an ode to modern technology: my life wearing hearing aids


illustration: amy dudek

I’ve lived my whole life wearing hearing aids. Well not all of it, but for as long as I can remember, I have.


I went the first three years of my life not hearing clearly. While I’m not completely deaf, my hearing certainly isn’t normal. That being said, I was able to pass my initial hearing test and get through a few years with limited hearing.


Getting hearing aids meant I was able to go to school. It meant I was finally able to experience the world around me to its fullest, something I had no knowledge of, and something I wasn’t aware of missing out on. I started school within a couple months of getting hearing aids, something many people didn’t expect to happen, but I never let hearing loss hold me back.


I grew up on Cape Cod, which is surrounded by the ocean. Before hearing aids, I never knew the sound of the waves. While I don’t remember the first time I heard them, I know that my mom remembers, so that memory lives on somewhere. But after all, I was only three. 


From then out, I was able to hear everything, from music to people talking to the world around me. Well, maybe not everything; I do still miss a little bit due to the limits of technology. It must have been fascinating to have such an abrupt change in life and I can still feel those effects today. 


I was always creating art, which makes sense when you think about the fact I wasn’t hearing for those first three years. Everything was visual to me. Even television was visual stimulation rather than combination– my mom says I would watch the TV while she was vacuuming with no complaints, up until she walked in front of me and I couldn’t see.


In fourth grade, I began playing the viola. I don’t know if anyone expected me to pick up and fall in love with an instrument, but I sure did. From there I tried every instrument possible: piano, cello, bagpipes; eventually landing on violin, bass drum and guitar. 


The one consistency I notice in my instrument choices is how they behave. All of the ones I fell in love with have some form of feeling vibration, whether that be in a percussive way or being a hollowed out wooden body. I was one with the sound, rather than it leaving me. 


All that being said, I never really listened to music in my free time. I didn’t have many favorite bands; I wasn’t against music at all, it just wasn’t in me until recently. I think that was a combination of things, but one of those being wearing hearing aids and, quite literally, hearing the world differently from everyone else. 


I think a catalyst for that change was the summer of 2020. That was the year I got the hearing aids I wear currently, which have bluetooth, meaning I can listen to music whenever and wherever I want to. I spent most of my time out at work, considering the state of the pandemic, and I happen to work at a mini golf course which plays pirate music all day, so it was nice to drown that out sometimes.


Not to get technical and boring, but my hearing loss is somewhat unique in how inconsistent it is. Usually hearing loss is associated with losing the higher frequencies, but for me, a lot of my middle range frequencies are affected, and it is completely different in each ear.


I remember sitting in my freshman year dorm room with one of my friends talking about my hearing loss, pulling up my frequency chart. Because of how all over the place it was, he wanted to test which ones I could and which ones I couldn’t hear by playing a video with every frequency the average person can hear. I never realized how random my hearing loss was, as one second I could hear and the next it cut out. It was the first time I truly recognized what I did and didn’t hear without hearing aids.


The only thing I do miss sometimes is background noise, which is both good and bad. While it does mean that I can hear what is going on around me, I regularly miss people trying to get my attention from a distance. 


But honestly, all the struggles are all right and worth what I have now. I’m glad to have been born when I was, with the technology that existed in 2005 rather than in 1905, or even a decade sooner in 1995. The very first digital hearing aids were actually developed in 1995, the more you know! 


And the reason I wanted to talk about my experience with hearing loss is because March 13 to April 15 is Deaf History Month. While I myself am not a part of the deaf community, I am hard of hearing and will always stand with those who are deaf. More information on Deaf History Month can be found here


So call this an ode to modern technology, because without it, I would be a different person. 


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