Sunday, May 6, 2007

Lessons Learned From a Broken Hearing Aid

My hearing aid broke a few months ago. The one I got from my dad because he got new ones and didn't need his old one anymore. I needed his old ones because I gave him my extra hearing aid that I wasn't using because I don't like wearing an aid in my left ear. I'm sure this sounds familiar to other Deaf people, the passing around of hearing aids to different family members. From one daughter to dad, to the other daughter, back to dad and so on... I had a pile of 6 or 7 old hearing aids that I couldn't wear-- either not strong enough for my profound deafness, or just didn't work anymore and I didn't have the heart to throw something away that cost $1,000 to begin with. (yes, hearing aids cost anywhere from $800 to $2,000 EACH depending on the model, for my hearing readers that are unfamiliar with the Deaf world) And oh, did I mention that they aren't covered by insurance?? If someone out there has insurance that covers hearing aids, PLEASE pass on the info!

Anyway... My old, hand-me-down hearing aids finally bit the bullet and my bank account was not able to handle such a large expense of buying a new one, so I called dad and asked if he had another old one I could use. Well, his hearing aid broke not too long ago and he was using his old one until it got fixed. And so it goes... sigh! I couldn't hear my kids! My kids can read my signs pretty well, but they don't really sign back to me. So not only could I not hear my kids, I couldn't understand them either! I'm such a bad mom. I didn't teach them ASL, because I talk more than I sign, and even though they can read my signs, they reply back in voice and I never really enforced the sign issue. They know the basics-- hungry, more, thank you, please, etc... But they don't know how to express to me their tales of playing outside, like, "And then we found a worm in the dirt, and it was all wiggly and dirty from being in the dirt, and we picked him and up and ewww! It was all slimy and squirmy and it was so cool! And then we took the shovel and chopped him up and threw him in the bird feeders so the birds, like the blue jays and the red birds, they can eat him and give him to the baby blue jays. And then...." I felt horrible that I didn't enforce the signing with my children and now I couldn't understand them! My middle child doesn't quite speak clearly and mumbles more than she talks, and I could not even guess at what she wanted. I was ready to cry! "Do you want juice? Juice? No? Chocolate milk? Honey? What do you want, why are you crying? Are you hungry? No? Are your pull-ups wet? Do you need a change? Please baby, tell mommy what you need?" And meanwhile my child starts to blubber and cry and I am looking at my oldest to translate blubbering and mumbling to me. "What did she say???"

This went on for about 2 weeks. A lifetime if you ask me. For 2 weeks I could not understand my children. For 2 weeks I kicked myself in the ass for not teaching my children to sign. For 2 weeks I cried at night at the frustration I was going through and with no one to blame but myself. I was about to go to the hearing aid center to ask if they would accept monthly payments on a hearing aid, when my in-laws came to my rescue. I had mentioned in an email to my Hubby's mom (I am one of the few lucky ones that have GREAT In-laws!) that I was frustrated at not being able to understand my kids. I never expected their response, "We want to buy you a new hearing aid!"

My reply: "No no no! This is not necessary! I'm fine and I'll manage without."

Them: "No, we insist! Tell us how much and we will pay for it."

Me: "It's over $1,000 for a hearing aid, did you realize that?"

Them: "Don't care, we want to do this for you and we wont take no for an answer!"

With that, I burst into tears at how lucky I am to have such wonderful in-laws and how much I knew they loved me, and that they truly accepted me into their family. I made an appointment and got a new hearing aid and they came over and gave us the money to cover the cost. I am so, so grateful and thankful and happy and blessed!

Of course, now I make sure the girls sign. I can understand them again with my new hearing aid, but I have learned a very important lesson the hard way and it is not something I care to go through again. My 18-month old is now signing "mommy, daddy, milk, want" to name a few. My middle child is signing more in 2 or 3 word sentences, and my oldest is getting better and better. I have to remind them to sign sometimes, but they ARE signing now. I even got after Hubby and he has been signing more, too. I turn my voice off more and just use ASL to talk with my family now. Communication is precious, in any language. Make sure that the people you choose to be in your circle can communicate with you and if they aren't willing to learn, then maybe you need to re-think that relationship. It doesn't matter who you are or how old you are, if you really love someone, you would do anything for that person, including learning their language.


lady macleod said...

Great story! I love it that there are people out in the world doing wonderful things for others. Warm and fuzzy for sure.

I have taken a class in basic ASL, and have been thrilled that I have had the chance on several occasions to use it in Morocco.

Thank you for the story. I think your children will be pleased they have the ability to sign.

gnarlydorkette said...


Take a step at a time. I am very sorry that you had to learn this hard way-- I am sure it was an emotional roller coaster!
At least you learned now and grabbed the opportunity to encourage your children to learn signs than way too late when they are well into their teens or adults years-- and fixated into their habit of thinking you as a "hearie", you know?

Enjoy your new HAs! (and I know what you meant about "passing on the HAs"-- when I was a young'un, my friends would give me their old HAs (most of their parents had more money than mine-- so I was considered as a "charity case") when they got new digital HAs or whatever.
I think I still have my old HAs (age 9?), however it definitely has passed away. The sounds are not crisp anymore and it became fainter ... My hubby's HAs are MUCH better (I was surprised at every LITTLE quiet sound I can heard with his HAs than with mine! Imagine what I have missed out all the years!).
I only wore his HAs whenever my husband wanted me to hear one of his favorite albums.
My mother did remind that I can get free pairs of HAs from insurance we have now (before, insurance doesn't cover HAs, but now it does!) but I shrugged because I am so used to not wear HAs now...
Maybe I can just get new molds and then whenever next time my husband wants me to listen, I can just pop on my molds on his HAs. we will see.

Lisa C. said...

Wow. Wonderful story...

My insurance doesn't cover any new hearing aid.

One day in 2002 after looking for my hearing aid I found out that it was in my jeans pocket when I washed them. Boy, I was very upset. I didn't have money for a new one but I realized that I was scheduled to file for bankruptcy later that afternoon and I was able buy a new one by using my plastic card on my way to the attorney's office.(I filed for it for our attorneys' sakes because my ex-husband lost his good pay job a few months after I filed for divorce and he was unable to find another job. I had a FREE new hearing aid. Now it just died... Oh well....

My 2 boys know sign language since they were babies so we made the very good communications.