Updated: Apr 9
This is a social media post I wrote on November 12, 2020 and wanted to save on my blog!
I do not believe that hearing aids (or cochlear implants) need to be invisible. I can't help but read "invisible hearing aid" and feel like the message being sent is that we need to hide our hearing devices and our deafness. Invisible hearing aids are not the solution. They are a part of the problem. They are a part of the problem with the stigma we are trying to break. I sat on the Phonak Teen Advisory Board for 2 years working to normalize teen hearing loss and the stigma that surrounds it. To normalize wearing hearing aids and cochlear implants. To help others be PROUD of their deafness.
I realize that some may be afraid to show that they are deaf/hard of hearing. And I get that, I do. I do, trust me. And maybe an invisible hearing aid is consumer demand and is just about the profit, but I can't help but to think that it sends the wrong message. Even if this hearing aid isn't for teens or children... these children look up to the adults who wear devices like them. But now those adults may be wearing "invisible hearing aids". These teens and children are now left in a world where there are no adults they can visibly see who look like them. These teens and children are now further isolated and made to feel alone. Is profit and consumer demand of an invisible hearing aid worth the implications it leaves behind? Is it worth the continuation in division amongst the hearing and deaf/hard of hearing populations? More importantly: is it worth sending the message to all that our deafness needs to be hidden?
I get it, I do. I had a job interview and wore my hair down intentionally to cover my cochlear implant because I wasn't sure of the implicit biases my interviewer may have had. But if we wear "invisible" devices then our general/able bodied population won't become educated. They won't be educated to help us or to be aware of our struggles and realities. That further isolates us. That is not a win.
And you know what? I got that job. And I showed up a few days later to fill out paperwork and one of the bosses was in the room with me talking to the person who interviewed me, and I kid you not, she says: “I just got my hearing aids a few days ago, but I haven't worn them yet." I sat in that room with a smile on my face and my hair up with a bright blue ear out for all to see.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you not to get or use this "invisible hearing aid". If it's what you need, then it's what you need, there's nothing more to it. I support that. You don't need my support, but I will support you and stand by you.
I feel the same way about cochlear implants. Yes, I have an Advanced Bionics cochlear implant, and I will sit here and rave to you about it all day. But if you choose or use Cochlear Americas or MedEl, I support you. It’s all about what YOU need, you and no one else. At the end of the day we are both deaf and have similar experiences and struggles, a cochlear implant brand isn’t going to single handedly change that.
"Invisible" sends the wrong message and I want to encourage you to think in a different perspective, one that is perhaps bigger than you - and bigger than me.
We are a community with diversity within, and that diversity is okay and amazing. Even though we share a common factor of being deaf/hard of hearing and using hearing devices, that doesn’t mean we are all the same. Yet, through our differences we stand by each other anyways with nothing but support and love and sympathy.
In thinking back on my childhood self, I would have never wished for invisible hearing aids to be a part of my world. I thrived by visibly seeing I wasn't alone. For my past self and for all the other children and teens in this world who are deaf/hard of hearing, I will say it once again: Invisible hearing aids are not the solution, they are a part of the problem. So long as this is true, I will stand up for you and with you. I cannot stand by and watch children and teens receive the message that their deafness is something to be hidden.