The jingle, and why shame rears its ugly head

The other day I was out walking with the kids and a friend’s dog along a residential street in our neighbourhood. The kids were ahead of me: the boy bouncing a tennis ball in the way that boys bounce things, and the girl holding on to the leash of the dog.

It was quiet, a holiday in Canada, the streets were empty of noise and people, and the odd rain drop was falling from the sky.

As we strolled, I suddenly heard a deep, repetitive beeping sound:

boop. boop.

I panicked momentarily. My hands felt along my pockets of my rain jacket, and my eyes darted around me.

Did I bring my wallet? Or my bag?

I didn’t. My phone was in my left pocket, but my right pocket was empty save for a couple of dog biscuits, and some tissues.


In my head I did a quick calculation. The last time I heard this sound I had about 10, maybe 15 minutes before the battery in my left hearing aid died. How far away were we from my friend’s house? How long would it take to drop the dog off, have a quick chat, and then continue home with the kids?

The two deep beeping sounds were my alerts that the battery was about to die on me.

This is always a thing, for a hearing aid wearer. If I go out, I must remember to bring extra batteries along. Especially if I go someplace where there are people who will inevitably communicate with me.

But here’s my question: why do I panic? Even if it’s a short-lived kind of panic, for a few seconds after I hear that double beep, I feel my heart rate increase a bit, and I suck my breath in.

The prospect of being caught ‘deaf’ without a functioning aid still scares me, even after fourty plus  years of experiencing varying degrees of hearing loss.

Why is that? What would be so terrible if I was without hearing in front of my friends, my kids?

We ended up at the friend’s house, had a few minutes chat, said goodbye to Molly and then continued on home. About five minutes later, with both kids walking ahead of me, I heard the familiar jingle:

Ding dang dong dooooooop.

That was it. The battery was dead.

And I suddenly went from hearing footsteps to hearing nothing.

Silence, as I mentioned in a previous post, is a welcome luxury for me when I can control it. When I can choose it, on purpose. When I can prepare for it on my own terms.

Unforeseen, unexpected silence, when I am not prepared for it, or when I didn’t purposely choose it, is an unwelcome, anxiety-producing event I try hard to prevent.

Pondering this brings me back to a situation engraved in my brain, and quite possibly the reason for my panic-filled reaction to the jingle:

Many years ago when I was in early pregnancy with my first, I was working part time as a merchandiser at a local Home Depot. I was not employed by Home Depot and didn’t wear their uniform, that orange coloured apron customers seek out when they need assistance. But I was working alongside the staff there, in the seasonal department, arranging plants and flowers into their display cases.

If a customer approached me with a question I couldn’t answer, I directed them to the HD staff. Most of the time, customers didn’t approach me as I did not have the apron on. They didn’t know who I was even though it was clear I was working there.

This suited me fine.

But one time, an older man did approach me. I remember distinctly what happened, as if it happened yesterday (and yet that was thirteen years ago…)

I don’t remember if I had one or two hearing aids at the time. At one time, my right ear had some hearing in it, but after I lost it all, no aid was able to compensate. I did struggle with hearing quite a bit even back then, and always worried about hearing people in the work environment. But it’s one thing to tell a colleague that you have a hearing loss, since you are likely to work with them repeatedly. To mention your dis-ability to some random customer feels odd, weird, to me.

The customer, an older man, must have talked to me for a while despite the fact that I never made eye contact with him. I was hunched over, moving plants into their colour coordinated display cases, when suddenly he tapped me on my shoulder and started yelling at me.

“You are so rude, I’ve been asking you questions and you just ignore me, walk away!” he yelled.

“I’m sorry, sir”, I remember saying. “I’m not a Home Depot employee, there’s one over there who can assist you.”

This response in itself stumped me, too. Why would I say that first? Why would I not acknowledge the fact that I did not hear him?

Why is this shameful to me?

I don’t remember exactly how far I went explaining myself to the guy, but I was in a business environment and had ample customer service experience in a variety of settings prior to that merchandising job, so I do know I maintained a professional attitude. The customer was upset, and I get why, but my eventual answer that “sorry, I didn’t hear you” clearly didn’t satisfy him.

I get that too.

It’s a slippery slope, isn’t it. How much did I owe a customer who by now is irate that his needs weren’t met? A better question might be, how much do I owe myself in a situation like this?

While walking home with my kids in complete silence the day the hearing aid battery died unexpectedly, I thought back to that incident. I wondered if that was the moment that defined why I felt panic and anxiety at the sound of the battery dying jingle.

I contemplated about this perception of being ‘caught’ without extra batteries, how it was making me feel inadequate in some way. Or  apologetic in some way, embarrassed.


