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 Song, Coming Out and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen.
Check out the services our supporters provide: Phonak: innovative technology and products in hearing acoustics. Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support. 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services.Signworld: online BSL learning and teaching materials. STAGETEXT: theatre captioning.Ai-Live: Live captions and transcripts. Krazy Kat: visual theatre with BSL. SignHealth: healthcare support for Deaf people. Deafinitely Theatre: theatre from a Deaf perspective.Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support. SDHH: Deaf television programmes online. Sign Solutions:, language and learning. Lexicon Signstream: BSL interpreting and communication services. Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting. Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children. RAD Deaf Law Centre: and legal advice for Deaf people.
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
Please note that the views of the writers are their own, and not necessarily the views of the Editor or site as a whole. Read our disclaimer here.
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. How to make Live Automated Captions with Apple’s Latest 'Clips' App
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Hearing Direct: Online hearing aids
- Signature: Leading awarding body for BSL qualifications
- Signworld: Learn BSL online!
- Cast Theatre, Doncaster: The UK's the UK’s first fully BSL integrated pantomime
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- deafPLUS: BSL advice helpline
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- Royal Shakespeare Company: Captioned and BSL interpreted performances (see dates here)
- Royal School for the Deaf, Derby: Residential education for deaf children
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Deaf Independent: Deaf care and support services
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- cSeeker: Deaf-led educational communication support service
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- Sign Solutions:, language and learning
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people