Hearing Aids for the Unimpaired

By Dave

I wondered when I would be able to buy super hearing.

It’s not just the hard-of-hearing who can benefit from applications inspired by traditional hearing aids. Hearing is the next sense ripe for a technological revolution, according to the exhibition’s organizer, Royal National Institute for the Deaf, or RNID.

The exhibit features personal hearing devices, such as aids that enhance conversational speech or filter out ambient noise in a crowded bar. The gadgets illustrate how an effort to redesign conventional deaf assistants might lead to a range of new products for unimpaired consumers increasingly accustomed to wearing iPod earbuds and Bluetooth headsets.

“Social noise has tripled since the 1980s and most people struggle on a regular basis to have conversations in noisy places,” said Neil Thomas, RNID’s Head of Product Development. “These products demonstrate a massive potential for everyone to control and enhance their hearing.”

One of the exhibits, called surround-sound eyewear, uses four microphones built into a pair of glasses to amplify sound depending on which direction the wearer is facing.

“The result is a type of three-dimensional superhuman hearing similar to that found in certain animals such as coyotes,” said designer Sam Hecht of London’s Industrial Facility. The company harnessed a theory known as “superdirectivity beamforming” to build the specs, projected for release in 2007.

Another concept, the Goldfish, named for its short-term memory, is a set of earphones that would repeat the previous 10 seconds of conversation in case the wearer missed a snippet.

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