really though, the greatest thing about quitting smoking for me has been slowly regaining stronger senses of smell and taste. It's completely changed how I cook my food and drink my coffee. I can't believe how adjusted to the smell of smoke I had become. I used to not be able to smell smoke on anyone except myself. Now I can smell it on someone standing 15 feet away and it makes my stomach flip flop yeesh.

Oh, squiggles

@Lila Fowler The sixth sense I was referring to was our ability to detect where we are in space. Like if your arm is bent, kind of thing. Kinetic awareness, or something like that.

Lila Fowler

@Awesomely Nonfunctional Proprioception! Cool. I've never thought about that as being a 'sense' before. WIkipedia also has temperature and pain detection as alternate senses, which are things I guess I've always considered an extension of 'touch' but aren't really.


@teenie Like when you hurt a toe or something and it changes everything you can do, and you think 'I'll never take my non-bruised, functioning toes for granted ever again!' and then you do because you can't walk around all day appreciating your parts.

I get frustrated sometimes because I feel like i have too much junk info coming in - stupidly sensitive to light, get overstimmed by background noise, etc. I feel like it means I can't pick out the little things like birdsong or light dappled leaves to appreciate, because I'm working so hard to filter things. Maybe I need to spend more time out of the city.


My dad has hearing loss in his right ear (hunting accident) and I wish he would get a hearing aid so he could hear me when I am navigating and he is driving.
Do they recommend hearing aids for just one ear?


@bangs http://www.singlesideddeafness.com/index.html
Is this useful?


@bangs I once tried a kind of hearing aid set-up that transmitted sound from my "bad side" into a receiver on my "good side." It didn't work for me because it totally skewed my sense of where sounds were coming from (like sirens in the city) but it might work for the use case you describe.


@Alixana Wait! You're deaf in one ear but you can locate sound? I can't at all. My audiologist said you need both ears to know where a sound is coming from because your brain judges the location of the sound by how loud it is in each ear-- like how you need both eyes to have depth perception. Do you find that not to be the case?


@caddie Not when I am stationary, but by turning my head in owlish fashion? It takes me a minute, but I can generally locate the siren. Never, like, the person calling my name from across a crowded room or anything useful like that.


@Alixana Haha yes, I have located sounds by turning very slowly in a circle, but that's not a strategy it's always convenient to employ.


Chiming in (not a pun) to express my love for this piece. Turning off sound? You're practically a meerkat!


This is beautiful! Also, keep wearing them on first dates--great way to weed out one kind of asshole!


Great writing! I really like the way you describe the new sensations, it reminded me of the first time it rained after I got contacts and I felt the rain on my eyelids for the first time since I was seven years old. Something that's so commonplace can become beautiful when it's been missed, or missed out on.

As an aside, I have extremely poor hearing, I've always kind of dismissed it but I'm starting to think it may actually be a legitimate level of loss based on this article. I get embarrassed asking people to repeat things again & again, so often find myself nodding and smiling rather than ask one more time.
Does anyone know if like, a regular doctor can do a hearing test? Or at least enough to determine whether you need a specialist?


@iceberg I got a referral to get mine checked when i was in California with Kaiser, I just told my GP that I was concerned about my hearing. He sent me to an audiologist, and i did the tests where they stick you in a sound insulated chamber and have you wear headphones and raise your hand when you hear sounds. it was actually really fun. :-)

my sister and i both have milder versions of my mother's hearing loss (results of chronic sinus and ear infections when we were young). I have to be rechecked every few years. my sister has yet to be... i think she's worse than i am. Do it! just ask your primary for a recommendation!


@iceberg I get so cranky and frustrated asking people to repeat themselves! It's the worst with my family - after I tell them a few times in a row to SPEAK UP, I CAN'T HEAR, I just say, "fuck you, I don't have to listen to you because I can't fucking hear you" (I don't actually say that, just in my head). I would be all about a hearing test, but no insurance :( It's at the top of my list when I start grad school and get insurance in August!


