Tuesday, July 25, 2006

325: dispelling the sentimental myths of sound

I've often reflected that I'm disturbed by certain techniques used by people who sell hearing aids and cochlear implants. One specific technique is to invoke sentimentality, the extreme sort. "Get this device and you'll hear your baby's first word!" "Get this device and you'll be able to talk to your family!" "Music," people say, rapturously, eyes rolling to the ceilings as they clutch iPods with sweaty hands.

Take music. The truth is while some hearing people find music enjoyable on a sophisticated level, most hearing people seem to hear it on about the same level we 'feel' it - a collection of thumps. Look at this study on Cognitive Daily, where they point out that only a small percentage of people - usually musicians - can really totally enjoy music. The rest can't even tell when it's out of tune - obviously they're just feeling the bass, maybe in a wider sense than Deaf people but not much differently. So the argument is really just based on sentimentality, because no technique or piece of equipment today can make a Deaf person hear even as much as an average hearing person. It's not scientific, therefore, to invoke music as a reason to get this equipment... but it is certainly a great selling point, and one guaranteed to become a placebo which at least invokes the feeling of pleasure people are "supposed" to feel when they hear music.

They do say that there is a chance people who study the issue increase their range of perception - in which case, we could see music appreciation classes designed for CI users and HA users (and I'd love to see something for Deaf people, wouldn't you?) But to simply imply astounding music perception beyond that of the ordinary hearing person is rather pushing it.

As for hearing your baby cry - well, how do you argue that one? But I'd like to. I'd like to make the point that underneath the sentimental feeling we get when we're presented with the words "your" "baby" and "cry," we're just not confident of having that deep connection with our child - nobody is, hearing or deaf. I wonder how many people are really having that fear of isolation exploited.

Fear of isolation is one of the three most deep-seated human fears - most advertisers try to sell products based on taking advantage of this fear. But isolation has nothing to do with one's condition in life, but how one responds to one's condition. Many hearing people are very, very isolated - hey, look at all the cat lady stories! They can hear, but they're still weird and spend a lot of their time alone petting furry males like Ricky Taylor.

I think they are playing way too hard on our fears of isolation. Now if they came to me and offered me a business suit and said "With the implant you'll be able to hear all the live, unsubtitled things on CNN, and detect nuclear weapons for the United Nations," that would be kind of cool... but then maybe I'm just not a passive person. If I can't make music (and how many implant doctors say "You'll be able to compose fucking Beethoven?) I don't see the point.


jay lassiter said...

it's a salespitch meant to play on your heartstriings.

Imagine if they said< "get the implant so you can hear your neighbord car alarm!"

BEG said...

No one seems to pitch these ads for anyone born deaf. That's the thing. It's all geared toward what you miss. Miss what?? I treasure the first time my nephew looked at me with recognition in his eyes, not the first babble he made (which was "NO" if I remember correctly).

The other thing that really annoys me is all those ads feature 60 year old models. Puh-lease.

LOL on the car alarm...


Anonymous said...

I agree that using those words (baby, cry, music, etc.) is sales pitch, pure and simple. But you're incorrect about how hearing technology, specifically CIs, don't make a Deaf person hear as much as an average hearing person. A CI can increase sound detection from the profound to the mild range.

Are you talking about auditory discrimination, as opposed to simple sound detection? Even a regular ol' HA could boost sound perception for hearing a baby's cry. But unless the CIer had the ability pre-implant, or extensive training post-implant, a CI would not give someone auditory discrimination to be able to understand live broadcasts without captions.