All right, folks - it's studyin' time.

As many of you know, I'm deaf. Or more specifically, I've had a bilateral high-frequency severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss since age 2. Hearing aids have historically been awful at helping out with this sort of loss, so I had them as a child but never wore them (because they didn't, y'know, help). I speak, lipread, and have mainstreamed my whole life because that's how my (highly geeky) young life happened to turn out, but have tremendous respect for Deaf culture and would never impose technology or coping mechanisms on others that they didn't want. I'm also an open source hacker, electrical and computer engineer, and all-around gigantic geek, and when I found out (very) recent technology developments in the hearing-aid department have been aimed directly at my type of loss, I immediately asked where I could sign up as a guinea pig.

And so next week I'm meeting with an audiologist and a hearing aids specialist who are also researchers at Purdue, and we are going to have a big geek-fest conversation about technology options, where they're at, how they work, the state of the field, etc etc... and what might work best for me.

I want to preload my brain with as much useful information before this conversation as possible. As readers of this blog may have noticed, I'm trying my best to keep a record of what this sort of journey looks like as a patient and a curious hacker -- it may be a useful story to have out there later on.

So. What should I know? What should I be familiar with? What questions should I ask? (What are you curious about?) Go!

A few things to keep in mind:

  • I'm at a large research university with an excellent audiology department, live in the library and love librarians, and can probably get my hands on any papers and books (and websites, but that goes without saying) you point me to.
  • I'm an engineer. Technical things don't scare me - I love them. Advanced math, signal processing, geekery about chips and parallel processing and embedded packaging - yes. Throw them at me.
  • I am studying education, and while I'm not an expert on developmental psychology or cognition or neuroscience or any of that stuff, I've had more exposure to it than your average layperson, and am actively pursuing learning more. I am fully aware that part of using hearing augmentation tech includes reprogramming your brain to make sense of the new inputs it's getting ("aural rehabilitation" is the term) and want to learn about that too.
  • However, my biology/physiology/medical-literature/audiology background is not as great; I took a single intro-to-Bio class as an undergrad, and my knowledge of the way the auditory system operates is exactly equivalent to the contents of Wikipedia articles on it. I am a researcher, so medical research papers don't look wholly unfamiliar - but they are very much not in my domain (engineering education).
  • This is an intense side interest. My graduate studies and work take up the bulk of my days; I love tackling tough things with intensity, but I am time-and-resource limited in what I can do with this. So "read this entire journal series, start attending all these conferences, buy this $50,000 development kit, and prepare to do research in this field for the next 50 years" is unrealistic, but I am happy to plunge into specific difficult papers, talk with individuals, experiment with technical platforms that don't require a lot of time or money (grad student, remember!) startup cost, and so forth.

Thank you!