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Improve Your Hearing With Vision 57

Ant writes "CNET News.com reports that there is a new pair of "hearing glasses," hearing-impaired people might both see and hear better--and have better social lives. A novel pair of glasses recently released on the market not only improve bad eyesight, but also work as a hearing aid. Developed by the Delft University of Technology and Dutch company Varibel, the glasses promise to keep hearing-impaired people active and social. While in-ear hearing aids usually work well for conversation in quiet surroundings, many people who wear them face problems in more lively environments. Since all incoming sounds are amplified, background noises easily take over, cause discomfort and make conversations difficult. Varibel says its glasses can detect which direction sounds come from, amplifying words spoken directly to the wearer while dampening background noise."
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Improve Your Hearing With Vision

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  • by Zephyros ( 966835 ) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:19AM (#15141602)
    "I can hear the lights, man...and the music of the colors.."
  • "Varibel is voor mij het einde van een speurtocht naar een goede oplossing voor mijn hoorproblematiek."

    - Martine van Hulst (48)


    I've got bad hearing due to a terrible Post-it note accident so I would definitely be in the market for something like this. Sometimes when my einde is oplossing, I hoor voor een naar with my goede van speurtocht and it works itself right out.
  • Uh, (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ohreally_factor ( 593551 ) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:25AM (#15141633) Journal
    I'm Helen Keller, you insenstive clod!!
  • by The Snowman ( 116231 ) * on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:27AM (#15141640)

    For only having two ears, we humans are very good at determining the direction sounds come from. Thanks to the shape of the ear being able to sort sounds based on direction, we are able to know where a sound came from and whether it is background noise or not. While I do not wear hearing aids, I do hear from people that do wear them that while the aids amplify sounds, they completely screw up our sense of direction as well as what is background noise, voices, oncoming traffic, etc. Because they are so large, they interfere with the natural shape of the ear and the brain's trained response to figuring out what sounds come from where.

    Isn't there a better way? Are there hearing aids that are less obtrusive to the natural function of the ear while still amplifying sounds? And I am not talking about glasses. This seems to be the band-aid and duct tape solution to me. Sure, vision tends to suffer in elderly people with bad hearing, but this is not always true. What about a young hearing-impaired person who does not need glasses? I have a friend with razor-sharp vision (20/15) but thanks to a previous job, is nearly deaf. While he gets by without a hearing aid (mainly because of his pride), I am sure if there was something less obtrusive that would still work and not require him to wear glasses he doesn't need, he would use it.

    I really am interested to hear what people have to say. My vision already sucks, I know when I get older my hearing will probably follow. I would like to start following what technology can do for stuff like this that I will probably have to deal with in my old age. Now get off my lawn, damn kids!

    • by hankwang ( 413283 ) * on Monday April 17, 2006 @11:30AM (#15142389) Homepage
      My vision already sucks, I know when I get older my hearing will probably follow.

      Decrease in hearing with aging is for a large part the cumulative effect of exposure to noise: It has been demonstrated that the most important factor of hearing degradation is not aging alone, but rather the cumulative long-term exposure to environmental and occupational noise that create the harm [wikipedia.org] The standard guideline of 40 h/week at 85 dB(A) is way too lax from a medical point of view; 70 dB(A) (30 times lower acoustic power) would be more reasonable. So you yourself can for a great part affect how much of your hearing you will be losing.

      For your information: I tested with a decibel meter how loud 70 dB(A) and 85 dB(A) are on a headphone. Well, 85 dB sounds to me like a nice listening volume, and someone sitting very close to you in the train might even hear some noise escaping from your headphone. (I used an over-ear open headphone). It boggles my mind what people in the train are doing to their ears when I hear their music coming out of their earbuds over the background noise from 3 meters distance.

      As you can guess, 70 dB is actually quite soft. It might work in a quiet environment, but anywhere else you will clearly hear environmental sounds.

      • I rarely use headphones, and when I do, I will not use the little ear buds. I've always had a suspicion about them negatively affecting hearing, and recent studies back up my natural skepticism. That and they really aren't comfortable, and don't sound good.

        Anyway, I am one of those quiet people that doesn't like loud noises. Even listening to music, I don't like it so loud I can't have a conversation over it. The only time I ever intentionally crank up the volume is when watching/listening to DVDs on my ho

        • I've always had a suspicion about them [earbud headphones] negatively affecting hearing, and recent studies back up my natural skepticism.

