The New Pda

PCA: The New PDA

The newest trend in personal electronics? A Personal Communication Assistant (PCA), a hearing aid for the fashion-forward. Hearing aids are arriving on the scene in new colors, shapes, and sizes, with highly specialized features and applications. For Example, an American company named Audeo has created the Phonak, which is a hearing aid that is shaped like a moth’s wing and about the size of a guitar pick. The Phonak comes in 15 color combinations, with names like With Envy and Pure Passion. Otocon’s Epoq now has Bluetooth connectivity, streaming cell phone calls, radio, computers and MP3’s into the ears of the hearing challenged.

PCAs do more than just amplify sound, like the old “chewed up Circus Peanut” varieties of hearing aids. (Thanks to the New York Times for that metaphor.) PCAs can now be set to amplify sound, filter out extraneous noises, distinguish ambient noise (like that at a noisy restaurant) and enhance certain aspects of other sounds. They can also be programmed with language translation software.

With these new, boomer-friendly PCAs, hearing loss is becoming less stigmatized and more specialized. The marketing for such devices shows young women “who may as well be advertising for”, according to the New York Times. This is good, too, because the New York Times reports that hearing loss is linked to short-term memory loss, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and lower income levels (up to $12,000 a year less than hearing-abled counterparts!). Gordon Wilson speaks on the stigma attached to hearing loss, saying, “People would rather go around asking everybody to repeat themselves…than wear something that makes them look old, decrepit, and ugly.”

The issue of stigmatization hardly came to mind when I read about hearing loss. However, after reading the personal accounts of baby boomers experiencing hearing loss, I realized that this type of stigmatization can seriously negatively impact a person’s life. If any of our students face any type of hearing loss (or other stigmatized impairment, for that matter), it is important to recognize the secondary issues that may arise from such disabilities: self-consciousness, anxiety, depression, and it may help explain certain failures at academics. We must make an effort to create safe spaces in our classrooms based on trust and equality in order that all students have the opportunity to excel.

Created By: Kristen Holtschlag

Footnote: Rosenbloom, Stephanie. “The Day The Music Died”, New York Times, 12 July 2007. 25 July 2007.