Cochlear Implants: Audio Experience
The “Audio Experience” demonstrates the technology of cochlear implants. It is a cinematic experience about hearing loss and recovery. Utilizing film and post-processed audio, this experience tells the story of hearing loss and recovery from a first-person perspective. Along the way, interactive social situations involving dialogue trees place guests in social situations that they must navigate with their limited hearing. This experience compels guests to reflect upon the difficulty of social communication with hearing loss and appreciate hearing implant technology.
Cochlear implants are medical devices that are implanted into the cochlea of the inner ear. Through a strip of electrodes, these devices stimulate the cochlear nerve, allowing one to perceive sounds. The electrodes are controlled by a microphone worn on the outside of the ear. As of the present day, these devices are not able to recreate the full range of sound normally available to the human ear, and it is possible to “simulate” what this may sound like.
In the museum, guests will encounter this exhibit as a large screen with a five-button control panel below. As they follow the instructions and push buttons to advance the experience, they are presented with first-person live-action video that has post-processed audio. The videos will first take guests through the slow and distressing progression of the various stages of hearing loss. The guests are then presented with interactive virtual social situations that they must navigate with their limited hearing. As they clear each stage, however, they are given the ability to hear through simulations of what more and more modern cochlear implants sound like. As guests eventually realize that they can participate in meaningful social interaction even with relatively poor audio, their frustration over hearing loss changes to appreciation for medical technology.