Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hearing Glasses

Here is an inspired idea: “hearing glasses,” an eyeglass frame that also function as a hearing aid.

The problem being solved? Because they amplify all sound coming into the ear, traditional hearing aids are often useless in noisy environments. For example, I have a relative who avoids restaurants because she can’t hear what people at her table are saying amid the amplified background noise.

Hearing glasses start with the assumption that a person is most interested in sounds that she is facing. To distinguish sounds in front of a person, hearing glasses have an array of eight mini-microphones, four along each arm of the glasses frame. By using the tiny differences in time between when a sound reaches each microphone, hearing glasses’ integrated processor can calculate where the sound is coming from. (The human brain locates sound in a similar way, comparing when a sound reaches each ear.)

With sounds located, hearing glasses can amplify front-facing sounds—like the person talking to you—and diminish (without eliminating) rear-facing sounds. The glasses even have a charging station for when they are not being worn.

Hearing glasses have just been released in the Netherlands, where they were developed by the Delft University of Technology and Dutch company Varibel.

It’s such an elegant and useful idea that I really hope the product delivers on the promise.

[Originally seen at, “Improve your hearing with a new pair of glasses”]

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