Let me tell you an old story. When I was a student, I had long, curly hair, flowing in the wind, going down on my shoulders. I was free, young, you know the drill.
I was walking in the street and passed a guy with the same couldn’t-care-less, disheveled hairdo. A few steps down, I turned back and looked at him. Surprisingly he had done the same.
My mother exclaimed: “Did you see? He had the same dirty haircut as you? —I mean, the same coiffure.” Funnily, she did not want to criticize, but it said a lot about her perception of my haircut (or lack thereof).
Come to think of it, it was not that common at the end of the eighties to have long, wild hair. We belonged, without having given any thought to it, to the long-haired community (even if the word was not used so much, in those pre-internet days).
Fast forward to today. Now that I’ve had hearing aids for two years, I surprise myself noticing people with hearing aids in the street, on the train, everywhere.
And it feels the same, somehow: I belong to a minority of few, a community, and the simple fact of wearing them makes me notice them in the crowd.
I questioned my reactions and realised that, as was pointed out by Stephanie, hearing aids are still considered “prosthetics” (in French, “appareils”, “ear apparatus”). It’s still not the same at all as glasses, which have been around for centuries now.
I decided quite early that I would never be shy about them. I can change batteries in the middle of a meeting with clients, sometimes seeing in their eyes a slight hint that it’s a bit gross (insert here the image of a pirate taking off his wooden leg and glass eye). Also, I usually don’t start a day at work without stopping someone who’s talking to me by saying “Let me put my ears in first.”
Most of the time you end up talking to people who tell you they’ve had trouble hearing for quite a long time but never bothered to have their ears checked.
Back to our topic: we recognise each other (or maybe it’s just me). And I like the fact that I see more and more younger people (in their forties) with small hearing aids like mine, which means that people are slowly changing their attitude into a more relaxed approach, even if their loss is not profound deafness. They’re willing to be tested, and to have hearing aids.
My take is that, although hearing aids are much more costly than glasses, diagnostics are more widely used than ever before, and people are better and better equipped, what with electronics getting more powerful and smaller all the time.
So, I’m thinking perhaps in twenty years I will not notice hearing aids more than I see glasses today. We’re slowly going from minority to unremarkable normality. What do you think? Especially those of you out there who’ve been wearing hearing aids for much longer than me, have you felt the eye of society change?
(Oh, and don’t ask for photos of my long hair, I conveniently lost them.)