Redding’s top-of-the-valley weather tends to turn on a dime. One day, I’m taking cover from the spring rain in an overcoat and the next day I’m standing under a garden hose like I’m shooting a redneck shampoo commercial. With the blistering heat always comes the attempt to subdue it with a trip to one of our beautiful lakes. Redding residents know, if you don’t have a boat, you better find a friend with one. That friend of mine happens to be my father, Ken. (Please don’t try to usurp my summer-long reservation for a seat.) He doesn’t care if I’m there, but he always wants to see his adorable granddaughter, Emma, as much as possible. As Emma’s dad, I’m part of her entourage. Taking young children on the lake requires care and a reverence for safety measures, but can be a great experience for the whole family. Each summer is sure to provide memories to be cherished for a lifetime.
Hearing aid users know that water isn’t a friend to their devices. A lot could go wrong on a small boat if hearing aids’ whereabouts and safety aren’t considered. The challenge is the on-again, off-again nature of wanting to enjoy the water and still hear well. Boating on the lake tends to be a social occasion, after all. Ken has a system for keeping his hearing aids safe, but one day a cute little one-year-old threw a wrench in that system.
Some hearing aid owners probably think it’s a bad idea to show their devices to a curious toddler, but on the lake Ken tends to show his more laid-back side. Emma sat on her grandpa’s lap after a swim, and he happily indulged her curiosity despite the off chance she decided to test the aids’ ability to float. It was a typical lake day, with an occasional dip in the water and plenty of conversation. We snacked on salty chips and fruit salad. We enjoyed cold drinks and forgot that just over the hill it was hovering around 100 degrees.
It wasn’t long before Ken wanted to return his hearing aids to their proper place in his ears. One was in its usual out-of-ear resting place but the other had disappeared. Initially, it wasn’t a big deal and he casually searched the small boat until he made it clear that the aid was in fact, missing. Maybe we could lend some hands to the search effort. The aid was an Oticon OPN and wasn’t what we’d call expendable. My wife and I, feeling guilty that our little lake princess was surely the culprit in the case of the missing aid, started frantically searching. This isn’t a yacht, so it wasn’t long before we were scanning the same compartments and crevices over again. To Ken’s credit, he wasn’t showing a lot of anger or frustration, but my wife and I were feeling our fair share of anxiety and guilt.
We were spent and defeated. We had basically given up when someone said, “why don’t you just ask Emma where it is?” What a novel idea. Why not? There was nothing to lose at that point. My wife used the other aid as a reference. She held it out to Emma and calmly asked her, “Emma, do you know where this is?” Without a moment of hesitation, Emma walked straight over to the auxiliary outlet (we used to call these cigarette lighters) and pulled the plug. There, nestled snugly in the hole, was the elusive hearing aid. We all watched her retrieve it and started screaming like teenage girls at a One Direction concert (insert “Elvis” or “Davy Jones” if that metaphor is lost on you). It was a glorious mix of relief and amazement.
What’s the lesson here? One, never underestimate a toddler. While you’re cursing at yourself trying to find your keys, their minds are free to remember exactly which couch cushion they stashed them under and they’re quietly laughing at you.
The second lesson is more significant—don’t get distracted on a beautiful summer day on the lake at your hearing aids’ expense. This could require something as simple as a sealable plastic bag. Have a system and stick with it. Protect your hearing health and your investment in your aids. I’ll never get those two hours of anxiety back, but I do cherish that memory. Two years later, we are still laughing about it.