Hearing technology is rapidly evolving – in ways you may not expect. One Charleston-based tech company is testing a surprising new product that can help you hear more clearly in crowded environments, and it’s not your typical hearing aid: it’s a t-shirt!
How the Technology Works
Humans don’t just see the world in 3D; we hear in 3D as well. When you lose your hearing in one ear, it becomes much more difficult to perceive sound depth and to determine the source of a noise. The purpose of the new technology is to correct this problem, sometimes referred to the “cocktail party effect.”
The first version of the product was not a t-shirt, but a vest, used by the U.S. military for search and rescue missions and by psychologists to communicate across long distances for suicide preventions. The garment was designed for hands-free use with a series of microphones pointing in the direction of the target sound source. The audio is then transmitted to a headset.
The vest can cost up to $10,000, which is not practical to the average consumer. Researchers are re-thinking the design in order to make it more commercially accessible.
The Shirt Design
In addition to making the technology more affordable, researchers are designing a version that is thin and comfortable and can be machine washed. Because unlike military personnel, the average consumer doesn’t need microphones that pick up sound hundreds of miles away, the new design will feature fewer and less powerful microphones.
One benefit of the technology is the shirt is less conspicuous than a hearing aid, which some people may feel self-conscious about wearing. In addition, according to tech presenter Keith McElveen, “Since they are able to place more microphones in a vest versus a hearing aid, they can do more with sound.”
Another feature is the ability to use a smartphone app to adjust the direction of the microphones, so the user can hear someone next to them rather than in front of them, for example.
The Future of Hearing Aid Tech is Near
McElveen reports that the company is hoping to near completion on the project within the next year. Once it is ready, researchers plan to connect with hearing aid developers to make it commercially available.
For more information about the latest advancements in hearing technology, contact the Hearing & Balance Center today!
Learn about Hearing Aid Technology:
- Smart Caption Glasses for Movie Watching
- Hearing Aid Apps you can Download Now
- The Benefits of Assisted Listening Devices
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Summerville, SC 29486