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Arielle Schacter

Arielle Schacter

Posted: August 15, 2010 05:55 PM

Hearing aids are not glamorous; they are not an accessory like shoes, purses or even glasses. Do you remember being in first or second grade and seeing the children around you getting glasses? Do you remember that insane jealousy that came over you when you realized that those chic spectacles were not for you? Well, no one was ever jealous of my hearing aids. They were dorky, tan, heavy little things that stood on top of my ears transforming my ears into elephant ears.

Hearing aids are loud and noisy: they emit a whistle in the most embarrassing of places, create static in the background when not working properly and shout in your ear without clarifying anything. I have a moderate-to-severe loss, which means the first sounds that I can hear are at 56 to 70 db (think busy traffic or a vacuum cleaner). I easily get headaches when I can't hear, such as when my hearing aids do not work and I have to rely on my own hearing/lip reading to an unhealthy extent.

That is where this story begins: it was an early fall day, when I had a particularly bad headache--a migraine--and I needed someone else to talk to who would understand what I was going through. Unfortunately, I did not know anyone else with a hearing loss who could relate. In my desperation, I decided to set up a website--bf4life-hearing--which would serve as a social community for teens and tweens, who are deaf/hard of hearing (hoh), where teens and tweens could talk and discuss their hearing loss.

The name of the site, bf4life-hearing, literally means best friends for life minus hearing, since the site acts as a forum where a network of teens who are deaf/hard of hearing can connect in times of need to become online correspondents. The website is composed of a blog, a social network, a forum and pages that further enhance the "coolness" of hearing loss in modern media. For instance, one can find clips from some popular shows - Does Glee, House M.D., Law and Order ring a bell? - that features hearing loss in a positive light. Each page helps break down the stigmatic wall that disguises what hearing loss truly is.

As bf4life-hearing grew, it became a medium to discuss issues that affect teens/tweens who are deaf/hard of hearing. The model face of hearing loss is not the stereotypical elderly, but the youthful teen; the website helps take away the stigma attached to hearing loss by creating a silent revolution by creating a safe place where teens can go to feel comfortable discussing their hearing loss and become empowered by other teens' success stories. The blog regularly features relating news stories from around the world, hot and young Hollywood actors and athletes who have some form of a hearing loss or a connection to the community, and self-help guides for teens who are deaf/hard of hearing when it comes to their hearing loss.

While hearing aids might not be the next new status symbol, teens have a fun, safe, comfortable, and international place to talk about their hearing loss on bf4life-hearing. Hearing aids may not be glamorous, but they definitely can be embraced, forcing a change in the view of hearing loss in the world. Hopefully, the silent revolution that started on the pages of bf4life-hearing will continue on in the daily lives of teens who are deaf/hard of hearing everywhere.

To check out the site, go to: www.bf4life-hearing.weebly.com