I was recently emailing with one of you this week and an interesting topic came up: dating with hearing aids.
It made me stop and think before responding, because hearing aids are a really personal thing – your hearing loss is a personal thing – and it may not be something you want to share on a first date. And with hearing aids, at least most styles, that could be hard to do. So I thought about different scenarios before responding if it were me on a first date, and then I thought about the type of date they would lead to (at least for me).
Scenario A: No Hearing Aids, No Disclosure
We have decided upon dressing up for tonight’s date that we are forgoing the hearing aids and saving the hearing loss discussion for the magical third date. Alright. Here’s the date (from a girl with hearing loss view): My date opens the passenger side door of his Camaro for me. (Off to a gentlemanly start, points). He then walks around to the other side, slides in and turns the key in the ignition. VROOM! ROAR! POP! (Crap! It’s a V8! Well there goes hearing much of the conversation on the way to the restaurant). He flips on the radio to a hip hop station with heavy bass. (And, we are officially screwed). Cue twenty minutes of nodding, faking hearing what my date says and generally looking stupid because I can’t answer his simple questions. We arrive at the restaurant and I already feel awkward. Over the next forty minutes of our meal, conversation goes but I miss bits and pieces, clanging dishes and conversations from other diners overshadowing my own date’s voice. He takes me home, it’s an awkward goodbye (who can blame him, I couldn’t really participate in our date) and done. (Yep, not getting a call back from this one.) I shut the door, throw on my sweats, grab a pint of Ben & Jerry’s coffee ice-cream and flip on Game of Thrones.
Scenario B: Hearing Aids, No Disclosure
I have longer hair, so I do have the luxury of wearing my hair over my hearing aids if I want it, so this scenario only really applies for people with longer hair. The date: I adjust my hearing aids in my ear and the walk out to greet my date. He’s waiting with the car door open to a yellow Camaro. (Well this will be challenging). The engine rolls over and the V8 fires to life, creating a constant rumbling noise that I know won’t end until the car turns off. He turns the radio on to a rock station, compounding the difficulty of hearing over the engine. I slip out my phone and quickly adjust my hearing aids for a directional focus setting so I can try to block out some of the engine noise. It works a bit and I only miss a few parts of our discussion on the way to the restaurant. At the restaurant, things are easier. I turn on the restaurant setting on my hearing aids and we enjoy a nice meal with great conversation. I miss a couple things but laugh them off and kindly ask my date to repeat himself. He takes me home and we kiss goodnight. (All in all, not bad. Maybe I’ll tell him about the hearing aids next time).
Scenario C: Hearing Aids, Full Disclosure
Alright, this scenario could also go another way (no hearing aids, full disclosure), but let’s just go all the way here. The date: My date helps me into the passenger side of his car and then walks around to slide into the driver’s seat. As he goes to turn the key in the ignition, I lightly touch his harm and say, “Before you start the car, I need to tell you something.” He drops his hand from the key fob and turns to me quizzically. “I have hearing loss,” I start and watch the puzzled look on his face grow (I am 25 after all). I continue, “I have a hearing loss, and it’s pretty severe. I may sometimes ask you repeat things, or I may miss pieces of a conversation if the environment is really loud.” “Ok,” he replies. “I have hearing aids too,” I say. I push my hair back to show him, and I smile as he has to lean so close that our faces are almost touching in order to see the hearing aids behind my ears. “I just wanted to let you know before we left,” I say finally. “Thanks for telling me,” he says. He turns the key on and the engine roars to life. He goes to turn on the radio but pauses, his hand hovering over the dial. “It’s really loud with just the car on isn’t it?” he asks me. I laugh and tell him it is, but that I would still enjoy a little music. He smiles, turns the radio on to a low volume and we drive off. During the car ride, he does his best to speak clearly for me, and he’s not shy about asking about my hearing loss or my hearing aids. The restaurant goes just as well. We have a lovely dinner, and he’s curious about my ears and the tiny devices nestled in them. I take one out to show him and place it in his hand. “It’s so small,” he says turning it in his hand. I laugh as the waiter brings our desert and tell him, yes, but the size doesn’t matter but performance. He asks more questions, and I answer them willingly. We kiss goodnight and he promises to call me tomorrow.
Each of the above scenarios are what I play out based on my own hearing loss. Scenario C to me is what should always happen when you go on a date and disclose your hearing loss, but if it doesn’t, and you’re met with strange and discomforting looks, then that date is just not worth your time. Nobody who makes you feel inadequate, awkward or less than should be in your life at all, and you sure as hell shouldn’t bother dating them. The person you date and love should support you, help you, encourage you and be proud of you.
I haven’t been on a first date in over 4.5 years, but I can tell you that I understand what it’s like. I’ve been there. It’s scary telling a stranger about your hearing loss and hearing aids, not knowing what their response will be. And we are human, so let’s be real, we care what everyone we meet thinks and their reaction to our hearing aids and hearing loss often defines our relationship with them, however long or short it is.
So there it is. My answer to a reader’s though, because well, it was once my concern too.
Seek out Sarah: If you have a question about your hearing loss, hearing aids or anything related to either, shoot it my way, and I’ll be happy to answer it here or privately in email if you prefer! Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org!