Three years ago, Michael Chorost, who suffered sudden-onset deafness in 2001, wrote about his quest to hear again — not just words, but music. Surgeons had installed a cochlear implant in his left ear, and its software broke the acoustic world into 16 channels of blocky but recognizable sound. The story chronicled his brief beta test of 121-channel software. We asked him for an update:
"Last year, I got the commercial version. Just as I remembered, the software makes music sound fuller and brighter. In January, I got my other ear implanted, and I can now hear in stereo. That's been an even more profound change. I don't have the new software in that ear yet, because we're still balancing the ears, which is easier to do with 16 channels.
Still, I've been having fun with music. I played my favorites to a friend, and she said, 'You like men's voices in the upper tenor range and women's voices in the upper alto.' That helped me understand why I like songs like Neil Young's 'Long May You Run.' Then she guessed I'd like Yo La Tengo and Portishead, and I did. The beats are complex enough to keep me engaged without overwhelming me. My ears are very young yet, but I'm figuring them out, bit by bit. Literally."
Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb