A student mouthed “hello” as an electrolarynx vibrated against his neck, making the word faintly audible and slightly robotic. His facial expression mirrored the weird sensation of the device as it picked up the vibrations in his throat. The device allows users to see what it is like to communicate after having ones larynx removed due to throat cancer.
This was the first thing onlookers saw at the Communication Sciences and Disorders Awareness event last Thursday in Piano Row’s Multipurpose room. Students made their way through a crowd of 30 starting at the vocal hygiene table, then making their way to the remaining three tables to learn about transgender voice and gay lisps, accent reduction and modification, and hearing loss and prevention.
While at the hearing loss and prevention table, event attendees were able to hear what it’s like to slowly lose hearing by listening to a YouTube video through over-the-ear headphones as the volume slowly diminished.
Over-the-ear headphones are much better for eardrum health because the sound is less concentrated than ear buds, according to junior communication sciences and disorders major Katie Ruggiero, who is also the department’s Student Government Association senator.
The high concentration of sound that occurs when using earbuds, Ruggiero explained, damages hair cells in the inner ear, which can cause permanent damage and hearing loss.
Some students, including freshman Griffin Lane, expressed surprise at the variety of themes featured at the tables, such as the display dedicated to transgender voice and gay lisps.
“[The station] was interesting to learn about,” said the marketing communications major. “I had no idea it was an actual scientific thing.”
Lane said he attended the event for his Personal Genetics and Identity class and that it was worth going to because he learned so much.
The event wasn’t limited to Emerson students, with students from North Carolina State University also in attendance as a part of a Boston diversity trip.
As she lingered in front of the accent reduction and modification table, Krista Morris, who was visiting Boston for the first time, said she found accents in Massachusetts to be an entertaining departure from the pronunciation she grew up with.
“You guys speak differently up here, obviously,” said the chemical engineering major.
The table had a trifold display with the saying “Pak tha cah in Havaad yad,” in big letters, a satirical impression of the stereotypical Boston accent.
Senior Elizabeth Lidov, president of The National Student Speech Language Hearing Association —the organization that hosted the event—said that because Emerson was founded with a focus on communications, she believes it’s only fitting to host an event dedicated to communication disorders.
“[We want] to educate the different Emerson majors and show them how we can relate to them,” said the communication sciences and disorders major.
Both Lidov and American Sign Language Emerson President Elise Pié stressed the importance of their major to all Emerson students. Everything that students do at Emerson involves communication, whether it be performing on stage or hosting a radio show, said Lidov.
The organization took donations with proceeds going toward the National Center for Literacy to promote literacy in homes of lower income communities.
The event was a student kickoff for the many upcoming events during Communication Week, said Pié. Because Deaf History Month runs from March 13 to April 15, she said, there will be many events dedicated to deaf culture.
To promote the use of sign language, ASLEmerson will host “Silence Day” on Monday, April 2, during which students will wear buttons and communicate by only using American Sign Language. A “Break the Silence” celebration will follow that night where students will gather to reflect on their experiences throughout the day.
“I want people to be aware that there is a deaf culture,” said Pié, a senior communication sciences and disorder major, “and let others know that ASL is approachable.”
ASLEmerson will be hosting an addition event, titled Deaf Deaf College, planned for April 12, said Pié. Those who attend the event will be able to participate in a simulation of what life would be like if everyone at Emerson were deaf, including a mock dining hall experience, she said.
“[The communication sciences and disorders department] may be small, but we are proud of what we do,” said Pié.
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