The Hearing Hub at Macquarie University
"In the Australian Hearing Hub, Macquarie University brings together some of the country’s best researchers, educators and service providers to improve the lives of people who experience hearing and language disorders."
What an experience it was to visit, as my friend Michael proclaimed, ‘The Mothership!’ of our Cochlear Implants. This was an unexpected visit, and boy am I glad that on a whim, I reached out to my friend (also named Michael!) who works for Cochlear Corp out of the Denver office to inquire whether or not it’d be worthwhile to visit. He enthusiastically responded and put me in touch with a couple of people in Sydney, and they arranged or a site visit within a few days.
The Tour (No Photos Allowed)
One of the employees who worked in Operations was gracious enough to share her time, and give me a personal tour, providing me with insight on the manufacturing process.
High Visual Acuity, Dexterity & Control
The majority of those who assemble the devices are Asian women because of their genetic predisposition to high visual acuity, dexterity, and comfort with routine processes. These individuals must be able to meticulously put together the tiniest components, which takes steady hands and laser-focus. This makeup is not unique to hearing devices, as this make-up can be found in other areas of biomedical devices that involve assembly of electrodes and component pieces.
More Sterile than Plastic Surgery
The room conditions are 'calibrated' for maximum cleanliness. No makeup, perfumes, or any foreign agent that may 'throw off' calibration of the room and risk damaging the devices. I cannot remember the multiple, but it was x times more sterile than plastic surgery.
They get incremental breaks to do group-yoga! This safeguards them from staying too ‘tunnel visioned’ for too long.
The break room was actually fascinating. The design is for maximum efficiency. They all get 20 minutes’ break, together, and to prevent bottlenecks, there are multiple microwaves, multiple coffee makers, and none of the cabinets have doors on them as a time-saving measure against opening / closing to search for items. The idea is that with the multiple items, no one has to wait on anyone to get their coffee or heat up their meal.
Bringing the Outdoors Inside.
Additionally in this break room are expansive photo ‘murals’ of outdoor spaces --lush green forests, sandy beaches -- to help them ‘see the outside’ after being laser-focused on device assembly. There are maximum windows on one wall so that they could get in as much natural light as possible during that 20-minute break. Within these murals are also pictures of recipients wearing their cochlear implant, as a reminder of their core audience for whom they are assembling these electrodes and processors.
And I came back!
It was a fascinating visit, and I actually made a return visit to meet with one of the employees who is an implant recipient. Grateful for Michael to introduce us. It was lovely to meet with her and make a new friend! I was glad to be out there as they have a lovely cafe, where I was able to work remotely for a few hours with reliably fast internet. Yay, for hyper-productivity!