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Co-Design of Hearing Technology

05 | 2017 – 09 | 2018

This co-design approach is part of a BMBF-funded research project about hearing technology (mEEGaHStim). Here, I was part of an interdisciplinary consortium that developed a new hearing aid.  

Conventional hearing aids frame hearing impairment almost exclusively as a problem. In my co-design approach, I took an alternative strategy by focusing on positive future possibilities of ›divergent hearing‹.


To this end, I worked together with 10 people who already wore hearing aids. Together we speculated simultaneously about not-yet-experienced positive meanings and not-yet-existing technology.


First, I gathered already existing activities in which divergent hearing was experienced as an advantage rather than as a burden, e.g. »I am able to read a novel while my kids listen to an audio book.« These activities were then condensed into ›Prompts of Positive Possibilities‹ (PPP), such as ›Creating a shelter to feel safe in‹. In performative sessions, I gave these PPP to the participants. Further I provided  ›Open Probes‹ (OP) – surreal props made of fabric – to enact novel everyday activities.


This led to 26 possible meanings and according devices, such as ›Being able to listen back into the past with a rewinder‹ or ›Turning down voices from specific directions and informing others about the cancelation with the Brooch of Silience‹. The approach provides valuable insights into the interests and expectations of people with divergent hearing. These insights  inspire future hearing technologies, even ›normal‹ hearing people might benefit from. Further, the approach is a methodological contribution to a possibility-driven design.


University of Siegen

Corresponding Publication:

J. Dörrenbächer, M. Hassenzahl: »Changing Perspective: A Co-Design Approach to Explore FuturePossibilities of Divergent Hearing.« Proceedings of the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM 2019.

›Open Probes‹ (OP) made out of fabric. 

A selection of ›prostheses‹ used for Techno-Mimesis – from infra-red glasses to voice recognition stencils to a focused hearing headband.

 ›Prompts of Positive Possibilities‹ (PPP).

Triggered by the PPP, participants act with OP.

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