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New technologies for the hearing impaired

Posted Apr 24 2012 7:52pm

The folks who are hearing impaired are already suffering from a handicap. To add salt to injury; comes in the difficulty experienced in recognizing and interpreting what other people are trying to communicate to them. Most of these individuals rely only upon the art of reading the lips of the speaker to understand what is being said to them.

Problems associated with lip reading:

 The problem with lip reading is that, many of the consonants of English language; for instance consonants like p and b, may be quite tough to read accurately through watching of the lip movements. Striking up casual conversation with someone who is communicating through his or her lip movement alone, can be very much stressful; and call for a lot of concentration and paying of attention by the person who is hearing impaired.

Moreover a large chunk of the hearing impaired population may not even be able to afford other effective and less stressful options like cochlear implants, and this is truer in the lesser developed and under developed nations.

Now new technologies for the hearing impaired are being developed in order to relive these individuals of their woes. Let us have a look at some of these latest additions to health technology.

Tactile devices for the hearing impaired:

These devices do exactly what they signify. That means to say that these devices are capable of converting the audible sound vibrations in to tactile vibrations. When simply put, it denotes that the auditory sound waves get altered in to touch sensations that can be experienced by the skin. Though these tactile devices cannot be considered as a new invention, the latest development is aimed at making them more sophisticated and more competent in boosting the lip reading performance.

More Facts about these Tactile Devices:

  • Charlotte Reed, senior research scientist in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics who is the person behind the development of these tactile devices; explains how simple the function of these devices is.

  • The good news is that these devices utilize straightforward software that could be easily adaptable to the applications in the current generation smart phones.  Now isn’t that such a wonderful news to hear?

  • An added advantage of using these tactile devices would be the facility of using them as discreetly as possible, without inviting curious or unwanted looks from onlookers.

  • The current generation smart phones already have a big part of the requirements that would be needed to set up these tactile devices.

  • For instance the microphone, digital signal-processing facility, and a simple vibration system are all facilities that you could find in any phone, for that matter.

  • These tactile devices are capable of translating each sound frequency in to a different kind of tactile vibration, for enhanced recognition amidst the hearing impaired people.

  • The human ear can identify sound frequencies, ranging up to 20,000 hertz, but for touch receptors in the skin, finest frequencies are lower than 500 Hertz. This means that these latest and updated tactile devices can help to distinguish even lower sound frequencies.

  • Moreover, these sound vibrations can be transmitted as tactile sensations to 3 different fingers, all at the same time with the help of these sophisticated tactile devices.

  • And the added advantage is that it can be useful for both the hearing impaired population and also the deaf-blind population too.

  • The research which formed the basis for this development was initially done of deaf-blind people, and was based on the fact that these folks could interpret sounds using touch sensations, quite expertly.

  • The funds necessary for the development of this software and related R & D is being funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Additional Advantage of Using These Tactile Devices:

  • The current models of the tactile devices that are being used are designed to be worn around the neck or sometimes to be held in the hand. Such a design makes it quite obvious and the user has to deal with unsolicited attention. Many hearing impaired people even consider this as an unnecessary public display of their disability.

  • The modern tactile devices can be discreetly used and need not evoke any public attention, because the software used in these devices can be easily adapted in to the smart phones. So the final out come is a highly sophisticated tactile device, that looks like a sleek smart phone and functions both as a phone and tactile device.  

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