Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Hearing Problems? Don't Worry, Just Wear This Cap

CHENNAI:  Hearing-impaired people may no longer wear the conventional hearing aids that proclaims their disability. Instead, they can just wear a stylish cap, which two students from a private university in Chennai have designed.

The students have named their invention ‘AaWAAZ’ (meaning sound in Hindi) - a specially-designed cap which amplifies sound inside the skull enabling even people with permanent hearing loss right from their birth to hear sounds around them.

Speaking to press, Aditya Sripada, a student from SRM University Chennai campus, said, “At present, people with deafness undergo an invasive surgery where an electrode is introduced through an artificial hole cut behind the ear. Despite low efficiency, the risk element associated with these bone- anchored hearing aids is high as the person might lose residual hearing ability post- surgery and the foreign body (electrode) results in persistent pain or meningitis (inflammation of brain membranes) or skin irritation.”

“But AaWaaz, working on non-invasive bone conduction principle uses an microphone-vibrator setup enabling hearing-impaired to hear sounds in their surroundings inside their skulls. This cap has a microphone which can pick up and convert sound waves into electric signals. This signal is amplified and fed into a vibrator (bone conduction motor) which conducts the sound to the inner ear through the cranial bones”, he said on the sidelines of displaying the project at the Indian Institute of Technology’s annual technical festival, Shaastra’16.

The entire set-up is placed underneath a sponge layer within the cap thereby helping the hearing-impaired conceal their disability. The microphone cable can also be connected to the headphone slot of mobiles helping the hearing-impaired make calls and listen to music just like ordinary people.

“This will also be of help to the visually- challenged. During our study, we found out that despite heaving a Google map installed in their mobiles for getting directions, many don’t prefer using it as they fear colliding against anything in their way, particularly with their headphones connected. Our project eliminates this problem by directly amplifying sound,” Abhinav Gandhi, another student of the project, said.

The cap costs between `200 and `300. It can also be attached to other wearables like sunglasses which has physical contact with the skull. “Since air as an communication medium is eliminated in this process, this can be used for underwater communication (while deep-sea swimming, scuba diving) and defence purposes,”, Abhinav added.

The project was secured the first place in the ‘Makers Summit’ conducted as a part of Shasstra’16 at IIT-Madras on Tuesday.