Seems until I understand the answers to these questions myself, it is mighty presumptuous of me to expect others, hearing-people around me to understand.






5 thoughts on “The jingle, and why shame rears its ugly head

  1. I just reread my comment and I wanted to clarify when I said “i dont know why this is” and that its an excuse, I meant for me/both of us, not just you 😲 I read it and was horrified by how it sounded!

    Gram was a hero, lol! She didn’t take no shit and for a while when her hearing was going I could see she was self conscious and was withdrawing. Once she embraced it, nobody could pull any strokes on her, everything was right up front! I need to try it 🤣

    Oh! You’re welcome, that makes me happy to hear. It always helps to know the boat isn’t empty 😊

    I think the thing with your aides is the conditioning…Im conditioned negatively to my phone ringing so of course Ive disabled the ringer. Just like dogs barking at doorbells…they know something happens everytime it rings, so they get excited regardless. Or mad, whatever they’re doing 🐶 But of course…the device is a crutch of sorts and that signals to you your crutch is about to be kicked from under you. Like any alarm it signifies something negative. So its giving you that anxiety as its “counting down” to the 11th hour. Who wouldn’t get anxious about that!? I think if there were a way for it not to alert you, and it went out, you’d be a little off, but not off the charts.

    I know…for a long time I sulked in the poor me thing when I hadnt even TOLD the people I was sulking towards! That’s when I know it’s time to get ahold of this and be more straightforward. Have a sense of humor about it…something! I’m a teacher for God’s sake and in that environment it’s in the forefront with ALL of my kids from day one and they know thats exactly why Im going to be tough and communicative with them! Outside of that though…the day to day, im torn between feeling like I have the right to some privacy on it, and wanting to yell it in everyones face so they know. Its hard. Still.

    I’m not! Thank you for sharing the post, that’s awesome!

    • I forgive you. ♥ I re-read it twice and understood what you meant.

      Actually I can turn off the jingle, now that you mention it.

      That’s a great way of looking at it, the conditioning. I’ll mention it to the audiologist next time. She turned off the ‘starting’ part of the aid turning on, which was so annoying. No reason she can’t turn off the opposite one as well.

      You use great words: embrace! Ha! You should write about your grandmother.

      What grade do you teach? My partner teaches college kids (but he used to be an airline pilot). And our kids are elementary school, gr 7 and 5 in September.

      • Okay good, lol! I overthink my words so much that I end up completely reversing my intention sometimes😂

        I’d be curious to know if it changes anything without ALERT! ALERT! ringing in your head 😲

        I probably should. I’ve been a little turned off lately writing about my friends or family but once I’m over that I will for sure 😞

        I was teaching college English/Lit last year but had to take a family leave and gave up my position. Historically, I’ve always taught high school level and this year I’ll be with 9th and 10th. My oldest is a sophomore this year and I have one going into first grade!

  2. I don’t know why this is. In my case the best I could answer is that…it sounds like an excuse. We know its not but I know that 9/10 people will think I’m BSisg or like I’ve said before, making a situational commentary. Like, no, I really can’t hear you. It doesn’t mean speak up, it’s loud in here. And I for one know that if I say that…then I’ll probably have to say more and, I just really never want to. Not wanting to has cost me a friendship and I’m not really sure why the embarrassment or awkwardness after all this time. I do know that I’m trying to get past it. Not sure.

    When my grama was around and we would go out, she would look people right in the face and say ‘I have low hearing’ to let them know right up front. I always thought, geez Gram, why do you put that out there right away? Now I think I know.

    • You seem to have more self-confidence than I do, and I admire that! Also, your grandma is a hero 🙂

      Every time you take the time to post a comment, I am inspired. Thank you. Actually something you said above resonates very close to me too, the “And I for one know that if I say that…then I’ll probably have to say more and, I just really never want to.”

      The last part, ‘never really want to’…YES. I am so fatigued at the constant explaining. But as I touched on in the post, would it be so terrible to walk around the world completely deaf, knowing it’s temporary? It happened to me before and I survived (I had a bad ear infection so I couldn’t wear the aid), but what I didn’t do then is observe keenly how people reacted to my situation. It points out that people are very self-absorbed (including me). I mean, I’m walking around feeling deaf and awkward, I may say something to someone, but seconds later that someone is more concerned with something about themselves than to remember my plight. That kind of thing. And in return, I do the same. “Poor me, I can’t hear anything and he/she doesn’t seem to remember or care”.

      Anyway, lots to ponder…thank you for your comment! Are you on twitter? I have two accounts and shared one of your posts.

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