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Hearing Vest

April 14, 2015

A vibrating vest may let people perceive speech through their skin.



Can a vest help people hear? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A vest with an array of small vibrating motors could help deaf people understand speech. Neuroscientist David Eagleman at Baylor College of Medicine explains that a mobile phone picks up speech sound and translates it into a pattern of vibrations applied to the torso of the user.

DAVID EAGLEMAN (Baylor College of Medicine):

And by having these patterns that represent different sounds, they can come to hear what’s going on, they essentially can circumvent a broken auditory system.


Rice University graduate student Scott Novich is developing prototypes of the vest, with help from a team of Rice engineering and business students. They’re using mathematical algorithms to separate human speech from other sounds, and to simplify the speech sounds into vibration patterns. They’ve shown that amazingly, the brain can assemble those patterns and recognize them as words. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.