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Eighteen Year Old Boy Sets Me Straight About My Hearing Aids

I just returned from a 6,676 mile motorcycle trip out West; I’m a little road weary but none the worse for the wear. While traveling, I was invited to dinner at the home of Carol and her 18 year old son, Carl. Carol volunteered that she and her husband adopted Carl when he was eight months old, that he was born premature and has physical challenges common with preemies, as reflected by the hearing aids he’s worn in both ears from a very early age. Carl, slight built with beautiful dark skin and eyes, was pleasant and a bit shy, seldom volunteering conversation. He was actively involved in preparing the meal and attentive to the smallest needs of their guests.

Carl didn’t notice my hearing aids, hidden behind my grey hair; his were more obvious against his crew cut. After dinner, as we sat around talking, I pulled my hair back and pointed to both of my Gardner Audiology hearing aids, adding, “I bet there’s a lot you can teach me about living with these things. Do you mind if I ask some questions?” He flashed a surprised smile. I asked, “OK, do you wear yours when you’re exercising? I’m afraid the sweat will ruin them.”

“Sweat’s not a problem,” he replied, “but rain can be bad! I was wearing a hat that dumped a huge drop of water off the brim right on my hearing aid. It was soaked! Thank God I had insurance ‘cause it fried the electronics.” He went on, “I’m careful with them in the bathroom. One time I got in the shower with them on,” he glanced at his mom with a shrug, “but I caught myself before I stuck my head under the water. That would’ve been bad! I put ‘em on first thing in the morning. Without them I can’t hear myself well, so apparently I don’t speak so well either. Mom will make a face at me and say, ‘What? I can’t understand you. Put your hearing aids in!” His eyes danced as he shared this family joke.

I took out my Starkey hearing aids; he took out his, and we compared. Then with each set safely returned to our respective ears, he began to get technical on me. A typical teenager, he’s up on all of the latest technology and gleefully explained ways to connect his hearing aids to Bluetooth, to a transmitter, his iPhone, etc. He was quickly above my pay grade but it was fun listening to his enthusiasm. Truth is, I’m satisfied being able to put my hearing aids in, take them out, and change the batteries.

“I like my music loud,” he added, “but I’m careful to set the volume on my iPhone low. Can’t afford any more hearing loss!”
I chimed in, “I always wear soft ear plugs when riding my motorcycle.”

He asked, “Have you tried subtitles on the TV?”

“No,” I responded, “TV is frustrating, so I just don’t watch it.”

“I always use subtitles. It’s a big help. I turn them on even when friends come over for pizza and a movie. My buddies understand.”

I asked how to turn on subtitles; he quickly explained though I was sure I won’t remember what to do. I laughed, “Maybe I’ll put them up in Spanish. I need the practice!”

1,500 miles from my home a pleasant evening ended with me sitting on a couch with a new friend – sharing experiences across a 49 year age gap. Carl has more technical knowledge and practice than I with hearing aids. He also has more acceptance than I of hearing loss.

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Laura Melvin

Laura Melvin

Hearing Aid User, Retired Circuit Judge and Attorney, Author of Public Secrets and Justice, Journal of a Circuit Court Judge