          Can you clarify this? Regarding hearing damage, I'd say there shouldn't be a difference whether you listen to 85 dB (A) through earbuds, large headphones, or loudspeakers. However, you need less acoustical power with earbuds since they are closer to the eardrum, so if other people can hear your earbuds, that's a much worse sign than if other people can hear your over-ear

    • For only having two ears, we humans are very good at determining the direction sounds come from. Thanks to the shape of the ear being able to sort sounds based on direction, we are able to know where a sound came from and whether it is background noise or not.

      We're talking about how to know where a sound's from [ncsu.edu], and the natural world is full of good solutions to crib from in localizing noise.

      Owls are particularly well-adapted to enhance hearing. Among the tricks they use are their concave "facial disks"

    • Actually, if you talk to some of the older deaf adults who have worn hearing aids for the bulk of their lives, you will run into a few who used to wear a glasses-mounted model. These were used so there would be more room to pack in batteries. They had the distinct problem, like the ones in this article, where it was a pain to deal with the acoustic rubber tube which runs from the glasses to the earmold.

      Traditional hearing aids are very good nowadays and have a directional quality to them already. The in
    • What about a young hearing-impaired person who does not need glasses?

      You just use glass blanks that don't refract the image. I think that if I was hearing impaired and I had the choice between sticking something in my ear all the time that didn't work very well and wearing a pair of glasses that didn't do anything optically but made my hearing more normal I'd go with the glasses.

  • Name it right,,, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GundamFan ( 848341 ) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:29AM (#15141655)
    It should be "Improve hearing with glasses"...

    I normaly don't do this but this one really bugs me
  • Deaf glasses (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kangburra ( 911213 )
    First of all, yes I am deaf.

    I think these could help but the most important thing people need to do is get deafness into education at school and work level.

    I am currently unemployed and finding work is (so far) impossible. I only recently lost my hearing (hereditary) so I know what work I can do, just need the right people to work with.

    Being able to hear with these "glasses" would help but you need support from people around you too.

    • Re:Deaf glasses (Score:4, Informative)

      by The Snowman ( 116231 ) * on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:43AM (#15141742)

      It honestly doesn't take much. I went to college at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID). The whole campus was rigged to be deaf-friendly, and it really wasn't a big deal. All it took was people being aware of the deaf issue. I am sure job interviews would be challenging with an employer that is not prepared with sign language or an interpreter, but beyond that, it mainly takes the willingness to work together. Some people make disabilities in the workplace out to be huge hurdles, and some employers balk at installing wheelchair ramps, desks to accomodate certain disabilities, etc. when it really isn't all that bad. People just need to calm down, think rationally, and realize that being deaf is a disability but is not a huge deal as far as employment goes.

      If I were you I would look around for organizations designed to help deaf people, such as giving employment advice. As I mentioned, the interviewing process will likely be challenging at first. Maybe someone has a list of deaf-friendly employers that made accomodations in the past. I am sure there is help out there if you need it.

      • If I were you I would look around for organizations designed to help deaf people, such as giving employment advice. As I mentioned, the interviewing process will likely be challenging at first. Maybe someone has a list of deaf-friendly employers that made accomodations in the past. I am sure there is help out there if you need it.

        I am in the process of doing this, but I didn't think I'd need it. I can hear people if I can see them and if it's fairly quiet. I thought an office would be fine, but five minut

        • The stats say 5% of people are deaf, what on earth do they do for a living?

          The same things as everyone else. Well, certain occupations might be difficult or not allowed (e.g. military pilot is probably off limits), but I have personally interacted with deaf people in a variety of professions either as coworkers or clients. Honestly, you should do whatever you are trained to do. Just make adjustments as necessary to accomodate your hearing loss. It takes time for [potential] coworkers to adjust as well. O

    • If you live in the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act offers you quite a bit of protection. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled persons both during job interviews and during employment, if the employee is otherwise qualified to do the work. I'm deaf and a lawyer, and in spite of my deafness I have argued and won cases in the Washington Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. So don't think that a little thing like hearing will hold you back, ok? I
      • Feel free to PM me if you want to discuss it further.


        Well I couldn't find a PM button, also I' in Australia not the US.

