Being able bodied lends people many privileges, some are less noticeable than others, but chief among those privileges to my mind, is the lack of reliance upon objects or pharmaceuticals to live day to day.
On Saturday night my hearing aid broke.
In about 2 weeks I would have been wearing my hearing aid for 2 years, and let me tell you, it has changed my life. I resisted the notion of a hearing aid for a long time, but the truth is, having my hearing aid makes my life safer, and I have a better relationship with my husband and my peers because I can actually hear them.
Being thrust back into the life I lead without hearing in one ear is less than enjoyable. I am reminded of all the reasons why I got the hearing aid – but also why I am learning ASL, why I am asking my loved ones to do the same. Because without my hearing aid, I am relegated to a whole different way of living. My abilities shifted in literally an instant.
Tomorrow I begin the process of getting it either fixed (This looks unlikely) or entirely replaced. It takes a long time for a hearing aid to be fitted, and so I look toward the next month with dread. No hanging out with my friends in bars, no watching certain movies on netflix (because their sound is quieter), no ability to hear my phone ring, or hear my doorbell unless I’m in the front of the apartment. No hearing my husband half the time.
You see, I am lucky in that my hearing aid does WORK. I am privileged in that my disabilities can be helped with technology, but when that technology fails, I not only retain that disability, but because I am no longer used to the effects of that disability in its worst condition it actually makes things even more challenging. I am nervous about stepping outside of my apartment tomorrow so that I can go to my appointment. I am nervous about going to a New Years Eve party, because I worry that I won’t be able to participate in conversation.
I am depressed by my loss of hearing, I am depressed by my reliance upon equipment that proves more fragile than I had imagined. It reminds me just how tenuous my grasp on ability is, that with the destruction of a single item, I am rendered more disabled than I was in an instant. Losing my cane is easier, because it is easy to maintain a replacement cane at home, and because canes are relatively cheap. Is it a pain to go to the Lighthouse for the Blind center in Manhattan without my cane? Absolutely. Have I done it? Yes. Navigating for over a month without the hearing that I have become accustomed to will likely result in the same amount of adjustment that I experienced when I got the hearing aid in the first place. I’m sure I will hear my hair again, the sounds of those little strands brushing against a microphone.
It also reminds me to always maintain my stash of spare glasses – while I cannot necessarily have a spare scleral shell ( although I do!) any of these apparatuses makes a change in my daily routine. Without glasses, I cannot see, without my hearing aid I am rendered profoundly deaf in one ear, without my shell I am prone to migraines. Without my cane I am less steady in the universe.
My adaptive aids are a part of my body now. They are extensions of my being designed to help me create a level (ish) playing field, so that I can enjoy a life not unlike that of my peers.
I often wonder what it would be like to live without them, to live a life where my dependencies are upon nothing. A life lived where my body has no extensions, where it does not require machinery or canes to work its way through the world with ease. Hell, I’d just settle for working through the world with ease with the aids.
It is a privilege not to rely upon physical supports. It is a privilege to not require assistance through the world. And it is a privilege which I don’t think many able bodied people see as a privilege. Not until they are told that something has happened.
It is a privilege to be whole, and to not rely upon the machines to keep you going.