Hearing Aid Wearers: The Original Cyborgs
Hearing Aid Wearers: The Original CyborgsAs automation and new technology continue to propel us forward, many people are wary of the potential for a robot revolution that would take our jobs and make humans obsolete. While that possibility might not seem as farfetched as it once did, it is still unlikely to happen anytime soon. But a different kind of revolution is taking place right now—a growing number of cybernetic organisms, or cyborgs, are already living and working among us. Cyborgs have long been a fixture in science fiction, with well-known cyborg characters introduced through movies (Star Wars’ Darth Vader), TV (Star Trek’s Borg), and comic books (Marvel’s Cable and DC’s Cyborg). No longer limited to pop culture, life is imitating art, with more people enhancing their bodies’ natural abilities with technological devices. From antennas that enable the colorblind to see color to bionic limbs that can sense their user’s intentions, there are many examples of people using man-made components along with their own flesh and bones. While this may seem new and unprecedented, the truth is that people have been incorporating technology into their bodies for decades to overcome physical challenges and enhance their natural abilities. Arguably, this cyborg revolution started with hearing aids.
Why hearing aid wearers are cyborgsAre hearing aid wearers really cyborgs? After all, they don’t look like the half-metal, wired-together characters we see in pop culture. Moreover, their cybernetic components aren’t nearly as extreme as some other, more recent real-life examples. According to Dictionary.com, the term cyborg is defined as “a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device.” So, how do hearing aid wearers fit this description? For one thing, hearing aids are smart devices that work with their wearers to compensate for hearing loss. In many cases, hearing loss is sensorineural in nature, meaning it is caused by damage to the cochlea or the nerves in the inner ear, resulting from factors like illness, aging, or family history. Since such damage typically can’t be corrected by medical or surgical intervention, hearing aids let wearers hear what they might otherwise miss. And hearing aids do more than amplify sound. They are smart devices that work with their wearers to automatically adjust volume, settings, and overall functionality to the different listening situations. They can even connect with the motion sensor technology of the wearer’s smartphone to accommodate adverse or challenging acoustic environments to provide an enhanced listening experience. Indeed, it is this ability to work with the individual, compensate for impaired ability, and respond intuitively to external conditions that makes hearing aid wearers true cyborgs, rather than just humans using assistive tools. And with the World Health Organization predicting that 1.1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss, the number of people who become cyborgs through hearing aids will only increase in the coming years.
How hearing aids enhance lifeThe appeal of being a cyborg for many is the ability to use machinery to augment their body’s own functions, and in many cases, surpass the limit of human potential. After all, high-end hearing aids don’t just help people hear everything equally louder. In situations those with normal hearing also find challenging (e.g., noisy restaurants or crowded parties), hearing aids with advanced binaural beam-forming technology can narrow down directionality to provide clear speech understanding in even the noisiest situations. As a result, hearing aids can reduce background interference like clattering silverware, loud music, or conversation from other tables while identifying and amplifying a speaker’s voice at the wearer’s table. This intelligent analysis of what you do and don’t want to hear effectively may even provide you with better than normal hearing. Here are a just a few more enhancements hearing aids offer wearers:
- Connect to other devices
- Transform how sound is detected
- Learn from experience
- Detect the wearer’s own voice
- Be adjusted remotely
Hearing aids: linking people and technologyHearing aids help people with hearing loss live an enhanced life, with sometimes better than normal hearing and a high level of connectivity. Just like the cyborgs of pop culture, in which the various enhancements are a natural extension of the organic body, the more the wearer uses hearing aids, the more those devices become a part of them. As we continue to develop new devices that compensate for impairments, hearing aid wearers will be joined by many other people whose bodies are enhanced by machines. While being a cyborg may be the next step in evolution for humankind, it’s clear that hearing aid wearers already have a head start, demonstrating just how much can be achieved by linking people and technology. Navid Taghvaei, Au.D. Dr. Navid Taghvaei is an Educational Specialist with Sivantos, Inc. He is responsible for conducting very complex individual and group technical training courses and activities involving new and existing developments in the areas of audiology, products, software, and technology for employees and customers. He demonstrates multi-system products by preparing and conducting clinician training, supports clinical product offerings, and performs in-house clinical trials for the Audiology Department team. He has extensive clinical experience in pediatric and adult hearing instrument and cochlear implant fitting, programming, and rehabilitation. He has served as a practicing Clinical Director of Audiology in multiple multi-disciplinary otolaryngology and audiology clinics in the U.S. and internationally. Navid received his doctorate in Audiology and master’s degree in Hearing Science from the University of Louisville School of Medicine and his bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Psychology from Arizona State University. He has also served as a lecturer and Clinical Preceptor at both universities for audiology and psychology courses. < News Archive
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