336: when it dies
How many of you, dear readers, have a hearing aid?
How many of you hate when it conks out? Battery dies? Annoying tube snaps? Annoying little screw-tube bulb thingy on the end breaks off? Little useless door which is supposed to protect inner workings of hearing aid falls off?
We could really use a Deaf Consumer Reports. Alas, such is a pipe dream.
Why do I think about this? Because I was in Peaks Island, Maine for the past six days or so enjoying the sunny beauty of New England. One night, fuelled by alcohol, my partner and I decided to joy-ride bicycles with our friends Bodie and Ruth around the island to the landing where they would be picked up by the local ferry and shipped off to Portland. The next morning my aid was a rusty damaged mess. I managed to clean it out so it was working again and in the process snapped off the bulb thingy on the end. While trying to force the two broken bits of hearing aid back together, the little plastic tube thingy snapped.
My hearing aid battery is probably dead too. I can't check until I get it working.
The sad thing is for millions of hard-working Americans, the only option when their hearing aid breaks is to raise the money to pay for a new one. Health insurance rarely if ever covers hearing aids - unless you're on Medicaid, which will replace your aid once every three years, regardless of whether, for example, it had been stolen. (I believe you can appeal or something. Not helpful to this working Deaf man.) Right now most insurance DOES cover cochlear implantation and subsequent therapy - making choice moot for plenty of parents and Deaf people.
Mind you, I don't break the hearing aid often. In fact on my last visit to the hearing aid specialist I asked them to check out the serial of my hearing aid. Turns out it's 9 years old - easily one of the oldest the audiologist, Terrence, had seen. He looked at it as if it were some sort of antique and recommended getting one of the newer analogue ones. Terrence is unusually honest: most audiologists I've been to push the implant, or a new digital hearing aid. Terrence reports that in my case, the digital hearing aids wouldn't be useful, and a cochlear implant could theoretically remove all of my remaining hearing. So. The old-fashioned hearing aid is my best bet, updated with modern technology, for continuing to "hear."
Why do I wear the damn thing at all? It does increase the volume of what's around me, and permits me to enjoy music on a different level than when I'm without the hearing aid. Hearing-aid free, I sometimes think even my psychology is different. A big part of my time is spent deciphering sounds from my hearing aid - being able to turn it off, and turn my mind inwards, is very beneficial. Also, I live in a big city, where not many people are really aware of Deaf people. In a way, the hearing aid is a tool of defense for me, letting me know, if not what people are saying, that someone's saying something to me. Which, if you're running around the city, is sometimes a comfort.
But for two days I've been hearing-aid free, and I have to say, it's nice. There is something to be said for experiencing your body as it is and experiencing your senses as they are. Almost freeing.
On the other hand, I also have to WORK with hearing people, and my vacation is almost over: on Thursday I get back to the office. I work advocating for Deaf people around the city, and I don't have the luxury of an interpreter with me all the time (neither do most of my clients. The sad fact is in New York State a high percentage of interpreter requests go unfulfilled, either because of unavailability or because of fear on the part of the interpreter for certain situations.)
Ah well. I'll deal. And will take Chipper in tomorrow for repair. If he's dead, I'll scan his body and maybe write a bad poem in tribute.
More tomorrow, and later this week: I'll be trying to blog more regularly, and maybe, MAYBE a vlog soon. (I'm still self-conscious about signing on video. I sucked on stage, too.)