What Google Glass Means for a Half Deaf Person

It happens to me all the time. Someone is walking next to me on my right side, so I need to move him or her to my left. I want to talk to someone sitting to my right, so I have to turn the left side of my face towards them. No, I don’t look better from the left – I hear better from the left. That is, I only hear from the left.

I always tell people that being deaf in one ear is better than being deaf in both ears, so I’ve never felt like I was missing out on that much. Sure, I can’t hear in stereo. Sure, I have trouble telling which direction sound is coming from. If I’m in a noisy bar with a group of people I often miss out on most of the conversation, because I can’t filter all the noise well enough. I don’t not hear it; I just hear it all together.

mry-david-trahan-google-glass

(Images via Fast Company)

And it’s not just hearing that’s affected – it’s how I experience the world. Unless you’re half deaf though it might be hard to understand what that means for how one interacts with the world. To me I perceive what’s happening on my right as less relevant to what’s happening on my left. Choosing what I want to have on my left, that is, what I want to be more tuned-in to is a part of how I interact with the world every day. There are more knick-knacks on the left side of my desk than on the right. I choose where to sit at brunch, so that the most important people are closest to my “good ear”. I choose which side of the street to walk on based on if I want to pay more attention to the buildings by having them on my left or the open road by having it on my left. It’s the way life has always been. My right ear is just for decoration.

But enough about my #deafpersonproblems. Something remarkable happened to me. I was recently selected to be a participant in Google’s Glass Explorer program. I went to their office in Chelsea Market for a 1:1 appointment to show me how Glass works. During the onboarding the Google employee nonchalantly mentioned to me that the bone conducting audio technology enables deaf people to hear the sound from Glass. Of course my face lit up in anticipation while her face displayed confusion at my reaction. Then I told her my situation, and she got excited too. By now you must be wondering. Did it work? What was it like? Or maybe you just want to know how to get Google Glass.

 

It felt foreign. At first it felt like someone was invading my head space. My gut reaction was that they were unwelcome, because it was so unfamiliar. That lasted about 2 seconds, and then I felt the need to cry. So did the Google employee who watched my reaction. Neither of us cried, but we both shared a rare human emotion that was only possible because of technology (of all things). The only way to describe how it felt is to say that it’s like finding out you have a super power – something that you never imagined could exist, but then all of a sudden you found your trigger and started to fly. Like I had a secret that I had been hiding from myself. You have a mental double take and think, “Did anyone else see that? There’s no way that was real!” But it was real. For the first time in my life I was tuned in to my right as equally as my left. Because I already felt whole, this made me feel double. For the rest of the night I Googled whatever came to mind just to hear Glass read it to me. I called my family and told them the news. I think my Mom did cry. The more I used it the more it felt as if the periphery of my vision had opened wider and my consciousness had somehow expanded. Like new parts of my brain were unlocked… but only when I was hearing something in my ear via Glass. Ironically enough, it makes me feel like there’s more to explore. New possibilities are mine to uncover. It has truly made me a #GlassExplorer.

Guess what Mom? I’m not deaf anymore.

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