Saturday, May 16, 2015

Being Bejewelled

Photo description: a purple bejewelled hearing aid worn in an ear with two piercings

I was watching television last night and saw an advertisement aimed at the senior crowd. It was for a 'discrete' brand of hearing aids and it was clearly demonstrated that, when worn, it was virtually invisible. Now the nice, pleasant face, honey voiced senior man who was pitching the product made it clear that this product would make voices more distinct and conversations easily heard. The benefits were clearly stated, hearing wise. But it seemed that the primary pitch was that no one will know, that the product hides the shame of using a hearing aid. It was all very subtle, but it was wild to watch how carefully they phrased everything. If the fellow could have whispered and been heard, he would have.

This stands in stark contrast to a teen girl I saw walking with friends wearing two brightly turquoise hearing aids. Her hair was cut short. They were plainly visible, more than that they called out to be seen. They, and she, were simply beautiful. Her choice of those hearing aids, I believe was not casual. The sheer brightness of the turquoise belied that assumption. They were there to be seen. They were worn with purpose. Purpose made fun, purpose made fashionable, purpose made turquoise - but there was purpose there.

The stark contrast of this young teen proudly displaying, even calling attention to, her disability gives me great hope that, maybe, a change is coming. Older people who are discovering they need assistance want to cloak and shield that need from view. It's as if they want to jump into the disability closet and hide away. They come from a time when shame was attached to disability.

And it still is.

But less so. People with disabilities who are growing up and into an era where disability pride has begun to raise awareness of the need to eschew shame and embrace difference are making very different choices. I wrote a long while back about seeing a handsome man on an airport shuttle wearing bright yellow and blue elbow crutches that just screamed for visibility. That was the first time I'd seen brightly coloured crutches. But ...

Photo Description: Four brightly coloured elbow crutches, green and blue, blue and yellow, black and green, black and brown.

... they come in many colours, fitting a variety of personalities and a myriad of outfits. They've become something that can be considered both a fashion accessory and a helpful aid for walking.

So, just from watching that commercial on a day I saw a young girl proudly wearing her hearing aids ... I have determined that shame is lifting and change is coming.

I hope I'm right.


Anonymous said...

I can't wait to hear you are now proudly driving a jazzed up wheelchair.

I suggest a throne look. Or racing flames along somewhere. Maybe gold and jewels. Or the Iron Throne?

I bet a chair like that would also get more respect from airline employees.

Decals, anyone? An airhorn? Ah-oo-gah!

If you've got it, flaunt it?

What a wonderful post - I have never seen such a hearing aid, but it stands to reason.

Now what can I do to my walker? Hmmm.


Rainbow said...

Firstly, the girl with the turquoise aids is cool. :)
I noticed a similar thing to the ad you described when researching new hearing aids online a few years ago. The main selling point of a lot of newer models seemed to be how discrete they are, which is rather sad, I think.
Partly because of that I deliberately chose red hearing aids to make them noticeable. The type I need are going to be visible anyway, so I thought, why not get a nice looking pair? :)

Utter Randomness said...


Walkers are super easy to jazz up a little! Dollar store lights are popular, but I'm also a fan of wrapping it with those cool printed duct tapes. Knitted cozies are fun too.


When I first got my cane, the point was visibility. For my own safety, I needed to make my disability visible (mostly to bus drivers, but also to friends who didn't always remember that I can't do stairs or run for the bus.

Even now that I'm using a powerchair, visibility for safety is important. So many people are so conditioned to "not see disability" that they don't see the disabled (and so many others can't stop staring. Whatever happened to happy mediums?)

That said, I haven't done anything to decorate my chair yet.

I'm proud to be who I am, and my mobility aids reflect that. Glasses have become a fashion statement, I don't see why other assistive devices should be any different.

Louna said...