        Thanks though. :-)
      • I'm deaf and a lawyer, and in spite of my deafness I have argued and won cases in the Washington Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

        I'm actually fascinated by this. How does communicating with the judge and (especially) with the jury work? I'd be worried about the jury being prejudiced against a deaf lawyer if any special measures were taken for communication out of the normal since people typically have a negative attitude towards waiting for translation or people whose voices sound a littl
        • Re:Deaf glasses (Score:2, Interesting)

          by SachiCALaw ( 856692 )
          I was never a trial lawyer so I can't comment on juries. It had little to do with my hearing, and a lot on my skills - I discovered early on that I was utterly incompetent at asking questions. I was very good at writing legal briefs and then arguing them in front of judges. So I specialized in appeals.

          My hearing (and voice) are good enough that I can communicate orally for the most part. I simply let the judges know before an argument that I cannot hear well, and that I may ask them to repeat themselve

          • I was very good at writing legal briefs and then arguing them in front of judges. So I specialized in appeals.

            If you don't mind me asking, what kind of appelate court cases do you normally work, and how'd you find the job? I toy with the idea of law school occasionally, but I'm sort of ignorant about the variety of jobs available if I pursue that path.

            Some attorneys prefer not to use "terps" and instead use Computer-Aided Real-Time Captioning (CART). That works well in a trial situation, in particular, bec
            • Before I moved to California, I was with the Washington Attorney General's Office for 25 years. One of the agencies I represented was the Department of Corrections, so I handled habeas corpus and civil rights appeals, including death penalty cases. Those were a lot of fun (*ahem*). I also argued cases for other agencies I represented.

              CART works extremely well. They are not camera based at all, and there is no need for gloves or other attachments. Have you ever seen a court reporter work? That is exa

        • Appellate cases are rarely, if ever, argued before a jury. It's usually a panel of judges.

          I would love to hear the GP's experiences at the district court/state trial level, though. Very interesting subject here.
    • What kind of work do you do? What kind of problems do you have during the interview process etc? Apologies for the broad questions here, but I'm generally curious about how people with disabilities cope within the work force.
    • I interviewed a deaf person once. We just sat in front of my computer and shared a keyboard, typing into a word processor. Funny thing is being geeks and used to doing the IM thing even in the same room, it felt kind of normal. We made him an offer, but he took a different job.
  • from the like-bowe's-sound-+-vision dept.

    Wow. A nonsensical title, a misspelling in the "dept" line. Hemos is on the ball today!
  • by SachiCALaw ( 856692 ) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:36AM (#15141696)
    If you read TFA, the way the "glasses" work has nothing to do with seeing. The manufacturer puts four microphones in each sidepiece of the glasses, tuned so that they focus more on sound to the front of the wearer instead of sound to the sides or the back. I'm very hard of hearing (I had meningitis as little kid) and used hearing aids for years. Many of the behind-the-ear hearing aids have directional mikes already. I'm not sure how much this gadget would help; perhaps with the multiple mikes it could offer more signals to play with.
    • Rather than an independent "directional mic" in each ear, these glasses determine the origin of sounds based on timing, which is what the ears do in general. If a sound hits both ears at the same time, it's probably coming from directly in front of or directly behind the listener. If the array of hearing aids amplify only in-phase sounds, it will help to eliminate sounds that come from places other than where the user is looking. However, in order for all these microphones to coordinate, they must be able t
      • If the array of hearing aids amplify only in-phase sounds, it will help to eliminate sounds that come from places other than where the user is looking. However, in order for all these microphones to coordinate, they must be able to communicate in some way, and a wire running through a pair of fake (or real) glasses is a good way to do that without looking strange. Thus, the glasses are just a transport mechanism.

        Most high-end hearing aids have had external processors that do this kind of thing for a decade
  • *Snigger* (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hogwash McFly ( 678207 ) on Monday April 17, 2006 @09:53AM (#15141803)
    All sounds coming from the front of the carrier are intensified, while noise from other directions is dampened. This means that a person speaking to the carrier's face would be clearly heard even in noisy environments.

