A Story of the Simple and Great Hearing Aid

Quote in harvest colors - "Cherish what is simple. Be in awe of what is great." - Christopher de Vinck in The Center Will Hold

The other day, I ran around the house looking everywhere for my oldest son’s hearing aids. I checked the counter where we normally place them, his room, the bathroom. I was panicking, because I have read that dogs like to eat hearing aids (something about the earwax), and I was slightly nervous that my son dropped them on the ground in his haste to take them off before bath time. After running around frantic for a few minutes, I finally found them. They were still in my son’s ears. He had fallen asleep with them on.

Before gently extracting the hearing aids from my son’s ears, I paused to look down at him. He was lying with his head on his pillow and his blanket pulled up tight to just under his nose. The blanket covering him looked bulky and misshapen. I knew from experience that between that blanket and my son were four stuffed panda bears placed just right and a blanket he has had every day since he was two. I stood there in the pale light of his nightlight and gazed at him in wonder. My eyes were especially drawn to the simple blue-colored devices sitting perfectly in each ear. They looked so small and so… ordinary in the dimly lit room.

Three years ago this month, my son sat in a chair in the audiologist’s office waiting to receive these bright blue hearing aids. I remember thinking to myself how small and insignificant they looked for how much they promised to do! As the audiologist placed one aid and then the other into my son’s ears and shut the battery doors, I watched my son’s face change. It is almost impossible to put into words how significant that moment was (though like most 21st-century moms, I do have it preserved on video). The audiologist asked, “How does it sound?” as the aids sprang to life. My son replied with an almost hesitant, “Good.” It wasn’t the word he used that struck me, though. It was the look of wonder that slowly spread across every feature of his face as he said it.

“Cherish what is simple. Be in awe of what is great,” writes Christopher de Vinck in The Center Will Hold.

hearing aids - image courtesy of Gretchen Crowder

What is simple? Operating hearing aids. Holding a hearing aid, it feels as light as a feather. It is incredibly simple to operate. One places a battery in the back (though newer ones are rechargeable like smartphones). The user places a wax guard onto the tip of the mold that sits in the ear. (There’s that earwax again.) Close the battery doors, and place them in the ears. Simple.

What is great? This little device sitting in my son’s ear is the reason we finally got to know him. Before these aids were placed in his ears, I couldn’t answer accurately questions like, “What does your son really like to do?” or, “What does he want to be when he grows up?” These devices gave my son a vocabulary. They gave him a voice. They gave him… us.

I will say that there are many hard of hearing/deaf individuals who choose not to be aided. Choosing hearing aids is not the only way to open lines of communication for a hard of hearing/deaf person. It was, however, our choice. After years of trying to figure out what was wrong and not being able to get to know our son, we finally figured out that he was hard of hearing. And those two devices, complex in their inner workings but simple in their appearance, gave him life.

I cherish the simple moment when the battery doors closed and my son’s face came to life. I am in awe of how these two little devices have opened the world for him and for us.

Later this week, we will sit in the audiologist’s chair once again as my son gets fitted for new hearing aids. Technology has come a long way in three years. The aids will no longer be blue (I’m so sad about that!), but they will be Bluetooth-enabled, they will have rechargeable batteries, and they will open up even more of the world to my son.

I cannot wait to be in awe of the greatness ahead.

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Gretchen Crowder
Gretchen Crowder has served as a campus minister and Ignatian educator for the Jesuit Dallas community for the last 15 years. She is also a freelance writer and speaker and is the host of Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. She resides in Dallas, TX, with her husband, three boys, and an ever-growing number of pets.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Beautiful story and so uplifting. To see such joy in your son’s eyes as he embraced the world of sounds and all types of stimuli. What a wonderful occasion!
    The greater joy was in true presence and subsequently reflecting on that momentous time. Celebrating the moment is all!
    God bless those who in the field of technology open worlds to those who are challenged by loss of heating.
    Let us be grateful to all who help us in so many ways.
    Thank you for that wonderful story.

  2. Technology at the service of human beings. What nice accounts from Gretchen and Stephen. Thanks. Praise the Lord for the wonderful gifts.

  3. Thank you so much. This is a lovely, wonderful, heartfelt tale; and I hope the hearing technology your son uses continues to flourish with him (as I am sure it will)! I received my umpteenth set of aids today: and appreciate that there are the tremendous, talented people who design and build these weightless miracles; and then there is the tremendous, talented (and patient) person (in my case, Sim) who then works with you to find aids that will also work with you, and then tunes them to your very specific needs. I then feel blessed when they are switched on for the first time: and am always amazed how the sound – despite my ears getting worse each time – continues to improve. That look on your son’s face was therefore replicated on mine, this morning!

  4. Dear Gretchen, dear sister in Christ, THANK YOU for this refection and ALL of your posts. I have shared Soul to Soul, and When the Ground is Disappearing with so many people.You are a gifted writer! I appreciate your vulnerability and honesty. You always encourage me and draw AND center me in Christ. My niece, Sally, has three children all with special needs. She reads and rereads your posts. She is also a big admirer of yours. We appreciate you!!! I would miss the blue color hearing aids for Flynn too. God bless you!! You are a great gift in the Kingdom.

  5. I’m at the other end of the “time continuum.” About 6 years ago I knew my hearing was starting to fail. (My mother had hearing loss later in life.) When you lose your hearing over time you don’t realize how much you have lost until it is miraculously restored. I remember going back to work after getting my first hearing aids during my lunch time. It was raining and I thought the roof of my car would cave in, it was so loud! Sitting on my deck that week I heard the birds singing which I guess I had not heard for years. Turned out I have 50% loss in both ears. But I love being “back in the conversation” again. Thank you God for the skill and technical knowledge you have gifted to some wonderful, fortunate people and all those working in the medical field!!

  6. I just watched your video on Instagram and read your lovely story. That touched me enough – I thought. Then the video started again and this time with no sound, and I found myself in the world of a deaf child. My heart broke. Gratitude in bucket loads for the gift of skilled clinician, technician, researchers, and parents, who care so much to open the beauty of sound to a child with hearing loss.

    • Thanks Julia!
      I thought the video had an error and didn’t upload with sound, but I never thought about how watching it without sound lets you see with better clarity the message in the facial expressions! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Beautiful story. It reminds me that we/I have so much that we take for granted like our hearing, our sight, etc. I’m reminded to be grateful and to be patient and loving to everyone around us.

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