Twenty years ago, hearing loss was a major stumbling block, and if you were deaf or hard of hearing, communication could be a real challenge. You’d have difficulty succeeding in university of finding a job. However, in the last few years technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, and some of the latest tech is improving life for people with hearing loss.
Developing Technology for the Hard of Hearing Community
Roughly 40 million Americans have hearing loss, and that number is expected to rise in the coming years. The Center on Access Technology, a part of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, is always developing accessible technologies for the deaf and hard of hearing in an effort to create a more inclusive experience for everyone. David Putrino is the Director of Rehabilitation Innovation, a company that develops technological solutions to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing community, and he says technology is going a long way to making the world accessible for everyone.
For those in the deaf and hard of hearing community who use American Sign Language to communicate, talking with someone who doesn’t know sign language has always been a struggle. Now, however, automatic translation services exist that make these language barriers disappear, and ensure that everyone can communicate. You can automatically scan a video where someone is signing, and translate it to text, so that someone who doesn’t know ASL can easily understand what is being said.
One exciting new area that’s making the world more accessible for those who can’t hear is in haptics. The idea is to create sensations on the skin so that even though you can’t hear something with your ears, you can feel it through your skin. An example of this is experiencing music through vibration. Someone who’s hard of hearing can wear a sound vest, and the music is turned into vibration. Going to a concert with a sound vest will create an inclusive and accessible experience, and allow the person to feel the music in a whole new way.
Augmented reality technology can also be used to provide inclusivity to the deaf and hard of hearing community. The Center on Access Technology developed a prototype translation application on the HoloLens. The person wearing the augmented reality device can access a holographic interpreter, translating what’s being said in real time. The person wearing the device can understand and participate in conversations with the help of this interpreter. You can program the technology to place the interpreter in different places in the room, and the automatic speech recognition will translate everything that’s being said into ASL. This provides easy access to information, and people can work on the same project or diagram, or sit in on the same meetings, allowing for true communication and collaboration.
Accessibility in Museums
Have you ever been to a museum with an audio tour? Providing more information on the displays through an audio tour is extremely common, but isn’t accessible to someone who’s deaf or hard of hearing. Once again, new technology provides a solution. You can go up to a piece of art, connect it to a mobile app, and be able to access more information about the art in spoken English, in ASL, and through a visual description. This provides a more accessible and fun experience for museum goers.
Hiring Hard of Hearing Employees
Industry leaders are starting to realize the value those in the deaf and hard of hearing community add to their companies, and are working to provide more accessible workplaces. In fact, 30% of those with disabilities are in the workforce, and as more people are included on jobsites everywhere, the industry experiences a major boost which really pays off for those who create inclusive workplaces.
My Hearing Centers
Today we’re seeing new technologies that are making the world more accessible and improving quality of life for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. If applied in the right way, this technology has the power to change lives. Want to find out more ways technology can make a difference in your life? Visit us today at My Hearing Centers to book a hearing test, and discover a whole new world of sound with quality hearing aids.