One of the most common accidents with hearing aids is a pet thinking it’s lunch.*
If you Google the phrase “pets eating hearing aids,” you will find endless articles and pet shaming photographs detailing this horror. No matter how often I read these stories however, I never believed it would happen to me. Throughout my life as a hearing aid user, I never had problems with my dog, Daisy, or my cat, Greta, going near my hearing aids. I could leave them on my bureau every night and know they will be in the same place the next morning. Although Greta and Daisy were senior animals when I received my Audèo V, both of them were in the prime of their youth at ages eight and three, respectively, when I received my first hearing aids at age 12. I was lucky that even then, they never once mistook my hearing aid for a meal.
My views on pet behavior around hearing aids, however, changed when I started taking live-in pet sitting jobs at age twenty-two when I met a cat named Neeley.
Right after college, when I was desperate for a job of any kind, one of my mother’s high school friends needed a pet sitter. She had an adorable little Manx named Neeley and was offering free real-estate in Brooklyn for two weeks. For a crazy cat lady who loves fine art, live music performances and the New York City literary scene, babysitting Neeley sounded like a dream come true. After a quick phone call explaining my volunteer experience with cats, I got the job—or as I called it back then—a little piece of heaven. From the moment I first saw Neeley’s picture, I knew he was going to be a wonderful charge. What I did not realize, however, was that Neeley had a lot to teach me about my views on pets.
The commute to Neeley’s house was long and sweaty on a hot August day. Dragging my suitcase through the streets of Philadelphia, and then again through the New York City subways was exhausting, especially in high heels. I did not expect the commute to take as long as it did, and shortly after Neeley family left, I found myself in need of a nap. Before crawling into my new bed, I kicked off my shoes and took my hearing aid out of my ear. As per routine, I placed it on my bureau, thinking nothing of it. Thank goodness I went to sleep with my “good ear” facing the world, allowing me to hear the strange rustling in my sleep. Not knowing what caused the sound, I sprang out of bed to look for the source. What a surprise it was to see Neeley sitting on the bureau, swatting at my Audeo V. It did not take me long to start shrieking and shouting, “Neeley! No! Don’t eat my hearing aid!”
Thankfully, Neeley bolted from the bureau the moment he heard my voice, and the Audeo V fell from his grasp. Before I even considered returning to my nap, I searched across the bureau for a place to put my hearing aid. My jewelry case was not an option because the Audeo V’s delicate wires could have become entangled with my necklaces. The case I had for makeup would have been worse because I kept it in the bathroom, and I did not want my hearing aid anywhere near water. Suitcase storage would have been an especially bad idea because Neeley liked to crawl inside of it. Inevitably, he would discover my hearing aid again and treat it like an afternoon snack. I thought I was out of options until I discovered a small wooden box on the bureau. Quickly checking its contents, I realized it was empty and sighed with relief. I found a place to keep my hearing aid safe from Neeley’s paws.
After that incident, just as I predicted, Neeley was a wonderful pet and we became the best of friends. Every time I returned to babysit him, he followed me around the house and snuggled in my arms whenever I wanted to sleep. Unlike that first time, however, I came better prepared for Neeley’s hearing-aid-hungry ways. My Audeo V was kept safe and sound from his paws, which were occupied instead by trying to chase my fingers.
What I learned with Neeley has come in handy for other pet sitting clients. I hid my hearing aid in a box beneath my jewelry to prevent a tortoiseshell cat, known for stealing shiny objects, from finding it. After her, I had to hide my hearing aid from two frisky Birmans who almost snatched it after opening the bathroom drawer. Though I have been smarter about my hearing aid with other pets, I will always remember Neeley teaching me that animals think hearing aids are delicious. Then again, I will also remember our morning cuddles.
*Phonak always recommends you keep hearing aids away from pets. Hearing aids that are still switched on and lying around emit high pitched sounds that can irritate dogs. This has resulted in some aids getting eaten.