A Kid’s Cool Accessories, or, Why I’ve Never Wanted My Ears Pierced
Kids think hearing aids are cool. I’ve had them since I was three or so, and I was teased more for my thick glasses and my red hair than I was for my hearing aids. I wanted pink hearing aids, but they didn’t come in that color, so I got red. They come in pink now. Today, my hearing aids are digital; the right is bright blue, and the left is bright yellow. This post is inspired because I’m functioning on one ear this week; the blue one got sent in to be cleaned.
I wore wires coming from my ears to a box and was the obnoxious kid who approached the teacher every day with a similar box attached to a microphone. You may have seen these things; with both boxes, it’s called an FM system. On my side, it hooked up with little hubs to the ends of my hearing aids until they came up with a wireless set. I had one in the fourth and fifth grades, and then for a year or two in middle school until I decided that it was too much of a hassle to carry from class to class, make sure to deliver and pick up from each teacher, and then return at the end of the day to my first period class to charge for the next day.
It had novelty and coolness for my classmates as well because the teacher often forgot she had it on when she left the room to go talk to other teachers. Or to go answer a phone call. Or to talk to other students outside the classroom in private. The FM system has significant range for a little classroom tool. I could hear if she went to the bathroom up the hall or sometimes across the school to the gym to talk to the teacher there. But the utter inconvenience of it in middle school superceded its coolness. That decision strikes me as significant today because the audiologist and the head of the deaf department let me make the decision on my own. It was my choice as to whether I wanted to use it as it was a free tool provided by the school system and the good ol’ ADA act.
Also, the school system should provide audiologists. My audiologists were my friends. They were all women, and part of our monthly meetings (I think they were monthly) involved them teaching me about how the ear works, the different parts of the ear, as well as giving me hearing tests from a machine in a briefcase box that looks like something that might hold super-high-tech weaponry and managing the upkeep/cleaning of the hearing aids themselves. (I do the upkeep myself now; an audiologist taught me how.) These meetings were just pulling me out of class but keeping me on the school premises, in an empty classroom or in a quiet room in the library. Sometimes we met in the nurse’s office. The meetings couldn’t have lasted more than half an hour, but time is different for little kids.
Lots of years we ended up doing a presentation to my classroom. The audiologist would come in, sometimes at the teacher’s request, sometimes at mine, and teach the kids the same thing she taught me privately: parts of the ear, how sound waves work, et cetera. Sometimes these demonstrations were also teamed with blind demonstrations: poke a hole in the bottom of a cup and have the kids put the lip of the cup to their eyes. Have them put on a blindfold and try walking with a cane across the classroom. I was considered cool right after that, too.
And sometimes, in the summer, I’d come into the school district’s extra facilities probably every two years to have an in-the-booth hearing test. Those have become familiar to me as well. The electronic puppets in the corners that light up when you push a button and stimulate really little kids when they do something right, the different sets of headphones that hang on the carpeted wall. The one chair in the center of a small room in front of a huge window that always makes me feel like I’m a movie star inside a TV. And I swear I’ve half-memorized the words they use in the text while covering their lips with a laminated white paper. The sheet that has the pictures of the words for really little kids.
I was always fine on the playground. They tuck snugly behind the ear and hang by their own if I hung upside down. I have always taken them out when I go to sleep, when I take a shower, or when I get in the pool. Oddly enough, I find having them out in the pool is interesting. Because everyone’s so close together and yelling anyway because of all the people around, and because water is a good conductor of sound waves, I always heard well in swimming lessons and during our many summer swims.
I don’t technically have to take them out when I sleep; I take many a nap with them in. It’s just a little more comfortable to not have something poking my ear as it presses against a pillow. And the battery runs whether or not the hearing aid is on; it just preserves the hearing aid a little longer if I turn it off when I’m not using it. They are expensive, after all. As I told the audiologist I visited yesterday, we’re poor just-out-of-college kids. We can’t really afford new hearing aids. My parents just bought my little brother new ones and it put them in the hole $5,000. I don’t have that much money. But I am happy for the pleasant childhood they gave me.