This is beautiful! I love that we have the kind of technology to make these experiences possible.

I have the feeling that my generation (Millenials? Ugh, what a terrible name) will be getting hearing aids, and at a younger age than usual, because of all the loud music/earbuds we indulge in. Perhaps more widespread usage will dispel any stigma associated with them? That would be nice.


@Bitterblue: This, unfortunately, is already a reality (fast onset hearing loss from exposure)


this was super pretty, and i enjoyed reading it!

i have like, the opposite of deaf? i have noise anxiety and tinnitus so my whole life is like one big noise overdose. (i lack the ability to ignore background noise and repetitive or shrill noises give me panic attacks) when i vaccumm it literally makes me insane. my 5 year old has started clicking his tongue when he's happy. he has whistled since he was 3. *SIGH* best thing ever is noise cancelling headphones and pink noise. white noise hurts my ears.


@LeafySeaDragon Can I ask what pink noise is? Wikipedia was surprisingly unhelpful, and I'm curious.


@LeafySeaDragon They have therapies for that now? It came up in an article about someone who basically sneezed out a huge polyp and had to spend the next five years barricaded in a soundproof room 22 hours a day because he had massive problems adjusting to the new (super-intense) way he was perceiving sound.


@Anji Check here. Pink, white, and brown.




@wharrgarbl Thanks! That's really interesting.


@LeafySeaDragon I'm glad you like it!


@Anji think a fan, not the tv on a fuzzy channel

Prostitute Robot From The Future

@LeafySeaDragon Is it like Misophonia? I'm super sensitive to sounds and can get so annoyed when someone sneezes. I have adhd-pi and get very easily distracted by stuff and whenever I'm tired, I find it even more difficult to filter out distractions/sounds.


@wharrgarbl I know the sound filtration thing is the point of the story but SNEEZING OUT A POLYP oh man I can't even!


@thenotestaken AUGH I am now cradling my nose protectively.


@disgruntled co-worker it seems similar, but they seem to say Misophonia is a medical condidtion where noise aversion/anxiety is considered a psychological thing. i have other generalized anxieties, so my noise issues are heaped in there. i wonder how they choose who has what?


@LeafySeaDragon i was under the impression that misophonia is an anxiety OCD thing (so says my therapist). there are other noise issues that are more severe that are more physiological (there are possibly some brain structure differences?) that also exist.

Prostitute Robot From The Future

@LeafySeaDragon They sneeze and if you get angry you have misophonia?

Prostitute Robot From The Future

@disgruntled co-worker Misophonia seems to be more specific to certain sounds? And the development seems to be more characteristic: between ages 8 to 12 and usually triggered by either a sibling or parent. In my case my dad and his tea-slurping. I can deal a lot better with sounds these days, but every now and then a simple train trip is just torture (WOULD.YOU.PLEASE.STOP.TURNING.THE.PAGES.OF.YOUR NEWSPAPER.SO.LOUDLY!).


You guys, I think my boyfriend has this. Like he gets unnecessarily annoyed at background sounds and loud noises (people talking on the bus, constant announcements in airports drive him crazy). I am a naturally rather loud speaker (due to having had glue ear for most of my early childhood, is my theory) and have had to learn to speak more quietly around him. He says he trained himself cos he worked in music/radio to hear sound, but honestly, it's almost debilitating.


@LeafySeaDragon I am pretty sure I have sensory integration issues. God, I feel like I talk all the time about how special I am but seriously, it is shite. I haven't been diagnosed - do they even diagnose that in adults? But I fit all the categories to a t. I cannot even DEAL with white noise - I have always had to turn off all the electrics in any room I am sleeping with. Mobile phones with alarms made my life so much better because I didn't need a digital clock or a freaking clock that freaking ticked (argh!)

I just get to the point where if there's enough background noise I feel like my head is encased in foam, but with needles in it, and I can't think about anything but the noise. It's like a physical force and I hate it so much. I have been known to resort to autistic type coping measures (rocking, flapping, little noises) if it gets too much. I mentioned up thread that I recently discovered noise cancelling earphones and will often wear them with no noise in them, just the cancelling bit. HEAVEN.