I used to hang out on a forum for people with chronic illnesses, and how to "pimp up" various mobility devices was a big subject. And have you taken a look at the selection in walking canes available over the internet? An acquaintance of mine has a black one with flames. And I had all my friends sign mine with gold and silver markers. One draw a woodworm on it and wrote "I am a woodworm." One wrote a message to the cane itself, telling it (in rhyme) to carry me well. Now I changed its look and don't need it much anymore, but it used to be quite the conversation starter.

CapriUni said...

@Alicia -- wrap multicolored ribbons around it, candy cane / barber shop pole style.

Colleen said...

Me too, Dave. I hope the days of shame are soon over.

Mary said...

Taking the opposite tack for a moment... I get really annoyed when people want me to turn my wheelchair into some kind of carnival float. It'd be fun *some* of the time, sure, but I don't want to be obliged to look jazzed up on the days when I simply don't feel bright or sparkly, or for the sorts of occasions when it's more appropriate to present oneself in a more sober, formal manner.

Same with my glasses. If there's a "buy one pair, get a second pair free" offer then sure, the *second* pair will be fun, brightly coloured, etc... but the first pair will be the subtle wire-framed ones, not because I'm embarrassed about wearing glasses, but because then, I can dress up or down as I choose with other accessories.

Now I think of it, the same applies to my earrings. I have brilliantly bright earrings, large earrings, dangly earrings, pirate flag earrings, acid smiley face earrings... but the default option is the plain gold studs.

Just me?

Maggie said...

When I got my hearing aids a couple of years go, my 30-something audiologist made the (apparently intended to be) reassuring noises about how nobody would know, etc.

I chose the brightest purple they had, and suggested that a future edition ought to come striped.

My cane is bright turquoise with a silver diagonal-wrapped stripe (because the purple that was available was positively pallid).

Delighted to see the decorated hearing aid in your photo; gives me some great ideas.

Maybe I'll celebrate my 69th birthday (coming up in October) by adding some beads to mine.

Andrea S. said...

My hearing aid is purple -- but I don't have beads or jewels on mine!

There's one blogger on line (goes by the pen name Lady Bracknell) who likes to color coordinate all her outfits, meaning she will pick a color then everything she wears that day from head to toe (hat to shoes) will be in that color--including her glasses and her cane. She has canes in tons of different colors so she can match it to whatever she's wearing that day.

CapriUni said...

One thing I've noticed is that the Great Walking Throng tend to have a very narrow sense of visual focus -- they can't seem to see anything below their own line of sight.

So I daydream of mounting a large puppet on the back of my chair, so I can put an exaggerated face in people's faces... Maybe an alien, with big googly eyes and sharp teeth, or a minotaur, or ... You know the meme of the flamethrowing wheelchair? ...I bet folks would give room for a life-sized dragon over my shoulder

B. said...

Not just you, Mary. I like your earring example. I'm more of a blending type of person. I admire and enjoy trying different styles.

It's kind of sad though that many older people try to hide or put off using aids that would help them manage life better because of the looks of the aid.

AnyBeth said...

I'm in a micropolis of about 50K. I haven't seen flashy hearing aids. The only one with a flashy wheelchair is a child (aqua frame), though a youngish man has an all-black low-back one. The one person I know with forearm crutches has flashy ones. Lots of people have decorative canes. And I'm the one with the flashy rollator. The model's mostly dark blue, but the front bar has a flame pattern in a shimmery lighter blue. It has a canvas strap at the top and I covered the brand's patch in the middle with fuzzy sticky-velcro on which I usually have a beaded star/flower patch. If you've a device with the room and only want to be fun with it sometimes (or what to mix things up with your mood or outfit), I totally recommend that route with sticky-velcro and patches.

Alas for walkers! Why, oh why, is the standard walker so ugly! Maybe there's someone out there who likes various shades of grey and/or manilla, but I've yet to hear love for it. Walkers could be gussied up with stickers, ribbon, (stuff under) contact paper. And there's always searching "decorate walkers".