Rea Rossi is no stranger to technology. Born with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, she was using hearing aids by the age of three months. Today, Rea credits assistive technology with allowing her to better understand the world around her. Hearing aids clarify sounds that would otherwise be muffled and difficult to understand, closed captions make TV and movies accessible, and cutting-edge technology like Bluetooth streams phone calls, music, and other audio directly to her hearing aids to make everything from working in the studio with her music on to connecting with friends over the phone easier.
From a young age, Rea learned to self-advocate as the only deaf student in her school. She also discovered a passion for art. These two parts of her life ran parallel to each other for years. It wasn’t until she began her major in Jewelry and Metal Design at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and took classes through RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), that they began to intertwine.
Discussing her experience in mainstream schools, Rea explains: “Because hearing loss is an invisible ‘disability,’ it is easy for people to forget that I am not a ‘hearing’ person. When I attended RIT/NTID, for the first time in my life I was no longer the only person with hearing loss outside of my family. Attending school there was the best decision I’ve ever made because it really broadened my horizons and made me think differently about my ‘disability.’”
In 2013, Rea completed her MFA at Temple’s Tyler School of Art. Her master’s thesis pulled together her experience with hearing loss and her artistic talents in the form of beautifully intricate, wearable, 3D printed sculptures. “I wanted to create a way that expressed sound visually and to demonstrate how sound might appear to me. By means of distortion, repetition and missing parts I aimed to create forms that would bring awareness to this experience,” she says.
One piece in particular stands out, a piece that fits over one’s ear. This piece is called “Cilia” in reference to the hairs in the inner ear that pick up on sound. Rea has hopes for this sculpture to one day be combined with hearing aids, not in a way that would hide them, but in a way that would embrace them. “I think [hearing aids] could be stylish and I think people should be comfortable wearing them just like people wear glasses fashionably. People should not be ashamed to utilize assistive technology; in fact I think they should feel excited and should benefit as much as they can from it.” Rea, we couldn’t agree more.
Learn more about Rea and view her artwork at her website, www.Rea-StudioArt.com.
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