Designing for Human-Machine Collaboration: Smart Hearing Aids as Wearable Technologies

Krista Kennedy, Syracuse University
Kirk St. Amant, East Carolina University
Michael J. Albers, East Carolina University
Benjamin Lauren, Michigan State University


This study examines design aspects that shape human/machine collaboration between wearers of smart hearing aids and their networked aids. The Starkey Halo hearing aid and the TruLink iPhone app that facilitates real-time adjustments by the wearer offer a case study in designing for this sort of collaboration and for the wearer’s rhetorical management of disability disclosure in social contexts. Through close textual analysis of the company’s promotional materials for patient and professional audiences as well as interface analysis and autoethnography, I examine the ways that close integration between the wearer, onboard algorithms and hardware, and geolocative telemetry shape everyday interactions in multiple hearing situations. Reliance on ubiquitous, familiar hardware such as smart phones and intuitive interface design can drive patient comfort and adoption rates of these complex technologies that influence cognitive health, social connectedness, and crucial information access.