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In August 2021, for the first time in 30 years of living, I received my first pair of hearing aids.
Growing up, I never had hearing aids, very likely due to the extremely expensive cost of them. As an adult, I still was never really able to afford them making mostly around $1,000/month. On top of that, I’m a very lonely person. I spend most of my time by myself and I don’t have a social life, or any friends where I am. So I’m essentially in my room 24/7.
So to me, it just didn’t seem feasible to fork over thousands of dollars for something I wouldn’t get much use out of. Even when I did leave the house, I was primarily voice off anyway and would type out orders, make others type or write back if they had a response. If I was working an event doing a workshop, I would have captions and an interpreter. Even during the networking parties, I would just deal with it. (And then get frustrated which is really saying I should have gotten these things sooner, but anyway- we’ll get to that, I swear!)
But for the last couple of years, my hearing has progressively gotten worse which made it more difficult for my oral deaf self who makes videos to edit them. The headphones I invested in that made things easier upon first getting them were no longer doing what I needed them to do.
So in early 2021, I bit the bullet and decided that I wanted to try to get hearing aids, but there was still that one problem: the cost.
Now I’ve been told time and time again about vocational rehabilitation services (VR). VR helps disabled people with finding work, schooling, and independent living. They also help with supplies needed for these things. For example: hearing aids for my situation, and I know my friends have gotten electronics like laptops for their own work.
In April 2021, I emailed VR and told them my situation. The woman handling my case asked some questions to get a better understanding of what it is that I do. From there, they had to do a background check as well as a financial check on me to make sure I didn’t make more than what would qualify me to get help.
Those were approved and then I was sent to the audiologist to get an updated hearing test to make sure I actually qualified for hearing aids themselves and then those test results were sent back to VR. Lo and behold, I qualified for the hearing aids.
Then came the start of creating the ear molds and picking the hardware (the part that goes behind the ear). I picked black hardware with pink ear molds. (Although, now I’m wishing I had gotten black ear molds instead and I might have those made for myself this year as a little Christmas gift to myself.) The ear molds took a few weeks to be sent off and created.
Finally, in August 2021, I received my hearing aids: Phonak Nadia Paradise. That appointment was spent trying them on to make sure they fit, tweaking with the settings that suited my hearing loss best, and learning how to use the hearing aids themselves as well as the Phonak app and the programs for different types of settings if I needed to use them.
That wasn’t the end, though.
In two weeks, they would have me come back to just check on everything. To make sure I was happy with the settings, that they worked for me. I remember making an adjustment in that next appointment.
Throughout the following year, I would come back every few months to check on things. I had a year’s worth of free insurance from VR, so I had to take advantage of that as best as I could, of course.
It’s now been a year since I’ve gotten these hearing aids and I must say, I’m glad I finally bit the bullet and emailed VR for help to get them. They are and will never be a substitute for having captioners and ASL interpreters, but they have absolutely helped with filling the blanks when needed (not perfectly, of course, but still). Syncing my hearing aids with Bluetooth on my iMac and iPhone have made editing so much easier. While I still have no plans to caption an entire full length YouTube video on my own and will continue to outsource those, they have made me comfortable with captioning smaller videos for TikTok and Instagram Reels on my own.
So if you’ve been wanting hearing aids for yourself and are able to get them, I say there’s no harm in trying. And if you need help getting them, there’s no harm in contacting your local VR to find out what your options are. Of course, this is a choice that you should make for yourself, because you want them. Don’t get them if you’re feeling pressured by society to do so if you don’t really feel the need for them. Everyone has different access needs and you will know what works for you and what you want.