Walking home yesterday, I almost stepped on a hearing aid. It was lying in the center of the sidewalk, deserted. I zigged quickly to avoid flattening it with my heel and stopped dead in my tracks. My heart sank, crushed for the person who would soon find his lifeline missing. I imagined the panic and chagrin when he noticed it was gone, the self loathing for losing something so important, and the despair at having to find the funds for a new one. Hearing aids are incredibly expensive. I was as devastated as if it was my own hearing aid that had been lost.
I stood there silently for a few moments, gazing at it. The hearing aid was pink, almost salmon in color. A medium-sized behind-the-ear model. The tubing was attached. It looked new. It seemed lonely.
Pedestrians walked by in both directions. Many of them stared at me as they passed — my lack of motion and transfixed expression appearing odd for the busy afternoon. I must have looked lost.
My body was paralyzed in the moment, but my mind was racing. Should I take it home with me and try to return it to its owner with an ad on Craig’s List or some crazy thing? Turn it into an audiologist who might find a way to trace it to someone? Ask a nearby store to hold it in case someone returned looking for it? Or leave it as I found it, hoping against hope that the owner would find his way back to this spot and reclaim it? None of these options seemed very good.
Suddenly, I jumped to attention. Perhaps the owner was still near by. I spied a stooped woman shuffling slowly a half a block ahead. Maybe it was hers! I ran to catch her, momentarily forgetting the hearing aid and leaving it behind. This was not smart since someone could have stepped on it damaging it irreparably, but it was too late. I was almost to her.
I called to her, but she did not hear me. “A good sign,” I thought optimistically. I caught up and gently tapped her on the shoulder. “Excuse me, did you lose a hearing aid?” I asked. Her face took on a look of panic as she reached for her ear. “I don’t know,” she answered and continued to fumble with her ear. I told her to wait and ran back to get the hearing aid, which was luckily still resting undamaged in its spot.
It was strange to pick it up — such an intimate item belonging to another. It rested lightly in my palm. Delicate, yet so powerful. I carried it by the tips of my fingers, not wanting to invade its privacy.
“That’s not mine,” the woman said when I showed it to her, “but thank you for asking me. That was very sweet.” It may have been nice, but it had not been effective. The actual owner was certainly long gone by now.
I was distraught.
My mind shot back 13 years to the days before I started wearing my hearing aids regularly. When I couldn’t hear family and friends, but would laugh along anyway. When I worried before every meeting at work that I would miss something important. The time my toddler was hurt, but my husband and I couldn’t communicate because I couldn’t hear him. All the shame and isolation flooded over me in that moment, knowing someone else would soon feel the same way.
Defeated, I stood silently for a few moments more, before walking back to where I had originally found the hearing aid. I placed it gently on the sidewalk (off to one side so it was less likely to be trampled), took one last forlorn look at it and continued on my way.
I wonder if it is still there, patiently waiting for a miracle.
Readers, have you ever lost your hearing aid?
This post first appeared in District Lit’s issue on disability, medicine, and illness.
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38 thoughts on “The Day I Found A Hearing Aid On The Sidewalk”
I’m wondering if the hearing aids have a code in them. I would think that a helpful audiologist might have access to hearing aid companies that can trace the code to the owner.
I wish I had thought of that at the time. Thanks for the idea.
Well, if it was in Atlanta near the CNN center (?) in October of 2010, it was mine. Brand new phonak adeio yes. I was CRUSHED a mile later realizing it had fallen off. 😭
I would definitely pick it up. They have insurance numbers on them. It’d be worth a try to find the owner. Or at the very last thing, donate it Knights of Columbus (?) who help give hearing aids to those in need.
It was in NYC. So sorry that happened to you. Good suggestions. Thanks for sharing them.
There is every possibility that there are codes on the hearing aid. both of my Oticon BTEs have codes. Very small and impossible to read without a magnifying glass. the codes were on the boxes that the aids came in from the manufacturer and the audiologist made notes of the codes on my records when I had the aids fitted.
I think they do have serial numbers that are recorded. I do not know how easy it is to trace, considering how many hearing aids exist; but it would have been worth a try. Next time rather than leaving it to be crushed or kicked around, I would try to trace it. If that doesn’t work donate to one of the audiologists or organizations that refurbish them and make them available for people that need, but cannot afford a hearing aid. I wonder what are the odds that a person could realize they lost their hearing aid, retrace their steps, and return to the exact spot to find it.
I agree. I wish I had thought of that at the time.
That’s so sad. One does have to feel sorry for the owner of the hearing aid whilst at the same time being a little mystified.
Mystified, if you have the same thought I have when reading your post, that why as the wearer of the hearing aid you hadn’t noticed almost immediately that your aid was no longer in you ear and hadn’t turned around to search for it?
As we are all too well aware, when we remove our hearing aids we immediately notice how much we can no longer hear.
Seems very strange.
Yes, strange, but maybe they had removed it for some reason and it fell out of their pocket. We will never know. Thanks for your comment.
