My hearing aids are tan. They are not a brownish-red tan commonly associated with changed skin color after prolonged exposure to the sun, nor are they a yellowish tan similar to the color of sandy beaches on a sunny day along a waterfront. Rather, my hearing aids are a tan that imitates the color of Caucasian skin.
I wear behind-the-ear hearing aids and need a way in which sound can be carried from the instruments into my ears -- my ear molds serve this purpose. My ear molds are a clear plastic with a hint of pinkish-tan. My ear molds are not the faint pink fashionably (and perhaps arguably) considered the new black, nor is it a deep pink similar to the color of my grandma’s lipstick. Rather, the pinkish-tan attempts to represent the color of my inner ear canal.
Does something seem wrong with this picture? Audiologists and I – knowingly or unknowingly -- attempt to diminish the visibility of my disability by trying to make my hearing aids blend in with my current body anatomy. But, why?
Historically, the condition of having a disability was considered tragic in a society in which people were expected to be perfect. Having a disability or family member with a disability was perceived as a weakness. As a result, many people with special needs were institutionalized and a race began to create instruments that minimize or get rid of any visible special need. My hearing aids are a product of this historic era.
My hearing aids are also a reflection of the embarrassment elderly people feel when they begin losing their hearing. Because they once had their hearing in youth, many of them see a hearing loss as a sign of weakness and aging. Therefore, they seek out instruments that fit in the ear canal or are minimally visible when worn.
It wasn’t until several years ago when I began to see hearing aids become out in different colors. I’m currently in the process of getting new hearing aids and asked my audiologist about colored hearing aids. I was thinking about red, blue, or silver – any color other than tan. He asked me, “What is in it for you -- would you be making a statement?” I wasn’t sure how to answer. It could be a statement … or it could be just for fun.
What would your answer have been? Feel free to post a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org