    So it seems that when people want to laugh at the deaf guy with the weird glasses, they have to quite literally go behind his back...
    • Of course they can do that anyway even (and especially) without the glasses, so this is not a 'flaw' with these glasses. Reminds me of that episode of Desperate Housewives where the husband of a deaf woman keeps making nasty remarks about his wife behind her back while she is there.
    • "So it seems that when people want to laugh at the deaf guy with the weird glasses"

      And unfortunately thats why these devices never take off. They look weird. That's why all the cool tech gadgets that fit in glasses or watches tend to be still-births. And even if they did look SOMEWHAT decent...the problem is that glasses and watches are more fashion accessories today than functional items. So when you release a product with a really cool function in one of those form factors...the fact that your fashio

  • This isn't new (Score:2, Informative)

    by mcspoo ( 933106 )
    What's new about this? Hearing aids have been embedded in glasses for years. The first time I got hearing aids (about 4 or 5 years old) they tried to sell hearing aids that were embedded in the thick, 50's style glasses, which is essentially what they're pushing here. That was 30 years ago. Sorry. This isn't remotely news, or even high tech. You insentive clod! I am deaf. "Hearing impaired" is an offensive term :)
    • Did you RTA? "Varibel says its glasses can detect which direction sounds come from, amplifying words spoken directly to the wearer while dampening background noise."

      Do any existing hearing aids embedded in glasses detect the direction sounds are coming from and dynamically adjust the volume of different sounds depending on the direction? Didn't think so --- that's pretty smart functionality.

      I know this is slashdot and all so we're all supposed to eagerly clamour to point out why the article "isn't news" i

    • Yes, they do. They're called Digital Hearing aids. If your hearing loss isn't extreme, digital hearing aids handle the filtering and directionality. These have been built into glasses ever since they started selling digital hearing aids. The only "new" feature is using multiple microphones... and the article doesn't address whether the sound is processed digitally or good ole analog.
      • How do they detect directionality without multiple microphones?

        The article says the sound is processed by a microchip, which probably implies digitally.

    • I like that comment. The term ought to be offensive if you are deaf, because it's sort of a wishy-washy politically correct euphemism.

      I think the term is appropriate for people like me, being neither deaf nor normal. I lost 50% in one ear. (that ear then gets ignored by the brain, so I have no directional capability) I suppose "partially deaf" is also OK, but I take "deaf" to mean "100% impaired" or nearly so.

      It's like "blind" and "vision impaired".

      It's like "dead" and "sick", or "dead" and "sleeping". Elvi
  • I wonder if this would work for me if they were bone conduction. I wear analog bone conduction hearing aid from Oticon (380p model).
  • I thought it would be something cool like the glasses had a HUD showing the waveform it is hearing. That would be really useful because sometimes there are loud sounds that my father simple cannot hear no matter how amplified they are (back then they didn't wear hearing protectors in the army). So being able to see a huge spike at 14k could be very helpful. Or something that folds the higher frequencies into lower ones (maybe everybody sound like barry white). Or eventually glasses hooked up to a comput
    • I thought it would be something cool like the glasses had a HUD showing the waveform it is hearing.

      Oh yeah! Imagine a HUD in the glasses displaying a real-time logarithmically scaled spectrogram of the sound, and that somehow you would have learn to understand what people say from looking at it, that'd be awesome. The main problem is that even if you could do that, it would be quite hard concentrating on a spectrogram that would block your sight and do anything else at the same time.

  • (a) how many of us wear glasses all the time? If I had to wear one set of glasses all the time life would be very difficult indeed - varifocals are not the answer,
    (b)The algorithms in current DSP based hearing aids work fine for most people. In my case, Program A: noise rejection, Program b: full range Program c: mobile phone pickup. I find that most people over about 40 have difficulty picking out speech in some situations where I don't.
  • Voice of experience here... glasses definitely aren't an enhancement to one's social life.


    • Voice of sanity here. Glasses definitely don't hurt social life.

      Hearing loss on the other hand definitely does. Trust me, it's fucking terrible being in a social situation and only being able to pick up fragments of conversation.

      Regular digital hearing aids work superbly in a defined environment - seminars, business meetings, small group conversations. Put them into a crowded noisy environment, like a pub, a club, even a busy cafe, and their benefit is vastly reduced.

      Add to that the fact that hearing aids a
  • "Varibel says its glasses can detect which direction sounds come from, amplifying words spoken directly to the wearer while dampening background noise."

    Which is great until you're using a cell phone while standing on some train tracks.

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