BBC - Ouch! (disability) - Features - The dog ate my hearing aids

Home > Features > The dog ate my hearing aids

The dog ate my hearing aids

by Charlie Swinbourne

9th July 2008

There was no hint of an impending traumatic event as I stepped out of the shower on an idyllic Saturday morning. The sun blazed through the window, I could smell bacon and eggs in the air, and my girlfriend's sister's dog - who we were babysitting - dashed past me in a cute little flash of grey.
At that perfect, peaceful moment, I thought I'd add a touch of sound to the mix. I reached out for my hearing aids which I'd left on top of the trunk in the hallway, and found myself grabbing thin air. They were gone. I searched down the side of the trunk. Under the trunk. Even inside the trunk. Where were they? Confused, I looked up at my girlfriend who'd just walked in. She had a look on her face that told me everything I needed to know - Scruffbags.
I was gutted. Before Scruffy intervened, I'd prided myself on my 24-year unblemished record as a careful hearing aid user. Then he made Pedigree Chum out of my best friends, friends who have been with me through thick and thin.

My earliest memory is wearing aids for the first time. I'm a toddler, running around at home, and something keeps getting put in my ears. It's annoying. I take them off and keep playing. They get put in again. I take them off again. I hide them around the house. Mum finds them. I hide them… she finds them. I hide them… well, you get the idea.

A few days later I decide to flush them out of my life forever. Literally. I go to the toilet, sit there a while, then when I'm done, I put my hearing aids down the bowl - which, er, hasn't been flushed yet. Mum comes in just as I'm about to flush them away, and gets incredibly angry with me. She fishes them out and spends a long time, a very long time, scrubbing and washing her hands. I guess I probably cried at that point, and that's where the memory ends. Since I'm still wearing them, I guess Mum won that match by a narrow score.
Broken hearing aid
I've had six different pairs of NHS hearing aids in my time, the technology seemingly gets updated every three or four years. I've got to tip my hat to them, they're tenacious little machines. Not only did they dry out after the loo incident (after extensive cleaning), they also recovered when I forgetfully dived into a chlorine soaked swimming pool at the age of seven - the first time I'd ever heard underwater. Submerged in a haze of blue, I heard bubbles, a wailing squeal, then total silence as they cut out. Forever, I thought. Miraculously, Mum simply dried them under a towel on a radiator and they kicked back into life again.
My trusty pals also survived being partially melted by the sun's rays on a school window sill and rough pillow fights with my brothers. They also survived painful PE lessons where occasionally I'd be knocked sideways by a football to the head, causing searing pain - the result of the full force of a leather ball hitting a tiny area of plastic behind my ear. Though my skull throbbed, the hearing aids lived on.

As glad as I was that they survived, it's fair to say I've got a love-hate relationship with my little electronic mates.

On the plus side, I understand the world through them - voices, music and sounds. I feel naked when I'm not wearing them. Having said that, I should make it clear that walking around in only my hearing aids wouldn't exactly make me feel clothed.

On the negative side, technical imperfections mean that even the latest digital models struggle to pick out voices when there's a lot of background noise. The other hindrance is feedback which occurs regularly when ear moulds come loose for whatever reason; sound escapes and feeds back into the microphone, creating a whistling noise which sends a shiver down my spine.

We've shared too many important moments for me to say that love ain't part of this relationship. They are constant, yet imperfect, companions. Girlfriends, friends, homes and jobs have been and gone, but still my hearing aids remain.

Brilliantly, they also help me to meet other deaf people. Since they're visible, I often get tapped on the shoulder by another deafie on the tube, and find myself signing away to my new friend for the rest of the journey.

Six months ago, in a nod to fashion, I got a swish pair of see-through plastic covers for the aids, which reveals all the intricate circuitry and wiring underneath. I strolled around feeling all bionic and cool - that was before Scruffy came to stay.
Fixed hearing aid
I was at the audiologists a week after the distressing incident when I got an answer to the question that had been bugging me. Why had he chosen my bionic aids for a doggy treat?
"Feedback," said my audiologist. "I'm sorry?" I replied. "You probably didn't turn them off properly, so they whistled and the dog got attracted to them."

I'm guessing that as I put my hearing aids down before my shower, they'd let off a dog-seducing high-pitched squeal which started Scruffy's tail wagging. For him, it was playtime. A playtime which consigned me to lip-reading frantically for the best part of a week afterwards.

Nowadays, if Scruffy's staying, I make doubly sure my oldest friends are safe, switched off and on a high shelf. I get him happily fed and locked away before leaving my hearing aids unattended.

Some people say a dog is a man's best friend. Well, it happens that a dog ate my best friends. So from now on, I'm not taking any chances. And Scruffbags, if you're out there: watch out for your favourite squeezy rubber Frisbee. My bionics and I are out for revenge ...


There have been no comments made here yet.

Bookmark with...

What are these?

Live community panel

Our blog is the main place to go for all things Ouch! Find info, comment, articles and great disability content on the web via us.

Mat and Liz
Listen to our regular razor sharp talk show online, or subscribe to it as a podcast. Spread the word: it's where disability and reality almost collide.

More from the BBC

BBC Sport

Disability Sport

All the latest news from the paralympics.

Peter White

In Touch

News and views for people who are blind or partially sighted.

BBC Radio 4

You & Yours

Weekdays 12.40pm. Radio 4's consumer affairs programme.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.