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  • “I want bright pink with sparkles.”

    I was in second grade and I just chose the color I wanted for my first pair of ear molds for my hearing aids. Earlier that day, my sister drove me to Rock Creek Valley Elementary School, where they had monthly clinics for ear mold fittings. I sat while a stranger stuffed a syringe full of a pale yellow mysterious putty and leaned towards my ear. She pulled my ear back and slowly pushed the mixture into my ear. My ear filled with a cold sensation and pressure as I sat and waited for the putty to dry. After a few minutes, the lady went to pull the solid putty and revealed a mold of the inside of my ear. I was floored.

    “This is what the inside of your ear looks like! We’re going to send this into the factory and get a custom mold for your hearing aids. You get to choose any color that you want,” she said. I looked around the classroom, which was filled with other hearing-impaired kids to get inspiration. They all had clear or neutral colored ear molds. I thought they were boring. I wanted people to notice my hearing aids.

    Over the years, I tried out a variety of colors. I got purple, teal, blue, and any other colors I felt like getting. As I got older, my classmates got meaner. My peers in elementary school were so welcoming of my differences, but my middle school classmates were less accepting. I used to walk down the hallways and hear them call me names.
    “Deaf girl!”
    “Helen Keller.”
    “Oh, she must be handicapped.”

    I began to understand why other kids got neutral colored ear molds. I started getting them too. I refused to wear my hair in a ponytail or even tuck it behind my ear. I wanted my disability to remain hidden. I went to sleep hoping I would wake up the next morning with perfect hearing. I constantly wondered what that would feel like. It wasn’t until late high school that I started learning about self-love and body confidence. I learned that my hearing aids made me the person that I am now, a unique and strong woman surrounded by great people. I allowed myself to be empowered by my hearing aids and slowly taught myself to love them again.

    -

    I’m sitting in a cold chair watching the audiologist mix the familiar pale yellow putty in her hand. I’m at the University of Maryland hearing and speech clinic and I just started school a few weeks ago. She fills my ear with the mixture and asks me, “Do you know what color you want?” I want something special again. I decide to get my university colors.

    “I want a mix of black and red with gold sparkles.”
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