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People seem to stare at my ears

Q. Hi Lindsay! My name is Anna, and I have a hearing loss in both ears. I am in high school and people seem to stare at my ears. My question is, what do you think is people’s point of view when they see hearing aids? –Anna

Hi Anna,

Thanks for your question! First of all, let’s talk about the staring. Or rather, what you may perceive as staring. This is not to say people won’t take a longer look at your ears and hearing aids (HAs), simply because we are programmed to notice difference. And in our culture, small devices worn in the ears are different. Whatever value people place on such differences--be it braces, a bald head, a non-local accent or HAs--is where the real conversation lies.

I was in the seventh grade when I finally agreed to a HA in my left ear. I think at the time, I was sick and tired of having to strain to hear people and forever needing to sit up front in class in order to hear the teacher. Though my HA was small, I had short hair and people would definitely notice it.

Usually the questions were pretty one-dimensional. For example, “What’s that in your ear?” All I could really respond with was, “A hearing aid.” To which they would usually reply, “Oh.Duh.”

Most people won’t give your HAs much of a second thought. But I do recall the rare dimwit making stupid comments about my lack of ability to need a hearing aid, but really, anyone who would make such a ridiculous comment is usually doing so to out of nothing but their own lack of self-confidence, and their need to make fun of others. Take my word for it; anyone who has a problem with someone because of something like a hearing aid isn’t worth your time.

So, if you happen to notice someone staring at your HAs, simply smile and say something like, “Oh, these are my hearing aids.” Most of the time people will just smile back and apologize if they seemed to be staring. They might even ask a question or two about them or your hearing loss. Depending on your comfort level about your hearing loss, tell them about it. After all, it’s just a hearing aid.

As you get more comfortable talking about them, why not a little good-natured joking with people if they stare at your hearing aids?

However you choose to address the staring or questions about your HAs, remember that while people may stare, count on the fact that the vast majority of people will not reduce you to the devices in your ears. Give people the benefit of the doubt, and remember that difference is what makes us human.