“Have You Got Your Hearing Aid In?”

Gael Hannan
January 30, 2023

All people with hearing loss have experienced the two most painful words in the hearing loss dictionary—never mind. The hurt at hearing them never gets old, even though we may learn how to respond to them better.

But how about that six-word question that plagues every hearing aid or cochlear implant user: “Have you got your thing  in?” This can set off a bad-hearing moment faster than you can say dead battery.

If you are a hearing person reading this, you might think how nice that someone cares enough to make sure we’re connected with our devices before they start talking to us. And it would be nice, if that were always the reason for asking. Usually, however, they’re frustrated that we’re not getting it fast enough, in real time. Clearly there must be some technical problem—perhaps our hearing aid or CI batteries have died? Or maybe we deliberately aren’t using our things in order to irritate whomever we’re talking to? Maybe we should do something about the situation?  

While we appreciate the frequent frustration involved in communicating with people who have hearing loss, the question shows a lack of understanding of what a hearing aid or cochlear implant can actually do. People with pristine hearing can be forgiven for believing that, with our CI or hearing aid, we should be able to hear without problem. I mean, technology fixes stuff, right?

Hearing aid users quickly learn that devices don’t return us to perfect hearing—they neither completely correct nor cure hearing loss. They are called aids for a reason: they help us hear better through a system of technical processes. They are assistive, not corrective, devices.

That thought sets me dreaming. What would we call devices that reversed our hearing loss and restored our missing frequencies and decibels so that we wouldn’t need to read lips?  Our brain could correctly locate sound and even let us function in background noise?  What would we call this miracle?  Perhaps a hearing switch—you flip it and ta da! You’re operating like a hearing person. Like I said, though, I’m dreaming. That time has not yet come.

But back to the question. Except for when I first get up in the morning, when would I NOT have my devices in? I know some people pull them off when they get in from a long day, but most of us don’t. Sure, we all forget, from time to time, bits of our personal dress code or an accessory crucial to getting through the day. The Hearing Husband once arrived at the office in his slippers. At meetings I realize, “Damn, I forgot my reading glasses.” At a social event, “Gahh, my lipstick’s in my other purse!” But I never ever arrive anywhere or do anything without my hearing aid and sound processor—except sleep and swim. Hearing devices are not an option that I choose to wear at certain times.

This question, when asked, still has the power to both embarrass and irritate me. It shows that I’m not a perfect person with hearing loss and handling this question better is still a work in progress.

Finally getting a hearing aid at 21 was life-changing, but I quickly learned what my hearing aid could and could not do. What I didn’t realize is that hearing people couldn’t possibly have the same perspective that comes only  with personal experience.

Through the years my father would occasionally ask, when I said pardon more than twice in a conversation, “Do you have your thing in?”  It hurt my feelings every single time and I would snap back, “Of course I do!”  That probably irritated him. But when my 87 year-old dad finally got hearing aids for better communication with his his lady friend during their daily cribbage games, he went through the same learning curve, discovering that they didn’t cure his hearing loss either.

At one time, the Hearing Husband might have asked the 6-word question at the wrong time, but now he asks only in the early mornings when I’m just up or before/after a shower. And he simply points to his ears and raises his eyebrows, and I either shake my head or answer with voice. That’s good communication that comes from years of living together—and learning the hard way.

My friend Myrtle was at the shore with her six-year-old niece.  She showed the child how to skip rocks and after a few minutes, the girl asked, “Aunt Myrtle, have you got your thing in?”

“I do, m’love, why?”

“The stones hitting the water sound so pretty, I wanted to make sure you can hear them.”


  1. As always, Thanks, Gael! This reminded me of the TV program I watched last night, an episode of “As Time Goes By” (My favorit-est show of all time!) It was the story of Lionel having trouble hearing. He came back from having his ears tested, and his wife Jean (Judi Dench) kept looking at him – actually, looking PAST his ears on either side as they talked, unobtrusively trying to see if he had received “things” to help him hear. We’ve all seen people do that to us as they ask that 6-word question.

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