Hear the laughter: How I’ve embraced being ‘the hearing aid guy’
Hi, I’m D.J. Demers I’m a comedian from Toronto, Canada, and I’ve worn behind-the-ear hearing aids in both ears since I was four years old.
I’ve been performing stand-up comedy since 2009, and I really, really enjoy it. I’ve wanted to be a comedian since I was just a wee lad, and I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to make it a reality. Comedy has brought me to many fun and interesting places, and I love all the novel experiences and wonderful people I meet.
Novel experiences, you say?
Recently I performed in Nashville, Tennessee on an urban comedy show. If the term ‘urban’ is a bit too ambiguous, I’ll be more specific. It was a black comedy show, and I was the token white comedian. The show consisted of three black comedians, 150 black audience members, and me, a white Canadian dude. Did I have a good set, you ask? Well, let me ask you this: Did Big Pun crush a lot, despite not being a playa?
(…I did okay)
Since then, I’ve also performed a one-hour set for 80 students at a college in northern Kentucky. While I was performing, the battery in my right hearing aid died. First, I heard the warning beeps. I tried to plow through, but within 10 minutes the hearing aid was completely dead. For the first time in my comedy career, I had to make a battery change onstage in the middle of my set. It was actually a lot of fun. After I shut the battery door, I even had the students join me in counting down the seconds before my hearing aid turned back on.
And right now, as I type this, I am sitting in my small cabin on a large cruise ship sailing through the Gulf of Mexico. Last night, I performed three, half-hour shows for 1,500 people in the comedy lounge of this ship. During the first family-friendly show, a 6-year-old girl farted so loudly in the front row that it literally startled everyone around her. When I asked her what happened, she said she farted. When I began to inquire further, she asked me to please move on. Polite, yet firm. Much respect to that gassy little girl.
Crashing a black comedy show in the Music City, performing a mid-show battery replacement in Kentucky, and getting shut down by a flatulent 6-year-old Caribbean cruiser, all in the span of three days. Like I said, novel experiences abound.
Performing with hearing aids
Many people express the sentiment to me that ‘it must be very hard’ to perform stand-up comedy with a hearing impairment. They are absolutely right, and I am a goddamn hero.
I’m just messing with you.
In actuality, I don’t think of my hearing aids all that much when I’m onstage. Sure, it can be difficult to banter with audience members (especially when they’re in the back of the room), but I truly don’t see it as a big deal. In my mind, performing comedy with hearing aids is no harder than living my everyday life with hearing aids. My hearing impairment was going to be a large part of whatever path I chose.
As I stated in my appearance on Conan, I never wanted to be known as ‘the hearing aid guy’.
This is absolutely true – not just in stand-up, but life in general. I always felt like my hearing aids were a small part of who I am, and I never wanted them to define me. Growing up, I rarely, if ever, talked about my disability. I essentially lived my life doing a serviceable impersonation of a hearing person.
Part of a community
As I’ve gotten older (and dare I say wiser?) I’ve begun to acknowledge that my hearing aids are not a small part of who I am. They are a huge part of my identity. I still believe that I am more than my hearing aids, but I’m not ashamed to fully recognize their role in my life. This recognition has had a positive effect on my day-to-day existence and my comedy (which, to be completely honest, are pretty much the same thing at this point). Nowadays, I will talk about my hearing aids with anybody.
In fact, that’s become one of my favorite parts of performing. I never could have imagined the large amount of people who approach me after a performance to show me their hearing aids or to share their experiences with a hard of hearing person in their life. We are all in this unique community together, and that’s a pretty great feeling. Whether you’ve been wearing hearing aids your whole life, or you got them in your older years, or as a result of an illness, it’s nice to be part of a community.
I’m ecstatic to be a part of the hearing loss community, and I’m pumped to be contributing to Hearing Like Me. Looking forward to connecting with you in the comments below or on social media!
’Til next time!