— Health and Wellbeing
Wear takes a fashionable approach to hearing aids
Wear is designed to help those with hearing difficulties make sense of conversations in noisy environments
From hiding hearing aids in your mouth to having them built-in to the arms of your glasses, we have seen some innovative efforts to assist those with hearing difficulties in recent years. With these unobtrusive technologies available, you might think that wearing a hearing aid around your neck would be the least desirable of options. Yet the team behind Wear believe that by favoring comfort and aesthetics over discretion, it may have conceived a viable alternative.
Wear looks like a regular necklace, but features a built-in high-fidelity analog microphone array that is designed to capture conversations in noisy environments and filter out unwanted noise. Sound is then relayed to the ears via any pair of 3.5 mm headphones with the user able to control the volume by a knob on the device.
The technology uses a beam-forming array (a directional signal technique designed to interfere constructively with signals at particular angles and destructively with others) of 10 directional microphones to create a 6 ft (1.83 m) circular zone around the wearer. Sounds generated within the zone are amplified by the system, while sounds outside are ignored, improving the audibility of close-quartered conversation.
Wear is 2 in (5.1 cm) in diameter, 0.25 in (0.6 cm) thick and weighs 1 oz (28 g), including an internal rechargeable battery. The company emphasizes that the device is not intended to be a replacement for a hearing aid, but predominantly to assist in having conversations in noisy environments.
The company hopes to build on the technology in Wear and develop more advanced products in the future, its Kickstarter page stating, "We are currently developing our next version of the directional microphone. Our goal is to create a wireless version of the Wear with the option of bone conduction headphones."
Through its Kickstarter campaign, an early bird level pledge for a Wear with earbuds, a recharging unit and original case is US$125. It is available with red, white or a black metal case and if all goes to plan, is estimated to ship in June 2014.
You can hear from the team behind Wear in the video below.
About the Author
Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches.
All articles by Nick Lavars
does the system produce an output level superior to 90 db in the ears?
over 90 db, you kill what is left of the inner ear in the brain;
90db is the level at which the stapedian reflex occurs; that middle ear muscle contraction protects the brain;
people exposed at constant levels over 90 db, have been recorded to loose hearing capability;
the users might sue hearing aid makers, when they realise what is going on;
I would like it to simply transmit to the bluetooth, I already wear. I have been looking for an app that would let my smartphone serve that purpose, but no such luck.
This seems like an interesting bridge between expensive, fragile, and tiny "in-the-ear" hearing aids, which are often less useful in high ambient noise level environments, and nothing at all, and might be particularly useful at sporting events, conventions, or even at the local pub during happy hour.
On second thought, let me rephrase that to say, "especially at the local pub during happy hour," because as any hearing aid user knows, those little suckers are damn easy to lose, and when alcohol is flowing, the safest place for them is in their case, locked securely away.
Again, interesting. I am going to check this out and see if they will ship one to Japan for me to try.
Reminds me of the scene in Fawlty Towers where the deaf guest wears something like this.
I have a pair of very expensive digital behind the ear hearing aids with blue tooth that I am very unhappy with. I can't understand people in noisy environments no matter how my hearing aids are programed. If I listen to an MP3 player with blue tooth the sound quality is lousy. A $75 pair of over the ear headphones sound better. I am convinced that progress is very slow in hearing aid technology because it is a protected noncompetitive market. I think that devices like this have the potential to bring innovation into the hearing aid marketplace which will eventually bring much less expensive and more effective help to people who have trouble hearing.
I will try to answer some of the questions in the comments posted so far.
The unit does not generate greater than 90 db.
The W ear will connect to a bluetooth transmitter but we do not recommend it. Bluetooth introduces a delay which will cause lip sync problems. Depending on your hearing it might introduce an echo which will make it harder to understand the conversation.
The unit works really well in pubs. It picks up voices in a 6 foot circular zone in front of the microphone.
We do ship to Japan for an extra shipping charge.
I am interested. Though it would not help when my wife decides to have a conversation from three rooms away, and somehow I should be able to make sense out of that. However, for normal people, that might be useful. However, being a guy, I don't want a "pretty necklace" at any time. can the surface be hand painted? perhaps with a family crest? or shield device? Something to give it purpose and guy friendly when not in use.
This is an interesting idea. I'm curious to see if they catch on. It is possible to have a stylish hearing aid and to embrace them?
Another company called Audicus is also featuring some more hearing aid products for the fashion-conscious crowd. Check them out here: http://bitly.com/1PE4yG1
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