Why Frances Turns Off Her Hearing Aids

by Tina Blue
February 25, 2004

          I had just used the Xerox machine in the English department office. I was ready to go home, so I took my hearing aids out of my ears, which is what I always do just as soon as I possibly can.

          Some deaf people are so well-adjusted to their hearing aids that they hardly notice them. They leave them in all the time, because the hearing aids seem to them an unmitigated boon.

          But many of us, especially those of us who are late-deafened, or whose progressive deafness didn't require hearing aids until late in life, do not like to wear our hearing aids and do so only when absolutely necessary.

          I wear mine to teach class, to watch movies or TV, or to converse with people who will not speak clearly enough to accommodate my hearing impairment in face-to-face conversations.

          Most of my friends have learned to speak clearly to me and project their voices without yelling.  I seldom wear my hearing aids with my closest friends. 

          When I have had my aids in for several hours--for example, while teaching--and then am finally free to take them out, I always do so gratefully, delighted to return to the quiet cocoon where so many of the unpleasant, intrusive noises of  modern life cannot reach me.

          And that is precisely the sentiment I was expressing when I took my aids out of my ears in the English department office and turned to Lydia, the secretary there, to say, "I love taking out my hearing aids.  It feels so relaxing, like slipping into a nice warm bath."

          That's when she told me about her 9-year-old niece Frances, who also wears hearing aids but does so consistently, as I do not.  Whenever Frances is eating a food that she especially likes, she turns off her hearing aids, deliberately blocking that path of sensory input so she can concentrate her attention on the taste of the treat she is enjoying, often closing her eyes as well to enhance the effect.

          Then, undistracted, totally focused, she tastes that food.

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