when they take your hearing aids

When They Take Away Your Hearing Aids

Being deaf means different things to different people, and so they describe themselves in different ways – a little deaf, Deaf Culture, oral deaf, deaf-deaf, cochlear implant.

But to a person who uses hearing aids or cochlear implants, there is a special kind of deaf. It’s similar to when you wake up in the morning, and you can’t really hear anything until you connect to your devices. But because you know you will shortly be turned on and tuned in, there’s no stress in being deaf for a while.

Then, there is the deaf you become when your devices are removed—not because you’re going to bed or taking a shower—but because they are being examined because Something. Might. Be. Wrong.

Nothing gets our heart pounding and our nerves jangling more than problems with our precious electronic mini-miracles. We may hardly notice them when they rest comfortably on our head or in our ears. But they minute they’re not there, our head feels disconnected from our body, a bobblehead. When you’re used to having it the sense of hearing, albeit electronically-aided, having it removed in an instant is a shock to the system. 

A few seconds ago that person talking with you was someone you understood. But now, that person has become two-dimensional with a moving, silent mouth, and you wonder—how can she possibly think I can understand her when she has my hearing aids in her hand!?

A few years ago (prior to my cochlear implant days), I went to the manufacturer to have my sputtering hearing aids looked at, content to wait for as long as it took to have them fixed. On this particular day, I waited over two hours, with nothing to do except worry—and write about how I was feeling.

 

Sitting Here Deaf

 

I’m sitting here, quietly and deaf

Waiting for my hearing aids to come back.

They are being examined, possibly repaired

By technicians who may not know

They have my life in their hands.

This may be the twentieth set

They’ve worked on today

Under their magnifiers and lights,

Looking for what’s wrong and

What might be fixed.

But really, do they know

They’re poking at my insides,

Dissecting organs of communication

That connect me to the world?

 

I’m waiting here, nervous and deaf

In a temporary vacuum, void of sound

I clear my throat but cannot hear it.

I’m worried –

Is there something seriously wrong?

I’m pacing, anxious and deaf,

Half-cursing my dependency

On these two bits of digital technology.

I feel as if I’m separated from my babies

Unable to focus on anything but them,

Worrying and wondering how the technicians are doing…

Perhaps joking with colleagues?

But hopefully focused and intent, because

Surely they’ve been trained and sensitized

To know that what they’re working with

Goes beyond a fusion of wires and plastic and chips –

These are creations of human genius

An eloquent expression of our ability to make

Something from nothing – to create communication out of silence.

Do they know that?

hope so but I won’t know so

Until she comes back with my ear-babies and says,

“Here, try them now.”

I’ll put them in and start the ritual

That tells me how they’re working.

I clear my throat – once for sound, twice for assurance –

My voice will rise and fall, whisper and boom –

As I test myself with a fragment of nursery rhyme.

 Mary had a little lamb,

              Lamb, lamb, LITTLE LAMB!

                  Mary, mary, MARY, mary…

 

Then I’ll know that I can hear, and maybe  hear well…

But whatever happens, whatever the verdict,

I hope she brings them back soon

To where I’m sitting and waiting –

Deaf, quiet and anxious.

–      Gael Hannan 2014 

 

In the end, the hearing aids were repaired to work beautifully, and I have continued along my hearing journey. But, every time my audiologist has my device(s) in her hands, I am uncomfortable until they are back where they belong—on my head.

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

9 Comments

  1. As always, Gael, you expressed the soul of many of us. I would imagine that this is also how someone feels who wakes up in the morning, inexplicably, possibly permanently, deaf. (Except that for us, we know that we are getting our hearing back (at least electronically.)
    As you may know, in my previous life, I worked for a major entertainment/resort company in Florida. The raindrops here in the Sunshine State each contain approximately one gallon (US or Imperial) of water. So a person tries to avoid having one of those hydro-bombs hitting one’s Hearing Aid. Oh, the devices I used to invent to shield my ears! Once, I was on my way to my car and Splat! Left ear shorted out. Three sreps later Splat! Right ear gone. In the car, I start my engine. At least I thought I did. Press the accelerator. Okay, the RPM needle moved, car is running. Rain keeps me from seeing traffic. Deafness prevents me from seeing it. My car was a manual transmission; I can’t hear whether I’ve revved enough to upshift. I had never realized how much I drive with my ears!

  2. I walked into the audiologist department. I went to the receptionist and said, in case she did not know, I cannot hear anything my hearing aid’s are broken, just point me where you want me to go. The audiologist on duty,, this was Covid time and new restrictions where in place, thought great I can try my new toy! She brought me into her office and put on a headset and talked into it and what she said came up on the screen and she pointed that out to me. Wow, I could then answer her question. It was a great new toy they were experimenting with and it worked out great! It made me feel much more comfortable in dealing with an audiologist I did not know.
    r CHHA Hamilton.

  3. Yes you did hit this spot on.
    This helped me to recognize how I am feeling right now.
    In October of last year I had a bout with vertigo that took away what little hearing I had. I could not hear anything. It has gotten better but not where it was. I tried to see my hearing doctor but with multiple issues coming up, staff with positive covid results, 4 rescheduled appointments my doctor retired.
    My referral wasn’t good for anyone else. Then my GP retired.
    So today with this I am where I was before in the office without hearing aids even with them in.
    I have an appointment with the audiologist February 2nd for my L&I 5 year check up. I am hoping something comes from this.
    Thank you for the verification.

  4. You’ve taken the words from my soul, from my mind, and from the tip of my tongue. So eloquently worded. For those of us with hearing devices this is our world, of fear and of promise. The world of hearing aid technology and those who help us to comprehend how it can help us. Audiologists have so much power to assist a person with hearing challenges, and now Gael has put it into words. Well done.

  5. Very well done Gael. I think audiologists often don’t realize What it means not to hear. I while ago I was having earmold impressions taken and the person continued to talk to me while I had earmold gunk in my ears. I knew he was talking. I could hear mumbling. But I had no idea what he was taking about. I had to remind him that with my ears stuffed I couldn;t hear. Hmmm.

  6. I have always wondered why audiologists think I can hear them without my hearing aids on. Why would I buy and wear them if that were the case? But invariably they just talk away at me.

  7. Gosh, you hit it right on the nail’s head! I hate being without my devices, that I’ve kept all my previous hearing aids, in hopes that ONE of them can still give me sound, even though they don’t have the power of my current hearing aids. Now that I have an implant, I hope I won’t run into a day of having to be without it!

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