Growing up hard of hearing was not a comfortable experience for me. I received my first hearing aid at the age of nine. I hid it every chance I could get. I was painfully aware that I was different, and the contraption sitting on my ear was a constant reminder that I stood out. I became the “Queen of Bluffing,” as I attempted to navigate fast-moving conversations that I couldn’t follow.
Fast forward to today, I no longer hide.
I now own the most colorful hearing aids I could put together. They’re royal blue, aqua blue, and raspberry-colored, plus a swirl of colors in the earmolds. I happily wear my hair up or pushed back over my ears to show off my hearing aids everyday.
— Karen Putz (@AgelessPassions) November 18, 2015
How did this happen?
One morning, I was lying in bed in my college dorm room reflecting on my life. I had just become deaf from a fall while barefoot water skiing. Every day was a struggle. I struggled in my classes, vainly trying to lipread moving professors while studying from books and notes. My social life was uncomfortable as I was surrounded by people using sign language and I didn’t know a single sign. I could no longer hear anything without the dreaded hearing aid. I now had to wear it 24/7.
I was completely miserable.
Then, I had an epiphany. I had choices. Two, in fact. I could continue to struggle, cry, and moan about my life, hiding my hearing aid…or I could choose to embrace the new path and become the best possible “deaf person” I could be.
That simple decision lead to a complete change of heart.
When I got out of bed that morning, I was a new woman. I pulled my hair into a pony tail and slapped on the hearing aid. For the first time, I was stepping out into public with my hearing aid on display.
I had never done that before.
Immediately, the shame enveloped me again, but I was determined to plow through it. I could feel some stares. Or maybe I just imagined it. I don’t know. Either way, I was forced to deal with it. To learn a new way of being, a new way of living. It was the process of being authentically ME. Hearing aid and all.
So today, I put my hearing aids on each morning and I love the stares I get. I’m wearing some beautiful pieces of art on my ears, art which houses some of the most advanced technology in hearing aids today. A click of the button, and I can dim the background noise. Another button lets music flow in with a wide range of sound. Yet another button syncs with a Roger Pen and pushes sound directly into my ears.
And then there’s the mute button–the one button that people with normal hearing become insanely jealous of…especially when a kid on the airplane starts crying.