Deafness Part 2: Hearing Aids

Getting my hearing aids was definitely a process. I couldn’t afford them, and the health insurance I had didn’t cover them. By the way, did you know that many insurances don’t cover hearing aids because they are deemed “cosmetic”. Yeah, I call total bullshit on that. I was able to qualify for help through vocational rehabilitation. They help people of working age (so, they don’t help kids or people who have retired) get whatever they need to be “productive members of society”. I’m very thankful for their help because I wouldn’t have been able to get my hearing aids if they didn’t. I called in June 2011 to get on their list, got a letter a month or so later saying that I had an appointment in November of 2011, and they didn’t send payment to my audiologist until May of 2012. It was a long process, but it was worth it. My audiologist was awesome though and let me borrow a pair of hearing aids so that I could get used to wearing them and go back to school.

There are so many hearing aid companies and so many hearing aid styles and choices. The first hearing aids I tried were Reciever in the Canal (RIC) Behind the Ear (BTE) hearing aids. A part went behind my ear, this held the battery and microphones, a thin cord went down into my ear, and at the end of that was the reciever that went into my ear canal. I found these to be very uncomfortable. I didn’t like the recievers in my ear canals, and the cord caused sores behind my ears. I also have really small ears, and they didn’t make a cord size 0 at that time, so I had to try the size 1, which were too big, they make size 0 now though. I knew for sure that I didn’t want completely in the canal hearing aids, those are the hard shell ones that are usually skin colored, and the whole hearing aid goes in the ear. My ears are way too sensitive for those. So, I chose BTEs with hooks and earmoulds. These are as comfortable as hearing aids can get. I like how soft the earmoulds are, I can wash them, and I can pick fun colors. Right now I have pink and purple glitter earmoulds. I need to get new ones, but I’m holding off because I can’t decide what colors to get next, I get so many compliments on the colors I have now!

I have a love/hate relationship with my hearing aids. The first few years I had them, I wore them as often as I could. Now, I only wear them when I have to. People think that hearing aids fix hearing, but they don’t. Once you lose hearing, its gone, you will never hear like that again. Hearing aids don’t provide natural hearing the way ears do. Neither do cochlear implants. With my hearing aids, the “th” sound still doesn’t exist to me. It never will. “S” and “h” gone now as well. “M” and “n” and “p” and “b” sound too much alike. I can’t hear my cats purr. And I’m sure there are sounds I couldn’t hear to begin with that I can’t hear even with my hearing aids.

There are people that LOVE their hearing aids, and people that HATE their hearing aids. I’m in the middle. I have a hard time with background noise. Hearing aids don’t filter out background noise like natural hearing ears do. So when I have my hearing aids in, I don’t just hear your voice, I hear everything else as well. And its one big muddled mess of sound. Let’s say I’m sitting in the living room with some friends. I’m talking to one friend, two friends are talking to each other, the TV is on, and someone is playing something on their phone. I will no longer be able to understand what the friend I’m talking to is saying. Or in the car. I’m talking to my mom, but there’s music on , the fan is on, and we’re in traffic…can’t understand my mom. Even in restaurants, I have a VERY difficult time between everyone else talking, the background music, and typical restaurant sounds. It is frustrating. Sometimes I feel even deafer with my hearing aids because of the background noise, but lipreading is so much work that I don’t want to do it.
They aren’t all bad. In the perfect hearing conditions (one person speaking at a time, little or no background noise), they do help me.

I hope that as technology gets better, someone will actually figure out the whole background noise situation.

To be honest, the only time I enjoy wearing my hearing aids is when music is involved. Whether its listening to the radio, via a CD player, or actually at a concert. Music is the only time I will happily wear my hearing aids.

For anyone curious on what it is like to hear through hearing aids and cochlear implants, this is a hearing aid and cochlear implant simulation. Now, this is not how everyone with these devices hear, especially with hearing aids (per my personal experience). It all depends on the amount of hearing loss, background noise, the person who is talking. So much goes into play when hearing through hearing devices.



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