Silenced by Silence: How Technology Revolutionized Birding for a Teacher with Hearing Loss

AI’s role in safeguarding avian species

Erin Rollins-Pletsch, a teacher who lost 80 percent of her hearing due to a rare disease about five years ago, found solace in birding after struggling to adjust to the quieter world around her. Initially unable to hear most bird calls, Rollins-Pletsch discovered that focusing on birds helped her let go of distractions and find peace in her surroundings.

Living east of San Francisco, Rollins-Pletsch uses technology such as the Merlin app on her smartphone to identify bird species by recording their songs. This innovative tool allows her to track and appreciate various birds as they sing, providing her with a unique and enriching birding experience that she loves. Despite her hearing impairment, Rollins-Pletsch is able to enjoy the beauty of birds in her backyard as she tends to her garden and bird feeders.

The Merlin app reads out bird songs to Rollins-Pletsch, allowing her to identify and appreciate different bird species even without being able to hear their calls. This technology has opened up new possibilities for individuals like Rollins-Pletsch, making birding a more inclusive and enjoyable activity for everyone. The app has revolutionized the field of birding by making it more accessible to a wider range of people, including those with hearing loss.

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