Sometimes I moan and groan about my hearing aids, but every once in a while I see them as they are: little technical gifts that take me from hearing almost nothing to being able to perceive the sounds of the world. Not perfectly, but well enough to be grateful.
A couple of years ago, I wrote “Ode to an Aid” for HearingHealthMatters.org (HHTM), and recently I performed it as a spoken poem as part of a presentation to a hearing aid retailer conference.
I’ve now been writing for HHTM for five years, and this poem, slightly revised from the original, is my anniversary gift to my readers.
You’re lying on my bedside table and before I fall asleep
I’m looking at you closely, for the first time in a long time
I’m thinking about how much, to my surprise, I love you
Well, it’s not because of your looks.
One square inch of plastic and wires,
Your color referred to professionally as flesh tone
By people without imagination as beige
And by me, in all honesty, as ugly.
Your shape is a cross between an extracted tooth and a kidney bean
With a white beard that locks you into my ear
Your shiny surface reflects light, except where bits of wax
Nestle in your curves and creases, waiting to be wiped clean.
For such a small creature, you have a lot of holes,
Openings that suck sound in one end and belch it out the other
An air vent that keeps feedback to a minimum
Except when my ear canal widens when I brush my teeth,
Chew my food or laugh my head off.
Out of the biggest opening comes a plastic wheel-well
That clasps a fresh battery and disappears with it inside,
And when you’re ready, you chime your delight and immediately transform
From a lifeless lump of plastic
To a life-changing spark plug.
You know what they say about beauty, don’t you?
It’s what’s inside that counts, and I guess that’s true about you.
But I don’t really want to see your inner stuff
Because I’d be disappointed not to see tiny hearing elves
Making magic happen when that battery comes in.
Once I had a glimpse—
When I removed an aid from my ear to show a group of students
Half of it stuck stubbornly in my ear canal, and
Aghast, I held up the top half with its forlorn wires
Hanging naked and useless.
There was nothing to do but laugh, so we did.
I do love you, you know.
For all the times I’ve cursed you, dropped you, and lost you,
I have expected more from you than you can deliver,
Because you cannot be a perfect hearing system.
Not yet, anyway.
And I have not thanked you when you delivered more
Than I ever expected, giving me sounds that my memory had lost
And new ones that did not exist before my hearing left,
Like the sound of my baby breathing.
No, you’re not pretty.
You’re high maintenance.
You cost money.
But if I didn’t have you, I would be isolated, cut off from my people.
So no, you’re not pretty—
And I love you, good night.
Thank you for reading the Better Hearing Consumer at HearingHealthMatters. Here’s to another five years!