Talk Corner: Elena Nen

Picture of a woman in a black top with a friendly smile.

Did you know that hearing aids batteries cost from a range from $30-$150 a year depending on battery size? Keeping up with the Hearing World is no easy task for hearing aids and cochlear implants users who are D/deaf and HOH. It can also be expensive for many of them, especially when keeping up with other costs of living.

I am here today to introduce Elena Nen, who is the leader of the campaign called, Hearing Aids Batteries Please ( Also known as “HABP”, pronounced as “Happy”.) Elena provides hearing aids and cochlear implant batteries for D/deaf and HOH people who can’t be able to afford them.   I am thankful that Ms. Nen took the time for answering my questions about HABP, the D/deaf and HOH community, and the hidden costs of cochlear implants and hearing aid batteries. I think it is important to understand these issues in order to minimize barriers for the community.

  • What led you to come up with HABP?

EN: I created HABP in 2013 when I was pregnant. I had a really rough pregnancy and it led me being on bed rest when I was seven months along. I actually was still in college when  I was pregnant! I ended up finishing the semester online when I was put on bed rest. I couldn’t work anymore because of it, and due to bills, my savings drained quickly. I was broke. Really broke. I ran out of batteries and I had to ask for help, but a lot of people refused to help me. They didn’t know that hearing aids and cochlear implants require a lot of (expensive) upkeep. When I finally got the money for my batteries, I never really paid attention to the price as I always got them from my audiologist’s office for 40USD for 40 batteries. I saw the price for 8 batteries… 15USD! I was curious if there was some kind of organization that helped D/deaf & hard of hearing people with getting them, but to my surprise, there wasn’t. So, then I thought, why don’t I be the first? Maybe it’ll lead an example.

  • I noticed HABP expanded from beyond just providing hearing aids and cochlear implant batteries, how were you able to stay motivated in keeping HABP up float?

EN: Easy! I thought about all the deaf and hard of hearing people who need it. I needed it just as bad when I created HABP four years ago. But I never had any help. So, I have no doubt that there are a lot of us in the community that doesn’t have help for it. I don’t get very many donors and I’m not sponsored. But the fact that I give people hope keeps me going. I can’t believe it’s been four years already, wow.  

  • Besides the cost of hearing aid and cochlear implants batteries, what is a challenge that people who are D/deaf and HOH face?

EN: Discrimination. Everywhere. Not just in school, but at home, work, and finding an equal opportunity for just about anything. It’s hard to overcome it because people don’t care to listen to us. But we’re breaking barriers for that because if you google #DeafTalent, you’ll find loads of people who are fighting for equal opportunities.

  • In your own words, how can hearing people help the D/deaf and HOH  communities?

EN: The number one thing that I believe hearing people should do is learn how to communicate with us. For the love of Harry Potter, PLEASE learn sign language!

Notice that I didn’t say “American.” Because there is more than one sign language out there. It varies by where you live. Please be willing to write (or type) things down, and/or repeat themselves. Stop getting angry with us for something we do not have any control over. Be more patient.  
Also, I really wish hearing people would stop marketing us and our culture for their own monetary greed. A lot of them bring recognition on things like ASL, which is nice, but the problem is that it’s a hearing person doing it not to bring awareness, not to be an advocate, but.. to get 15 seconds of fame or money from it.

  • Who are your role models?

EN: My Mom and my Dad. I lost my Dad in early October this past year. 
  • Did the cost of hearing aids and cochlear implant batteries surprise you?

EN: Yes. I never really paid attention to it when I was growing up because my mom always paid for them. But when I was in college, I had to pay for it myself. It wasn’t until last year when I did calculations, and for a society that demands us to hear like them, they sure do make it really expensive to get batteries.
Depending on the brand, it costs between 1 to 1.50USD for just one battery. HABP provides 60, ranging between 4 to 6 cents for one battery. But the way I run HABP, it’s free, just as long as you don’t
take advantage of it.  

  • Starting up a project like this must have been very difficult, what were the challenges and successes with HABP?

EN: The first issue I had starting up was getting recognition. I was able to provide for a few people when I first started up. Not a lot of people knew about me or HABP just yet.  Then I got more recognition when a fellow and popular advocate, Rikki Poynter reblogged a post about me. That’s when HABP really started taking off.  It’s been four years since I started HABP and somewhere in the middle of the third year, I
noticed a lot of people started trying to take advantage of HABP. So, unfortunately, I had to cut out overnight shipping and I then created a security process in order to protect HABP and it’s clients.

I wanted HABP to be free and I’m determined to keep it that way. I refuse to start charging money for batteries; because disabled people are already on a very strict budget and the upkeep of hearing aids and cochlear implant batteries makes it really hard to keep that budget.  Anyone that is caught attempting to take advantage of HABP will be banned without notice and won’t be able to order again.
I have to protect my clients. A lot of them have only me to rely on. I don’t want a couple of jerks to ruin that faith they have in HABP. If somewhere in the future that I absolutely HAVE to start charging for batteries in order to keep people from taking advantage of HABP, it’s definitely still far cheaper than what it costs. I’d only charge 5USD for one box of 60 batteries, compared to 45 to 60USD. That doesn’t even cover shipping!

Another challenge is some people just don’t read their emails after they put in an order and get upset with HABP because they don’t know when their batteries come. Some don’t double check their information before they order and don’t answer my email until they realize it’s been a week or more that they last put in an order.

  • Upon reading your story on your website, this one quote stood out: “I wanted to be the beacon of hope to those who lost it along with faith.”  I really like this quote because it is very uplifting. What is your advice for those who feel like they lost hope?

EN: Thank you! I came up with that because it’s true. I’ve been there and it gets really hard. My advice is to keep pushing. If you start questioning where you’re at in life, ask yourself if you’re passionate enough about it. Will it be worth it in the end? If you answer yes, then keep pushing at it.

I know it’s hard. HABP also doubles as a support system for a lot of clients. Some of them have my phone number and some of them email me whenever they need someone to talk to that understands. They all can always come to me whenever it gets hard.  

  • What is your advice you would like to give to HOH and D/deaf people who are struggling now?

EN: Remember that you aren’t alone. If you’ve exhausted all your resources, ask your resources what their resources are. If you’re angry, find a healthy outlet where you can take that anger out on. Sometimes, I think society sets us up to fail because we work so hard for half the amount of respect from our able bodied peers. But then I remember that we have to keep pushing through and pave way for ourselves and the future of HOH d/Deaf people, too.

BE the change you want to see, don’t expect for someone else to do it because it may not even happen. I did that with HABP.  

  • What’s next for you?

EN: I’m actually going to go back to school this semester for a BA in Human Services so that I can work for Vocational Rehabilitation! I graduated in an entirely different major two years ago, and now I’m going back so I can do more outside of HABP for the disabled, not just the d/Deaf & HOH community!

I would like to thank Elena Nen again for her insight about the D/deaf community and talking about HABP.  If you know any D/deaf and HOH person or yourself that needs hearing aid and cochlear implant batteries, please visit Hearing Aids Batteries Please website.  You can also check out Hearing Aids Batteries Please on Facebook!

You can also check out the #DeafTalent hashtag on Twitter and Rikki Poynter to learn more about the D/deaf and HOH community and latest issues that the community is advocating for.

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