Teachable Moments

Having just written a blog about my mental health, I was not prepared to delve into the topic of my hearing loss, but that just not how it has ended up.

Last night, right in the middle of a conversation with kiddo, my left hearing aid chimed its low battery noise. It startled me so much that I completely stopped talking. That hasn’t happened in a few months.

That seemingly inconsequential thing lead to a great topic change and conversation with kiddo to the topic of my hearing aids (HA). I’ve had them now for about 10 months, and wear them about 14 hours a day, Monday through Friday.  I don’t wear them on weekends normally.  I use both the terms HoH and deaf to describe myself. Personally, deaf is my preference but with my patients I will often say hard of hearing.

Kiddo doesn’t express that much interest in my HAs usually. We spoke at length about how they would help me before I started wearing them.  He knows that the same rules apply that were there before HAs – don’t talk to Mama with your back turned, speak clearly and loudly, etc.  These are all things that have been normal his entire life; I’ve always been deaf.

He asked why the noise had startled me explained to him that I was just focused on something else when it went off.  He asked what it sounded like and I told him it’s a single beep. About 5-10 minutes later I will her the shut down chimes.  I told him that if he wanted, I could pop out the battery and let him hear the start up chimes.

He loved the idea, so he held the receiver/dome near his ear while I closed the battery door. Watching his expression change when he heard the sounds was pretty cool. We talked about how they work and I pointed out the major pieces to him. I also showed him how the receiver goes into my ear and it’s barely noticeable that I wear a HA. I took the opportunity to explain to him how my HAs are medical devices and not something usable by others like a pair of headphones would be.

The best comparison I could come up with for him was his glasses.  I got my glasses out of my bedroom and we compared the two. I have a really high astigmatism in my right eye due to a retinal detachment so it was easy to see how the thickness and shapes of our lenses were different. Then he stood at the end of the hallway and put my glasses on. He was amazed at how different things looked.

I explained that just like each eye sees (& needs correction) individually, the same applies to your ears.  I told him that each hearing aid is set up to magnify the levels of noises that my ear has trouble with. At the same time, they help reduce background noise, which is my biggest day to day challenge.

Kiddo knows that I read lips. He’s always been a very soft spoken child so it’s a skill that I used as a parent too.  When he was little, most of our conversations occurred with him in my lap to it worked out just fine.  I don’t know if there’s a concrete way to explain to others how much I depend on being able to read lips. Most people never think how important small things like gesturing in front of your face or talking to someone as you walk away really can be.

My body language is a dead giveaway as to how I am working to hear a person. Most of the time I am focused on someone’s face in order to read their lips and expressions. But if someone is too far away for that, I often tilt my head so that my ‘good ear’ is toward their direction.

Anyway, it was really nice to have that time to share that part of who I am with my son now that he’s getting older and more aware of how different each person is. I hope that by giving him insight into different perspectives he will be able to be more accepting of people and not define them by parts of who they are.


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