Being hearing-impaired has never stopped me from living my life

I have had hearing aids since I was a teenager, but most people don’t know it when they meet me. I have moderate-to-profound hearing loss, but in most normal situations, save a loud bar or concert, I can hear enough to get by or lip-read to fill in the rest. It also helps that I’ve always had a ton of thick, blonde curls that tend to cover them up, but I don’t mind when they’re visible.

Whenever someone does notice my hearing aids, I usually don’t mind answering questions about them. Seeing someone my age with hearing aids is unusual, and I get that. That said, while I am personally happy to talk about it, not everyone feels that way, and that’s totally their right. In my case, tons of people assume something terrible happened to me as a kid that led to my being hearing-impaired. Nothing did — I was just born this way, so I’ve never known what I’ve been missing. I am almost completely deaf in my right ear, and have a bit over half of my hearing in my left. Most days, my hearing loss is not a big deal and doesn’t interfere with my everyday life. But all the same, here are some things I’ve learned:

People really want to relate.

The most common response I get from people when I mention my hearing loss to them is something like, “Oh, I totally get it – I have bad hearing, too.” I know why this happens, because people want to both make me feel less weird about something I don’t actually feel weird about, while also sympathizing. Still, it can be a little frustrating. I feel like the best response to me saying, “Do you mind if I walk on your right side? I don’t hear well with my right ear,” is to just say, “Sure,” and move on.

I hate when people mouth things to me.

The absolute worst thing people do to me when my hearing loss comes up is to jokingly stop making any sound mid-sentence, and mouth words inaudibly at me. It’s just so rude, and not funny. Also, it’s unoriginal, even though everyone always thinks they are the first person to make that “joke.”

Closed captions are awesome.

I watch everything with closed captions on, and I’m pretty proud that over the years I’ve managed to convert some friends and boyfriends to the wonder that is CC. Even if you can hear fine, it’s great to read the captions so you don’t miss anything. Also, there are some great closed caption fails out there, or even weird additions that will make you laugh for sure if you take the time to read them.

Hearing aids are insanely expensive. 

A lot of people don’t know that health insurance in America very rarely contributes to the coverage of hearing aids. A new set can run me anywhere from $4,000-$7,000, and my hearing aids need replaced every five years or so. It’s an expense I always have to plan and save for. The silver lining is, because technology is always advancing, my current set is always my best one yet.

I’ve learned to wear whatever I want.

Along those lines, hearing aids at least come in all kinds of colors. My first two sets were very standard skin-toned ones, tucked behind my ears and covered by my long blonde hair. When I got my current set a few years ago, my audiologist pointed me toward another design like those. Instead, I opted for some flashy black and silver ones — they stand out pretty easily against my curls. I would have gotten silver lightning bolts on them if they’d been an option.

Credit: Dot Dodd
Credit: Dot Dodd

I consider myself lucky that my hearing loss doesn’t have much of an impact on my day-to-day activities. I have to keep up with regular doctor appointments to make sure my ears are as healthy as they can be, and to make sure my hearing levels aren’t changing. It’s worth it for the peace of mind. Maybe someday hearing aids will be covered by insurance, and I’ll put that money toward something a little more fun. Until then, I’ll be keeping an eye out for what features I want in my next pair. And maybe I’ll opt for neon?