@rayray My partner is a teacher with two loud teenage boys. I often have to say 'shhhhh indoor voice'. Luckily he is trained in special ed (he was the one who suggested that I might have SI issues, not just be super weird) so he doesn't take offence. There is this one guy who catches my bus and talks on his phone about tech issue the whole time in this flat voice and ARGH I HATE HIM I hate him. I try to be a reasonable adult human, but sometimes it's hard when people are hurting you with their voices.


my dad has serious hearing problems but is reluctant to get hearing aids because he is worried about ageism in the workplace (among other things). He's slowly getting into it, mostly because he doesn't have much other choice.

Gotta talk loud! And clear! And get his attention first! Things I always forget to do.

And yet somehow whenever I'm around my friends I'm the loudest person in the room. Sigh.


@redheaded&crazie My hearing aid is so freaking tiny and invisible, no one can actually tell I am wearing one. He could totally get hearing aids that no one actually saw.


Anyone else think of the screaming flowers in "The Sound Machine" by Roald Dahl?


This is very lovely. Thanks :)


This was awesome. Thank you.

I am pretty sure I do not have a hearing problem, technically. I take care of my hearing and as far as I know, I don't have any kind of defect. That said, I worry sometimes, because I constantly have to ask people to repeat themselves to me. It's weird and annoying and slightly disconcerting, because I think I should hear better than that. I've had my hearing tested rather a lot (worked four summers in a production-type place, 2 tests per summer) and it always tested well, but with minor hearing loss at certain frequencies over time.

I'm probably just paranoid because my eyesight is getting markedly worse as I get older -- I've been astigmatic since I was very small, got my first pair of glasses when I was 4 -- and I fear losing another sense that's very important to me.


@camanda It might be a cognitive issue rather than a mechanical one. Brute "can you hear this?" tests don't always pick up on processing issues, where the actual anatomy of the ear is in fine working condition but the brain is having a problem interpreting or de-prioritizing or differentiating various stimuli. My dude's got an issue where basically inattentional deafness never kicks in, so having a conversation in a crowd is a lost cause and movie-theater talkers drive him up a wall and he has a hard time understanding how I could just not-hear the squabbling couple in line at the grocery store two lanes over.


@wharrgarbl This is generally what I think is going on, which is why I think I'm paranoid. Sometimes, though, I legitimately don't hear people that I know are talking to me, like, mid-conversation. It's the most maddening thing, and yet likely nothing actually wrong with my hearing, as you say. But ugh.


@camanda @camanda Yeah, I used to get this a LOT. I still look at people's lips when they talk to the extent where I can't tell you what colour a lot of my friends eyes are. I think this is a sensory overload thing - both because eyecontact stimms me out and because if I'm stimmed (as I often am in a social stich) I find it hard to comprehend meaning.

@wharrgarbl I find it super hard to shut out that kind of stuff, too. It is TERRIBLE.


@wharrgarbl I think mine might also be auditory processing because I can generally hear when there's no background noise. But trying to converse with me in a bar / coffeeshop / anywhere there's background noise is a lost cause. And I don't even enjoy concerts anymore because the music just sounds like a big mash of noise to me, but I still hear it as loud.

Either that, or I have hearing loss only at mid-ranges, which runs in my family. Voices are hard to hear, but I can tell from another room that my parents' shitty old TV is still on because the high-pitched whine is TERRIBLE. And I can't work near the doors at the library because those things that they use to make sure you're not stealing a book are obnoxious as hell, and no one else can hear them.

Prostitute Robot From The Future

"You can hear your fingers brushing against your jeans."

Whenever I have my ears cleaned out (ok, yuck, but I have allergies and that apparently also means stuffed up ears, yay), for a while after, I can hear my clothes move.


