Health Care without Borders? the Digitalization of Hearing Impairment

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:00
Oral Presentation
Richard PALUCH, University of Oldenburg, Germany
Nowadays it is not necessary to mention digitalization’s tremendous role in many areas of society. However, the digitalization process is not limited to the role of the internet alone. Laboratories as such are also becoming more technically advanced. For example, medical scientists simulate virtual scenes, in which animated characters (so-called avatars) interact with hearing impaired test subjects in various settings (e.g., in a cafeteria or urban road). The interaction between avatars and test subjects is recorded on video and the movement patterns of the test subjects are measured by head and eye trackers. This form of digitalization, which can be termed algorithmization, raises further sociological questions, for instance, to which extent social behavior can be measured and quantified.

This contribution deals with different forms of digitalization regarding medical care of persons with hearing impairment. Furthermore, the contribution illuminates whether and how the use of hearing aids structures the social relationships of hearing impaired persons. When persons with hearing impairment use hearing aids, it is assumed that their relationship to others and to themselves changes. The use of hearing aids is understood as technization both of care for others as well as care for oneself. Persons aided with hearing aids should be able to communicate as if they were no longer in need of care and at the same time have to be concerned if their relationship to the environment remains undisturbed due to use of hearing aids.

In order to investigate the underlying social mechanisms, an ethnographic field research was conducted for several months. The observation took place in an advanced audiological laboratory with virtual audio-visual environments. So far, not only medical researchers and test subjects were interviewed, but also observation protocols of laboratory experiments were written. The qualitative data were coded based on the grounded theory approach.