Samantha Dudley’s Bone Conduction hearing aid circa 1993.
Imagine waking up solely from the sun beating through your window rather than from the beeping of an alarm clock. The sunlight indicating for you to get up because, well the suns up and you may have overslept. Imagine going into your kitchen to get yourself a cup of coffee and only seeing yourself get the glass and pour the hot drink. Now imagine yourself sipping your coffee, as the rest of your family comes into the kitchen to start cooking breakfast. It looks like a dance really, figures of people shuffling about with mere skipped feet movements here and there; A body folds to the left with a twirl of their hand pointing where someone should sit, arms graciously taking food to the table and lips moving. Imagine now, not hearing the words coming out of those lips, only the faint sounds of a cabinet door slam or a foot stomping or the vibrations of a chair sliding across the kitchen floor. This ladies and gentlemen is what mornings look like through deaf ears.
This is how I wake up every morning. I’ve been deaf since birth. I was born with a rare birth disorder called Goldenhar Syndrome. Goldenhar Syndrome is a cranial facial bone disorder where children are born with underdeveloped facial muscles, cheekbones, jaw bones, benign growths in the eyes and or absent underdeveloped ears. I was born with an underdeveloped jaw that swung to the left, along with benign dermoid cysts in my eyes. I have an underdeveloped left ear with no opening to the canal and an absent right ear that caused me to be severely deaf. When I was born in the late eighties, doctors had not known much about this rare disorder. They told my parents it was likely that I wouldn’t be able to talk. My mother and father begged to differ. They told everyone that they knew I was going to speak. Talk about having optimistic and determined parents! Thankfully, my father was in the U.S. Navy when I was born and they were appointed to many resources. I began speech therapy and received my first hearing aid device at eighteen months old.
My first hearing aid was called a Bone Conduction Hearing Aid. It was a body aid, not the typical over the ear hearing aid. It was a hand size rectangle box, the size of a cell phone that held a double A battery with an on/off switch and volume dial. The aid connected to a cord that connected to the oscillator. An oscillator is a device that sits behind the ear and vibrates sound vibrations onto the surface of a bone. Since I don’t have an ear to hold the oscillator, my parents attached the oscillator to a stretchy headband. This headband held my oscillator in place, while being fashionable and pulling my hair back. The hearing aid was supported by my elastic body vest and worn outside of my clothes. Mind you, this was the late 80’s and the body aid looked more like a “Walkman” than a piece of computer equipment. So I have to say, I didn’t feel too out of place with a fashionable headband and “Walkman” strapped onto me every day. From a distance, I kind of looked like a cool toddler with a “Walkman.”