@disgruntled co-worker: Argh, this reminds me something that totally sucks - when I'm trying to get to sleep and laying on my side, my heartbeat will move my skin just enough to make my earlobe pass back and forth against the cotton of the pillowcase and make an audible sound. Hate it!


Thank you for writing this! My stepmother was almost entirely deaf her whole life--she could hear a few things with hearing aids in turned up all the way, but I don't think she liked to do that all that often. A few years ago she got cochlear implants and ever since has been adjusting to perceiving the world in this entirely new way. (The first time a car alarm went off near her she nearly jumped out of her skin.)


The bus *is* unbearably loud!! Especially the "I'm lowering! I'm lowering!" beepy noise. Why so loud??? Bus lowering, nbd, no need for alarm! In five years of living in New York, this is the only reason I ever called 311. So loud!


My father has had hearing aids as long as I can remember.

Meanwhile, I'm terrified of hearing loss. I went to too many loud concerts. I've started wearing ear plugs, but I remember the last few I went to without them, my ears would ring for days and everything would be muffled, and I developed tinnitus. I feel so stupid. I wouldn't go sit in the sun for hours without sunblock, so why wouldn't I protect my hearing? Now, I'm always stymied by the fact that somehow, people are talking too quietly in loud bars? And I'm more sensitive to loud noise now, as well. I know already that my hearing isn't what it used to be.


This post was relevant to my interests. I lost 80% of the hearing in my right ear when I was a toddler, and then lost 100% of the hearing in my other ear in a car accident when I was 25. I've been wearing a hearing aid ever since. For me, it's not optional, because I can't hear at all without it. And, because my loss was so abrupt, I never really got to experience the 'switching-on' aspect.

It's really nice to see posts like this, because there is still such a stigma about hearing aids, and many people are uncomfortable about being around a hard-of-hearing person. I think that part of it is just the communication aspect - speech and hearing is the most important way that humans connect, and if they can't connect with you easily, it makes them feel awkward. On the plus side, the friendships you do make all tend to be quite deep, because the superficial ones never progress that far.

Also for the record, it's not just boys who don't call back when they see your hearing aids. I've had a few dates like that myself. And it's so obvious - the first time they notice the aid and they do a little double take, and you pretty much know that you won't be getting a second date.

Good luck with your hearing aids, and keep wearing them, because the more you wear them, the better you hear with them.


Wow, thanks for this. It makes me happy that so many people can relate to what I'm saying in this piece, personally, or through loved ones. I love what you said about friendships being all the better for it. Wearing them consistently has been a struggle, and I agree with you it's important to get a lot of wearing time in...that way your brain retrains itself. I admire you!


@melmuu Totally agreed that wearing them at first is a struggle. Especially on hot days when you don't want a piece of plastic in your ear. But keep wearing them, it gets so much easier.
And thanks for writing this piece, it's really nice to hear from other young people with hearing aids.


I am also a hearing impaired woman though I've chosen not to wear hearing aids. I really appreciate this article because it's so hard sometimes to venture out into the world knowing there's a strong possibility people will laugh at you for not being able to hear them correctly. It's something that left a deep, sad impression on my childhood. So thank you for this article, for making us hearing impaired ladies visible and feeling valuable. :)

Passion Fruit

I loved this piece, thank you for sharing it. It made me excited for you to experience the world like this. Have fun and enjoy it (and the ability to turn it off!).


Don't go chasing waterfalls (aka traffic).


As an audiologist I have worked with people of all ages with hearing impairment. There is nothing like witnessing the joyous face of a person who is hearing better for the first time. It changes lives; the person and their significant others. Hearing loss can be helped. If you or someone you know is experiencing less than optimal hearing, help is a phone call away. Find a certified audiologist in your area; run don't walk and get the assistance you deserve. Good luck!


Loved this post! I've had hearing aids since I was 3, and now have some super awesome clear over-the-ear ones where you can see all the machinery inside. And they have a special setting for music, which sounds so full and lovely with them in.
As for the guy you never called you, don't worry about it. I went on a date recently where I was wearing my hearing aids (now super-visible with my pixie cut). When I casually mentioned my hearing loss, the guy said he had noticed my aids earlier and thought it was hot that I was confident about them. Hearing aids can be sexy :)

ps I love turning my hearing aids off in crowded/annoying situations too. Major perk!