If someone finds a lost hearing aid they can bring it to a hearing care provider who can contact the manufacturer to arrange for its return to the proper patient. Because of privacy laws the manufacturer can not inform anyone of the owner’s identity, other than the providers on record for the purchase and repair of the instrument.
Thank your for sharing this helpful information.
A couple of years ago I took my Amish neighbor to buy some corn. I’m not sure why but as I waited in the car, I took one of my hearing aids out and evidently had it in my lap. When the neighbor was ready to load, I jumped out to open the hatch. When I was pulling into my drive, I realized I didn’t have my hearing aid in my ear or anywhere in the car where I might have laid it. It was the left HA so it was away from my passenger and I hadn’t noticed; it’s also possible we had the windows down. I quickly drove back to the place, parked far away from where I had been and started searching; the lady came out and starting looking too. At least two other vehicles had pulled in while I was returning to the place … My heart was sinking as each second passed … Then, there it was, laying in the gravel! It was absolutely a miracle that none of the other vehicles had run over it. Lesson learned!
Wow! So glad you found it!
My wife lost one I of hers walking to her car after work one day. It was near the space needle in seattle. She placed an ad on Craigslist lost and found and then reported the loss to her audiologist. Thankfully it was covered by insurance and we only had to pay less then 1/4 of the price for the new one.
So glad she had insurance to cover most of the cost. Thanks for sharing your story.
Several years ago I found a hearing aid on the sidewalk. I took it to my audiologist and they found the registration number in the device. They were able to track down the owner from this registration number. He was most grateful that someone found the device and returned it to him in harmed
That is great news! Thanks for sharing this story.
I confirmed the above info with my audiologist this morning. Hearing aids do have serial numbers. HIPPA protects the identity of the patient but an audiologist can get an aid back to the manufacturer who can return it to the owner.
This is great to know. Thanks for confirming.
Very nicely written prose.
Thanks for reading!
Well you did everything in your power to help reunite the hearing aid to its user. I think we can all resonate with this story and hopefully this story has a happy ending!
I think with hindsight, I should probably have taken it to my audiologist to see if the owner could have been tracked down through the serial number on the hearing aid. I wish I had thought of that then. Thanks for your encouragement.
I’ve been pretty fortunate, and lost one in the laundry bag once. Went insane looking for it . I always have a fear where to put your hearing aid when you travel and use a hotel pool, and need to put it “somewhere” dry and secure while you dip in the pool. I’m so dependent on it now that leaving it in the hotel safe means I have to walk to the pool in total deafness! Forget about ordering food or a drink at the pool without your hearing aids!
Get a plastic coin purse with a clip on it (or use a safety pin). Add a little ziploc snack bag inside if you’re still concerned about moisture. You can attach the little pocket to your beach bag when you’re in the water.
Maybe a special spot in your purse or beach bag? It is tricky! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
My dog chewed one of my HAs up. She actually had to unzip my purse to get it. She’s a Jack Russell and VERY smart.
It would’ve been $2500 to replace. My audi found a refurbished one for $609 to replace it.
We still have that dog and she is still alive. I take MUCH better care
Oh no! That is a smart dog! I am glad you were able to get a reasonably priced replacement. Thanks for sharing your story.
My father never wears his hearing aids on planes. He went to visit his sister in Texas and they fell out of his pocket on the plane. He didn’t notice they were missing till a few days later. On his way home, he stopped at the counter for his airline and low and behold, they had them. Miracle of all miracles.
So lucky! Thanks for sharing this story.
Very well written article indeed, thank you so much for sharing such information with us.
Thanks for reading!
As hard as it may be finding an HA on the street or in the road; finding one in the grass or leaves is almost impossible. After losing one raking leaves right after I got them, painfully taught me to remove them when gardening.
That is tough. Thanks for sharing your advice.
One time I lost one of my hearing aids. It was missing from the little hearing aid case I always use and I backtracked everything I did that day trying to find it. I had been to the dentist that day and I even went to the dentist office and searched the room I had been in with no luck. I was in a panic – I still had my warranty and could replace it but would still have to pay a few hundred dollars and wait for several weeks to get a replacement. Next day I was cleaning out my computer bag and pulled out the missing hearing aid along with other little items. It must have dropped in there when I was putting the HA back in its case without me noticing it. Luckily it didn’t land on the floor or ground! Whew! Ever since I am very aware of where my HA’s are at all times and I always zip up the little case. I also keep the case in a zipped compartment in my purse and far from any dogs who may decide it smells like something to chew on!
So glad you found it! Thanks for sharing your story.
YES–THEY ALL have traceable serial numbers, although they can be in different places (on side of aid, in battery compartment, etc.) The company who makes them could have answered all your questions and traced the serial number to the owner–look up their 800 customer service number next time, or indeed, take them to an audiologist if you don’t want to deal with it and they can do it.
Yes, thank you for the information. I wish I had known at the time.