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AR Solutions for Individuals with Hearing Disorders

AR Solutions for Individuals with Hearing Disorders

Clifford M. Gross, Ph.D.

Hearing loss is a major public health issue that is the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease1. Nearly 20% of all Americans 12 years or older have hearing severe enough to make communication difficult.2 Augmented realty (AR) glasses hold the promise of being able to enhance the performance and safety of individuals with hearing impairment.

Once lightweight, smart glasses with wide fields of view are available, it will be possible to incorporate one or more of the following features to assist those with hearing impairment:
1- Acquiring audible information and converting it into visual information to be displayed in the field of view e.g., speech to text conversion and display using AI and interfaces similar to Siri and Google voice. Simplest application would be sub-titles for speech and announcements. This could easily incorporate language translation as well.

2- Acquiring audible information and converting it to hepatic information to encourage head movement to detect approaching objects. Simplest application using microphone embedded in the frame of the glasses detect approaching sounds by measuring the Doppler shift and produce hepatic feedback with bone conducting speakers (vibrations) located in the arms of the glasses.
A recent study by Widodo et al3 has demonstrated that localization to a moving object by compensating for the Doppler shift associated with the object movement can be used to accurately determine the position of an object moving along a non-linear path within 25 mm of the actual position using simple microphones and numerical analysis. A block diagram showing this method is displayed in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Schematic of the proposed Doppler-shift compensation method (Widodo et al3)

This approach worked well even in the presence of −25 dB noise levels. The authors suggested that signal to noise ratio could potentially be enhanced with Kalman or particle filters.
The take away is that visual and hepatic notification systems can be incorporated in AR smartglasses to assist individuals with hearing disorders. The applications are ubiquitous an span the gamut from object detection for collision avoidance to simultaneous speech to text display and translation.

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