Before I begin I want to add a disclaimer: This is only me talking about my particular experience with my hearing loss. I do not speak for any/all people with hearing loss/deafness/ other disabilities. My experience with hearing loss and hearing aids is not the same as everyone in a similar situation. I also see the term cyborg with a positive light in this context- but that is probably not the case for everyone so please do not assume it is.
Once upon a time I was talking with a group of friends about technology. It started as your average “Kids these days! With their smart phones!” conversation and it began question the intelligence and humanity of these children. Things were said like “It’s as if their phones are an extension of themselves so they don’t actually use their brains!” were said.They talked a lot about the potential negative side effects of technology when they do small tasks like remember things for you/figure out directions/etc. Their argument was this displacement of brain power would make you less intelligent, less of a valuable member of society because of your distractions. And- seeing that you’ve allowed for technology to infiltrate your life that much- less human. I sat there not saying much until there was a pause in the conversation long enough for me to disagree. I said one simple sentence.
“Well- I, for one, welcome our cyborg future.”
They all gaped at me until I started to explain. The fact that I had to explain confused me because I couldn’t understand why they saw it so negatively. I said something to the effect of “C’mon guys. My hearing aids?” I gestured to my ears, “They kind of do the same thing.”
“What! No- that’s COMPLETELY different-“ They replied
“It’s not that different-“ My explanation was interrupted with a question.
“How do your hearing aids make you more stupid?”
And it was at that point that I realized that we had really reached a cultural barrier. And unfortunately I lacked the tact to battle it with wise words right at that second and the conversation changed before I could explain. So I want to explain now.
My hearing loss isn’t that bad, but I’ll let you know- it’s bad enough. If I am expected to hear or understand anything I need to focus a lot. The fact that people can actually understand others without putting immense effort into it really frustrates me because I get really bad headaches just from comprehension. I have to analyze the way and body move and put that into context of the conversation at hand. Then pray that there aren’t any loud noises, other people talking,or a side topic that we could slip into. Because if there are, I will get completely lost and I’ll lose the conversation- and probably get a headache from simply trying to understand what was going on again. Simply understanding takes a lot of brain power for me.
And this is outcasting. I can’t just interact with people. It doesn’t come naturally- it doesn’t come easily. And most days I feel like I simply can’t connect with anyone because either I am too tired because I have spent all of my energy in concentration- or I simply can not understand any words being said.
My hearing aids though, they take a lot of that burden. When I have these wonderful machines, they take a significant portion of that brain power that I use and allow me to focus on other things. And it’s really quite the game changer for me. Because instead of focusing 100% of my time and energy on merely comprehension, I can take some of that energy and just enjoy the conversation- and that’s not something I can do without them. In essence, I see my hearing aids almost as an extension of my brain, just like those evil smart phones of children, because they take away the burden of extreme concentration. My friends complained so strongly about letting technology do the work for you, and how that was such a negative thing- and I can’t see it like that. With my hearing aids, I can be more. I don’t have to use my brain like I would without them, and that frees me to compete with the rest of the hearing world on their level. Instead of feeling like a disability, I feel like more like a person- more like a valuable part of society.
The sound wave in the background is a recording of my voice.
It says “I am human”.
I feel like those who claim that all technology makes people less fail to realize just how humanizing technology can be.