© 2024 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Your source for information and inspiration in Western North Carolina.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How Hearing Loss Informs our Intimate Relationships

Charnel Hunter

If you’re not familiar with hearing aids, it might be easy to assume that they simply turn up the volume on the sounds you encounter in daily life. But for folks who identify as Deaf or hard of hearing, the process of adjusting to hearing devices is much more nuanced – and involves strategizing with loved ones around intimacy and communication.

Host Anita Rao speaks with writer and advice columnist Anna Pulley about her decade-plus long journey with hearing aids and the strategies she’s developed around self-advocacy and consent as a hard of hearing person. Anna’s fiancee, Vika Mass, joins for a conversation about the challenging, tender and humorous moments that accompany intimacy as an interabled couple.

Anita then speaks with Yat Li, a communication accessibility advocate and the creator of“Let There Be Ears” on YouTube, who previously joined Embodied in 2021 for a discussion of the film “The Sound of Metal.” Anita welcomes Yat back to the show to share more about his experience with microtia and the ways his hearing loss has informed his relationships with his parents and his partner.

Special thanks to Caela Daly, Harlan Kebel, Elie Gardner and Dr. Michelle Hu for contributing voice notes to this episode.

Read the transcript of this episode.

Hearing Aids 101: A quick guide to 4 types of hearing devices

As with any assistive device, hearing aids are not one-size-fits-all! Read on for information about four different types.

Behind-the-ear (BTE): With BTE devices, sound travels from the plastic case that rests behind the ear and into an earmold or tube. BTEs are often larger than other types of hearing aids, which can make them easier to handle and clean. As an external device, they can also be customized in a variety of colors to reflect the wearer’s style!

In-the-ear (ITE): A smaller and less visible type of hearing aid, ITE devices rest inside the outer ear and can be customized to match the skin tone of the wearer. ITEs are molded to fit exactly into the bowl-shaped area of the outer ear, meaning they’re typically not a good choice for younger folks whose ears are still growing.

Canal Hearing Aids: Canal aids can be made to fit partially or entirely in the ear canal, making them less visible than other options. While canal hearing aids are less likely to pick up wind noises than other devices, their small size can sometimes make them difficult to clean or adjust.

Bone conduction hearing aids (BCHA): Also called bone-anchored hearing aids, these devices direct sound vibrations from the skull to the inner ear. Bone conduction hearing aids can be implanted surgically or worn externally with a headband or skin adhesive. They’re typically used by folks whose hearing loss stems from lack of development in the outer or middle ear.

Copyright 2023 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.

Audrey Smith
Anita Rao is the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content. She has traveled the country recording interviews for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps production department, founded and launched a podcast about millennial feminism in the South, and served as the managing editor and regular host of "The State of Things," North Carolina Public Radio's flagship daily, live talk show. Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest.