Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Priscilla Gets Bionic Ears (Introduction)

I travel far out of my way (to Centerport, Long Island) to study with my terrific hatha yoga teacher, Priscilla. Priscilla uses keen powers of observation and intuition to uncover hidden physical issues and habits. And she happens to be deaf.

That's an ok thing for yoga classes, where sometimes things can get too talk-y and analytical. But it's of course been a real drag for Priscilla, a keen music lover who used to hear normally (she's got a degenerative disorder). She's been trying for a long while now to muster the courage to get
cochlear implants, and a couple of weeks ago, she finally did it (this book helped convince her). And this week, the doctors will turn them on.

Most people do not realize that such implants do not offer a simple quick fix. One must learn to interpret the audio information coming in; it's not like regular, organic hearing. It's actually kind of weird.

Priscilla has agreed to send along a short note on her progress each day so we can all follow along, and I'll publish it as a running diary here in the Slog (in addition to my usual stuff).

By way of preparation, please read a classic 2005 Wired Magazine article on one individual's quest to overcome his deafness and finally hear Ravel's Bolero, and also read his follow-up piece from last year in Wired. There have been a bunch of fascinating Wired articles about new technologies for wiring the brain, generally (when Wired's good, it can be very very good).

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