I got a hearing aid last year at the age of 37, after mostly getting by my whole life without one (I really need two but could only afford one at this time) and this post resonates very strongly for me.


I got my hearing aids last year at 32 as well! I was overwhelmed: birds, paper, dishes, music in shops, spit noises, holy hell. I really love the remote control I have for them, and the bluetooth thingy that allows me to enjoy music or TV after my partner goes to bed. They are such amazing little devices.


Ooo nice going. I've had mine since like age 4, and turning them off because people are annoying is my favorite. don't worry, your brain will "learn" to use them and stop startling you. like!


This piece is fantastic, thank you for writing it!

My father has worn hearing aids as long as I can remember, but he was always very uncomfortable about and ashamed of his hearing loss, and we were never supposed to mention it or ask any questions. It was a revelation to me when I made friends with a girl in middle school who wore hearing aids (her hearing loss was even more pronounced than my father's) and was totally comfortable talking about it. Being around her taught me more about my father's disability, and this piece teaches me more about it too.

Also, my friend had this microphone device that she'd give teachers, that would broadcast their voices directly into receivers in her ears, and one time a teacher went to the bathroom and forgot to turn the microphone off so my friend totally heard her peeing, which was hilarious to all of us in middle school.


Late to the party here, but I must have good hearing because so much stuff is TOO DANG LOUD. Movies in theaters, clubs, live music. There's so much out there that, I think, they're just making louder because more and more people are getting hearing loss as young people, which is a terrible trend.

Also, always ride with earplugs (motorcycles.)


@Too Much Internet I bought earplugs for sleeping (I live near a factory, it's ok mostly but some nights it's terrible). At the same time, I bought the fancy ones for concerts etc that just cut down the volume. I can hear if someone near me is saying something, but the band isn't so-loud-I-can't-actually-hear. I hate that - all I can hear is noise, not the instruments or words. Anyway, I am seriously considering taking them with me to pretty much every social event, they are amazing.

Stanton Reeve

Thank you for this.

A few years ago, I got mugged by a guy with a hammer. By the scars on my head, he nailed me 13 times, one of which resulted in a minor skull fracture (no damage, don't worry!)

Unfortunately, one strike was a direct shot to my left ear, which has left me with some long term effects: hearing loss, noise intolerance, and weird echoes (for some reason, high heeled shoes on hard surfaces are especially unpleasant).

The amount that hearing loss can impact your quality of life is, I think, not as appreciated as it should be.

Hanging out with friends in a noisy bar becomes difficult, because you can't follow the conversation, and after getting tired of saying "WHAT?", you just nod your head and try to pretend you know what's going on, but since you don't, you are effectively out of the conversation.

Live music is out, because when you lose hearing, it's not across the board on all frequencies: it's not like everything is just more quiet--you lose the high end first, so everything just sounds muddy, pounding and awful.

And worst of all, the people that you love think that you are ignoring them.

"No dear, it's not that I'm not listening, it's that I can't hear you".


@Stanton Reeve Holy fucking shit, dude. I'm sorry that happened to you.


@Stanton Reeve Holy cow! That's terrifying!

Those are the things that are hardest for me, with either mild hearing loss or auditory processing problems. Which sucks, because I LOVE live music! I don't even try to go to bars anymore.


Interesting reading; I found out a month ago that I have "mild to moderate" hearing in my left ear after seeing my ENT for a thorough ear cleaning and taking a hearing test. I have very tiny ear canals and as an RN; you never "put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear". My trouble is with background noise; drives me crazy! I have to shut doors to keep out Pt.'s yelling, Staff talking, etc. I would welcome some assistance in this area to make me hear better; guess I have to wait? Anybody willing to send me in the right direction? Thank you!

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