When College Students Take an Interest in Hearing Loss

I was recently contacted by students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to learn more about my experiences living with hearing loss. Specifically they were interested in my thoughts on moderating the volume of my voice. They had seen a blog post I had written about the difficulty people with hearing loss often have knowing if they are speaking at the right volume in different settings. You can read that post here.

The students had a friend with hearing loss, who had explained to them the difficulty he had matching his voice to the ambient environment during interviews and other important academic and professional meetings. He said he was often intimidated to go to an interview for fear of embarrassing himself by speaking too loudly or too softly. This inspired the students to design a product to solve his problem.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

The potential product is a small wearable device that would take in ambient noise and a user’s speaking volume, and discreetly notify the user if they are speaking too loudly or too softly for the noise in the room. The student team hoped this would “empower those who are hard of hearing with the ability to better regulate speaking volume.”

I spoke with the students on the phone a few times to answer their questions. They wanted to know:

How much would I pay for a device like this? 

Would I want the device to be a standalone product or something accessed via an app through a watch or other wearable? 

When did I think I would use it most? 

Would I wear it all the time or just sometimes? Why?

How did I want to be notified to adjust the volume of my voice — visually or through vibrations? 

I was impressed with the depth of their understanding of the issue and their desire to create something affordable and useful.

The project culminated in a professional presentation in front of a large crowd where the team debuted and demonstrated their prototype product. You can watch the video of their presentation here. After following the link, click on “Watch Again” and then move the cursor to 1:51:40 — about halfway through the video. The product brochure is here.

The product received positive feedback from professors and others in the audience, but the group is not yet certain if they will take it beyond the prototype phase. Either way, it is wonderful to see the next generation of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs working on developing products for the hearing loss market. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Readers, what hearing loss related devices would you like to see on the market?

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14 thoughts on “When College Students Take an Interest in Hearing Loss

  1. I applaud these students for their innovation and their desire to help people with hearing loss. I’m curious how many people have a problem with this. For me (someone with lifelong hearing loss and 30 years of hearing aid use) this is a small issue. I hope maybe it opens a door to solutions for many other (and to me, more pressing) issues with hearing loss that I wish technologically gifted people would help solve.


  2. I love what these students are doing! I have my own personal modulator, my son! All kidding aside it is an issue I struggle with and ask my co-workers for their assistance.
    I would love to see an app that would translate PA announcements at airports, train stations, etc. into text. Between the background noise, echoing sound, and bad audio I just can’t make heads or tails out of what is being said. And though I tell the gate agent that I’m hearing impaired, they are often times overwhelmed with other responsibilities and will sometimes forget to tell me. It’s on me to check in with them. An app would save everyone a lot of time and effort.


  3. Shari…I watched the video and read the brochure….the date of the conference was 2009!!!

    So, what’s the story…is it going to be marketed?

    It’s really a cool idea!

    Thank you.


  4. Great idea since I can’t count the number of times I’ve embarrassed myself trying to talk over the noise and having people tell me SHHHHHH. It’s great these students even take an interest in hearing impaired subjects since being hard of hearing is always associated with OLD PEOPLE and aging . I’d still love to see a device or app for voice recognition that really works in all situations to help the HOH and deaf world not be so reliant on having captioners and interpreters at live events.


  5. The ears play a vital role in our life and only after it is damaged are we aware of its significance. There are many problems that can occur to the ears. And among the most severe problems is tinnitus.


  6. I have both tinnitus and hearing loss all my life and it can be very exhausting mentally , especially as I age . The question that always crosses my mind is does amplifying sound through a hearing aid worsen tinnitus or cause more hearing damage to our already damaged hearing ? Hmmmm.


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