My first characters with a hearing loss were Deaf. Since I write romance, I needed to see how they fit into the romantic dynamic created by the story. These characters were easy to write in the sense that their ears didn’t change their sex appeal in a romance, at least not to me.
Hard of hearing characters, on the other hand, those who wore hearing aids, did. It was a very personal and eye opening experience when I struggled with the attractiveness of a character who wore hearing aids. Everything was fine until I got to a scene where the hearing aids were removed (bed time). And all my own insecurities came rushing to the surface. Suddenly my calm, cool guy hesitated.
And I sat back, stared at the screen, and realized 100% of what was happening was related to my own internal demons.
To be fair, I’ve been with my husband since I was fifteen. Back then I definitely was not comfortable with my hearing loss. I’ve changed a lot through the years, but I’ve never had to change my image of my own sexual prowess. The perks of being in a committed relationship, they love you in spite of your flaws.
But hearing loss isn’t a flaw. It’s an is. I’m learning along with my characters, finding ways to normalize hearing aids and make it a non-issue. I will say, the second character I wrote with hearing aids was a much better experience. Then again, this love interest wasn’t hearing.
I’m still baffled that I view myself in this manner. I know at fifteen I assumed my ears were a detractor. I’d been teased about it for years, all my peers knew I had a hearing loss, of course I would view myself in this manner. It never bothered my husband. Not when I hated my hearing loss, not when I embraced it as my identity. He’s interested in the person inside.
When I create a character with a hearing loss, I need to decide where they are in their comfortability. Do they like their ears? Are they embarrassed? The answer is in their life experiences. If no one ever picked on me for my ears, I wouldn’t either. But they did and it affected me.
When I create a character I need to decide all this. I work backwards, figure out where the character is now and then discover the why.
In some ways, I know too much about the little nuances about hearing loss. I know hearing aids get uncomfortable by the end of the day, leaving the ear wax a wet, gooey mess. I know this bothers me but it may not bother someone else. I know hearing aid batteries die at the worse possible moments. I know hearing aids don’t correct hearing, just amplify the sound. What a person remains able to hear depends on their hearing loss and a whole mess of other factors I couldn’t even begin to understand. I know most people with a hearing loss have altered speech, but I don’t. And I’m sure there isn’t a clear line that decides who’s voice is affected and not.
I know all these little details and I have to make each one match my character. I’ll over think some, and assume the same as me for others. One day, perhaps, I’ll view hearing aids as an attractive thing.