The mission of the DHH-RERC is to provide consumers who are hard of hearing or deaf, as well as their families and clinicians, with the knowledge and tools necessary
- to take control of their communication and hearing technologies, adapt those technologies to their needs in real-world environments, and achieve greater autonomy in their technology use; and
- to derive full benefit of the shift from special purpose devices to increasingly powerful and interconnected consumer electronics.
Consumers are in control
Consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing know best – no one else can walk in their shoes and undergo the same range of firsthand experiences that they do. It is them who, if given appropriate ways to control the technologies that they use, will be in the best position to meet their needs and make technology work for them. Instead of having to rely on clinical practitioners, hearing health providers, and other types of service providers, who all are one step removed from the firsthand consumer experiences, consumers need to be firmly in charge.
The technologies that are needed for this kind of paradigm shift have begun to emerge. In recent years, people and devices have become increasingly interconnected. With respect to hearing loss, many rehabilitation and training activities that formerly could take place only face-to-face – such as in a clinical setting, or at dedicated events in physical buildings – can now potentially be done using consumer devices, online, and at every individual’s own pace. In parallel to this development, the advent of interconnected mobile and wearable devices, which are more powerful than desktop computers of yesterday, is leading to a convergence of hearing devices and consumer electronics that are becoming increasingly integrated. Apps are already on the market to control hearing aid settings from a mobile device, and there are countless opportunities for tighter integration between apps and hearing devices.
These developments presage an unprecedented level of consumer empowerment and control over how they receive information, how they receive training on their technology and rehabilitation options, how they communicate with others, and how they approach auditory rehabilitation.
The DHH-RERC supports this paradigm shift through research, development, and knowledge translation activities.
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs) are funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, under the Administration for Community Living at the US Department of Health and Human Services. RERCs conduct programs of advanced research of an engineering or technical nature designed to apply advanced technology, scientific achievement, and psychological and social knowledge to solve rehabilitation problems and remove environmental barriers.
The RERC on Improving the Accessibility, Usability, and Performance of Technology for Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH-RERC) is led by the Technology Access Program at Gallaudet University and has been funded since 2014. It is the spiritual successor to the RERC on Hearing Enhancement, which was led by Gallaudet University’s Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences department from 2003-2014.