I call them "my ears." They are my hearing aids -- my little behind-the ear Phonak Audeo hearing aid and my Nucleus 6 cochlear implant. They are my connection to the hearing world. They are both awesome and fierce. I waver between wanting to show them off to the world or keep them hidden to all but a few. We have a love-hate relationship.
My Phonak Audeo is a mini hearing aid. It is so small and discreet that one would have to know it's there to see it. The taupe color of its case makes it virtually invisible against my hair, and the slim tube feature is barely visible on the front of my ear. All that I have left of my natural hearing is amplified through this hearing aid. Without it, I can hear very little.
It has a tip that fits snugly in the ear canal. Who knew something so small and soft to my fingertips could be a nearly constant source of irritation to the sensitive skin in my ear? I have oily drops I put in my ear canal at night to relieve the irritation, and I have to be sure to wash it away in the morning. Oil is a hearing aid's worst enemy. It may be small and discreet, but don't ask me to hug you unless you are prepared for the feedback. It's set with such tremendous volume that it gives feedback whenever anything comes within close proximity of it, be it my hand or your head. It will whistle at you! When I put it in my ear in the morning, even my dogs cock their heads as my Phonak serenades us with the feedback song.
The behind-the-ear fit often becomes a dangling-from-the-ear fit, as my Phonak is easily knocked from its place behind my ear by the wind, stooping and bending, or anything that brushes near my head -- most often my own hand as I sweep my hair back with my fingers. The tip in the ear canal prevents it from falling off completely. It's a common nuisance among hearing aid wearers, I think, because I saw a young clerk at the grocery store who was wearing his hearing aids in the same dangling-from-the-ear style that I often use. Though it was hard, I resisted the urge to reach up and put it back into its proper position! I did take great satisfaction in knowing that I wasn't the only one stylin' my ear this way!
My N6 processor from Cochlear, Inc. is the thinnest and lightest processor on the market, so they say. It's still pretty big, and it can be cumbersome, especially because I wear glasses. There's only so much room behind the ear! It makes my ear -- and my hair -- stick out in unnatural ways. The coil cable that connects my processor to my coil magnet sticks out at an odd angle, and it gets caught in my fingers when I finger-comb my hair during the day -- usually knocking my coil off my head, and making things worse than they were before.
Being such a vain person, I get a little obsessive with checking to make sure my hair is lying smoothly against my processor and coil. Some days I find myself patting the side of my head for no reason at all. Then there are those days when I come home from school and glance in the mirror and shudder. That's it! I'm cutting all of my hair off right now! (Stepping away from the scissors.)
The magnet on my cochlear implant makes my scalp sore after wearing it all day. Massaging the magnet area at night has become a welcome bedtime ritual. I've even taken the magnet off for a few minutes and indulged myself with a little scalp rub during the day. A student once saw me scratching my head and asked, "You got head lice, Miz Stone?" !!!!!
The coil magnet is a fickle bugger and has a tendency to fly off my head when it is near anything metal that has a stronger attraction than the one in my head. Car doors are especially dangerous. One car door has already caught my magnet and sent my processor flying through the air! I had to get down on my hands and knees - in the rain - to find my processor lying on the pavement under the car. I'm still thankful pictures of that haven't surfaced on YouTube or Facebook.
They're my ears. They're part of who I am now. Perfect and flawed at the same time. This is an imperfect journey I am on. Keeping my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I will continue to walk the roads that lie ahead of me. And I will take my ears along for the ride. The ending has not been written yet. If you see us, give us a little wave or a nod. Better yet, walk along and have a little chat with us! Because we will be able to hear you. It's just the way it is.