The Question: Is it easier to start wearing hearing aids earlier in life?

Posted on October 30, 2013

I was born deaf. Although both of my parents were deaf, because I responded to some sounds, nobody realised that I was partially deaf for around a year. Or maybe it was two years – I was too young to know exactly how long.

It was only when my speech didn’t develop that my hearing was tested – and I was found to be moderate to severely deaf. After that, I was fitted with hearing aids.

I didn’t like hearing aids at first, and I once tried to flush them down the toilet, which left my mum with a very messy job on her hands.

They felt uncomfortable, and I remember taking them off whenever I could.


But in time, with the passing of weeks and months, they became normal.

They started to feel snug and warm, and comfortable, and I could tell which ear they were meant to go on just by how they felt in my hands as I picked them up.

I’ve worn hearing aids nearly all my life and it’s not always been easy. At school, I struggled to hear people whispering in class, or jokes above the lunchtime hustle and bustle. I still struggle in noisy environments. The rush of the wind or the sound of whistling feedback can be excruciating to hear.

But lately, I’ve started to realise that in some ways, I’ve had a big advantage.

When I listen to elderly people (who have lost some of their hearing with age) talking about the way their hearing aids sound, and the struggle they go through just to get used to them, I realise how hard it must be to adapt to artificial hearing when you’ve been used to hearing naturally.

I’ve heard elderly people complaining about the sound of the cutlery drawer in their kitchens, or the sound of traffic.

To me, it’s just how hearing aids sound. To them, it’s unpleasant and distracting – something that, in some cases, is enough to make them give up wearing their hearing aids for good.

It’s not just hearing aid users who face this challenge of adapting. Some of my close friends have been fitted with cochlear implants, and I’ve found out just how much work they have to do to make sense of the sounds they hear.

Which is why I think I’m the lucky one, because I’ve never had to adapt. I’ve had over 30 years to get used to how hearing aids sound. I’ve been trained to hear this way.

I believe that if I had been born hearing, and became deaf now, at the age of 32, or later in life, and started wearing hearing aids, I would find adapting much, much harder.

What do you think, is it really harder to start wearing hearing aids in old age? Tell us below.

Charlie Swinbourne is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist and award-winning scriptwriter. He writes for the Guardian and BBC Online, and as a scriptwriter, penned the films My SongComing Out and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen.

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