by Neil Bauman, Ph.D. with Eleanor (Ellie)
Many people are too embarrassed to wear their hearing aids, or even get hearing aids in the first place. This should not be. You should be no more embarrassed over wearing hearing aids than you are embarrassed over wearing eyeglasses. Eyeglasses let you see better. Hearing aids let you hear better. Neither one is cause for embarrassment. I wear both.
When you let your embarrassment have the upper hand, it controls your life. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here is Ellie’s story of how she overcame her embarrassment over wearing her hearing aids.
I am 17 years old and have been wearing hearing aids my entire life. When I was young I didn’t think anything of it. Hearing aids were part of my everyday routine- I’d put them on as soon as I woke up and pretty much forget about them for the rest of the day.
When I was in middle school things changed. I grew more and more self-conscious. I started wearing looser ponytails so hair would fall down and cover my ears. If my battery died, I’d go into the bathroom to change it so no one else would see.
Freshman year of high school, it got worse. On my third day of school I had a meeting with all of my teachers to explain my hearing loss to them and to inform them of the accommodations I required. I don’t think I said a single thing in that meeting, I was too embarrassed.
I grew more and more self-conscious. I constantly worried that no one wanted to be friends with me because I wore hearing aids. I started being shy and was afraid to talk to new people in my class. I would do whatever I could to prevent people from noticing my hearing aids.
In the beginning of November I had my first swim practice. I have been swimming my entire life so I joined my high school’s swim team. On that day, despite my protests, my mom walked into practice with me and told the coach that I might miss a few things while in the water.
My face turned bright red and I couldn’t look my coach in the eye. I knew my mom was doing what was best for me, but that didn’t help me feel better.
My embarrassment about my hearing aids got worse. I have always wanted to learn sign language, but didn’t want to join the Sign Language Club at school because I was afraid it would draw attention to the fact that I wore hearing aids.
One day I was fed up with myself. My hearing aid battery had died right in the middle of class and I had no idea what my teacher was saying. It took a lot of convincing, my I finally talked myself into changing the battery in the middle of class.
In reality, I don’t think a single person noticed, but my heart was pounding and I furtively glanced around to make sure no one was looking at me.
After that day, I slowly began to turn back into the confident person I used to be in grade school. I began accepting who I was. I even watched YouTube videos about the benefits of having hearing aids and I listed them all in a notebook.
One day I asked my friend what, if anything, she would change about herself if she could. She answered me, honestly, and with my heart pounding I decided I was going to tell her the truth.
I still remember feeling terrified when I confided in my friend that until recently, I would have wanted to get rid of my hearing aids. Saying that out loud, admitting it helped me feel so much better. I felt so relieved.
I slowly grew more confident with my hearing aids. I began to stop caring if people were watching me when I changed my battery, or when I took them off for swim practice. I even took a sign language class at a local community college with my friend.
This past year I admitted my old feelings of embarrassment about my hearing aids to a few of my friends. One of my friends said to me, “Oh wait, I totally forgot you wore hearing aids.” It was 3 AM and no one saw my huge smile as a few tears fell down my face. I wasn’t crying because I was so happy that my friends didn’t notice my hearing aids, I was crying because I had finally realized my hearing aids didn’t define me.
This morning I had my senior pictures taken. The photographer asked me if I wanted to remove my hearing aids so they wouldn’t show in the pictures. I politely declined. My hearing aids are a part of who I am and I am proud of who I am.
The moral of this story: it’s okay to be embarrassed when you’re getting used to you hearing aids. People say that all you have to do is put them in, but it’s not that simple.
The older you are, the more likely it is for other people your age to be wearing hearing aids. However, if you’re a teenager and are not a part of the Deaf community, you may only know one or two people your age that wear hearing aids.
Change isn’t easy, but it is necessary. If you’re hard of hearing and do not choose to learn sign language, you should wear hearing aids. They have helped me get where I am today.
I have been able to do everything I wanted to do in my life, thanks to them. I don’t plan on ever letting them hold me back in the future.Remember, people love you for who you are and wearing two little hearing aids won’t ever change that.
If Ellie can get over her embarrassment about wearing her hearing aids and regain control of her life, you can do it too! Thanks for your encouraging story Ellie.