What it’s really like to have hearing aids in your 20s

When I was 14, I got my first pair of hearing aids. As of now, I’m on my third set. They’re pretty much second nature to me, and it’s thanks to them that my life is not really impacted much by my hearing loss. I do realize, however, that not every 20-something is walking around with them. So, in case you ever wondered what it’s like to be hearing-impaired — but aren’t old enough to be a grandmother — I’ve rounded up some important observations.

1. If you’re like me, you might never find a set of ear buds that fits right, or sounds balanced. My right ear canal is a lot wider than my left due to a surgery from when I was a kid, so the two don’t match evenly. The right one also has significantly more hearing loss, so the sound is never quite right. Luckily I’m not an audio snob, so it doesn’t really bother me.

2.  I have no sense of direction when it comes to sound. Many a friend has called my name from across the room or street only to crack up when they see me whip around to face the almost complete opposite direction. It will probably happen at least once this week.

3.  Fully-hearing folks, be grateful for the money you’ve saved by not having to shell out the cash for hearing aid batteries every few weeks. I feel crazy stalking drugstore ads, waiting for a good sale on size 13 batteries to come around so I can buy up whatever I can afford in a given week. One battery lasts about 10 days with my current pair.

4.  Speaking of which: Hearing aids remain almost exclusively uncovered by health insurance, so be way more glad you don’t have to invest in a new, absolutely necessary, $7000 form of technology every five years. It’s like shopping for a really expensive TV and surround sound system, except way less fun, and you have to have it or else you can’t go out in public. I swore after getting my current pair in 2012 that I’d be a responsible grown-up who saves up for such things by the next time this need comes about. That means I’ve got about three more years to become said grown-up and save a few grand.

5.  If you ever meet another person your age with hearing aids, you will just lose your mind with excitement. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you pretty much feel compelled to say something.

6.  You can never listen to music while getting ready in the morning, sans-hearing aids. You’ll be mortified by how loud your music was once you do put them in, and you’ll hope your neighbors have already left for work.

7.  Some bars, restaurants, and other places are just off-limits on certain days; sad, but true. There are workarounds, but sometimes it’s just not going to happen. Luckily the people I run around with understand if I want to duck out or if I just want to stay out of the conversation for a little bit.

8.  ASL is actually useful! I took classes last year for several months, and now my five-year-old niece is learning it in school. Last weekend my brother helped her FaceTime me so she could show me! We sat and signed the alphabet together and she showed me the signs for colors she knows. My heart basically melted right then. I’m glad my niece is learning at any early age to be aware of and comfortable with those who may be different from her.

Sometimes it’s a pain that I have to wear hearing aids, it’s true, but when it comes down to it, I’m so glad that I have them, every day.

Meryl Williams is a Chicago journalist and a southeastern Ohio transplant who loves binge-watching shows on Netflix, listening to upbeat indie music with starkly depressing lyrics, and shamelessly ordering the Kids Pack-size popcorn at the movies. She is on Twitter @MerylWilliams and writes about pop culture for AddisonRecorder.com. She has been known to overshare on her blog and she is okay with that.

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