Hackaday Prize Entry: Vibhear

Hearing impairment, either partial or total, is a serious problem afflicting a large number of people. Almost 5% of the global population has some form of hearing disorder. For those affected by this disability from birth, it further impacts the development of language and speech abilities. In recent years, cochlear implants are increasingly being used to address this problem. These implants consist of two parts – the receiver and electrode array are implanted under the skin near the ear (with the electrode array terminating inside the Cochlea), while the microphone, electronics, transmitter and power source are attached on the outside. Often, the external unit has to be removed – for example, when the person needs to sleep. This is particularly so in the case of young children. The external unit is fairly large compared to their head and causes discomfort during sleep. And parents are worried that the expensive device could get damaged when the child is sleeping. This leads to the alarming situation where the child is asleep and has no audio sensory inputs being received from the surroundings. Not only can they not hear morning alarms, but also cannot react when there is an emergency situation such as a smoke alarm going off.

[Srdjan Pavlovic] came across this problem first hand when he visited his friend and learned about their six-year-old son with hearing loss since birth. The parents said their child will not be disturbed by loud noises at night since the external unit of his cochlear implant is removed each night. [Srdjan] then started work on building the Vibhear – an assistive hearing device to be used when the main hearing aid is removed or not working. It is a low-cost arm-band that provides a vibratory signal in response to high ambient noises.

The main components are a microphone, amplifier, microcontroller and vibration motor powered by a LiPo battery through a boost converter/charger. An RTC module allows setting up daily wake up alarms. It’s currently prototyped around the Arduino, but the next iteration will use a specialized DSP which can be programmed to perform signal processing operations on input sound. This will allow identification of specific sounds such as car horns, barking dogs, smoke alarms or emergency sirens.

[Srdjan] is in the process of choosing components for his next iteration, so if you have any recommendations to help him choose the microcontroller, power supply controller or other parts, do let him know via comments below.

Simple Hearing Amplifier

Hearing aids are probably more high-tech than you think. They are tiny. They have to go through a lot of trouble to prevent feedback. They need a long battery life. The good ones match their amplification to the inverse of your hearing loss (amplifying only the bands where you don’t hear as well).

[NotionSunday] put together a hearing amplifier project that probably doesn’t hit many of those design criteria. However, thanks to a 3D printed case, it looks pretty good. The device uses a dual opamp to boost the output from two microphones and feeds it to a conventional headphone.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Shakelet

A person who is deaf can’t hear sound, but that doesn’t mean they can’t feel vibrations. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Alex Hunt] is developing the Shakelet, a vibrating wristband for that notifies hearing impaired people about telephones, doorbells, and other sound alerts.

To tackle the difficulty of discriminating between the different sounds from different sources, [Alex’s] wants to attach little sound sensors directly to the sound emitting devices. The sensors wirelessly communicate with the wristband. If the wristband receives a trigger signal from one of the sensors, it alerts the wearer by vibrating. It also shows which device triggered the alert by flashing an RGB LED in a certain color. A first breadboard prototype of his idea confirmed the feasibility of the concept.

After solving a few minor problems with the sensitivity of the sensors, [Alex] now has a working prototype. The wristband features a pager motor and is controlled by an ATMEGA168. Two NRF24L01+ 2.4 GHz wireless transceiver modules take care of the communication. The sound sensors run on the smaller ATTiny85 and use a piezo disc as microphone. Check out the video below, where Alex demonstrates his build:

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Hacking Hearing with a Bone Conduction Bluetooth Speaker

When a hacker finds himself with a metal disc and magnet surgically implanted in his skull, chances are pretty good that something interesting will come from it. [Eric Cherry]’s implant, designed to anchor a bone-conduction hear aid, turned out to be a great place to mount a low-cost Bluetooth speaker for his phone – at least when he’s not storing paperclips behind his ear.

With single-sided deafness, [Eric]’s implant allows him to attach his bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA), which actually uses the skull itself as a resonator to bypass the outer ear canal and the bones of the middle ear and send vibrations directly to the cochlea. As you can imagine, a BAHA device is a pretty pricey bit of gear, and being held on by just a magnet can be tense in some situations. [Eric] decided to hack a tiny Bluetooth speaker to attach to his implant and see if it would work with his phone. A quick teardown and replacement of the stock speaker with a bone-conduction transducer from Adafruit took care of the electronics, which were installed in a 3D printed enclosure compatible with the implant. After pairing with his phone he found that sound quality was more than good enough to enjoy music without risking his implant. And all for only $22 out-of-pocket. While only a Bluetooth speaker in its current form, we can see how the microphone in the speakerphone might be used to build a complete hearing aid on the cheap.

We think this is a great hack that really opens up some possibilities for the hearing impaired. Of course it’s not suitable for all types of hearing loss; for more traditional hearing aid users, this Bluetooth-enabled adapter might be a better choice for listening to music.

Bluetooth Headphones For Hearing Aids

Cyborgs walk among us, but for the time being, it’s really only people with glasses, contact lenses, the occasional hearing aid and the infrequent prosthesis. As with all technology, these devices can be expanded into something they were not originally designed to do – in [Gertlex]’ case, the superpower of listening to music through his hearing aids. he gets a few strange looks from wearing a Bluetooth headset around his neck, but the power to turn his hearing aids ito what are effectively in-ear monitors is a great application of modified electronics.

[Gertlex] began with a Bluetooth headset, his hearing aid, a few resistors, some wire, a 3.5mm audio connector, and an absurdly expensive DAI cable. The DAI cable – Direct Audio Input – is a pseudo-standardized feature on many hearing aids. as its name implies, it allows the wearer of a hearing aid to pipe audio directly into their ear.

By cutting up one of these $50+ DAI cables, [Gertlex] was able to construct a DAI to 3.5mm adapter cable. From there, it was simply a matter of installing a 3.5mm socket on a Bluetooth headset.

It’s a brilliant build, with the most expensive component being the DAI connector itself. [Gertlex] has a few ideas for making these connectors himself – they’re really only three pins and some plastic – and we’re hoping he gets around to that soon.

 

DIY Hearing Aid

DIY Hearing Aid

Hearing aids are expensive little devices, typically costing a few thousand dollars each. They need to be highly integrated to fit in the ear, while still providing signal processing to ensure good audio quality.

This DIY hearing aid does some intelligent signal processing. It uses an electret to capture audio, then uses a pre-amplifier to increase the gain 100 times. The next stage consists of four filters, dividing the input signal by frequency into four parts. These are passed into four LTC6910 programmable gain amplifiers, which allow an Arduino to control the gain of each channel. The LTC6910 takes 3 digital inputs that are used to set the gain value.

To determine which gain to use for each frequency band, the Arduino needs to know how much power is in each band. This could be done using a Fast Fourier Transform, but that would require quite a bit of processing power. Instead, an envelope detector averages the signal, which can be read by an analog input on the Arduino. Using this information, the hearing aid can boost specific frequencies when it detects conversation.

This hearing aid won’t quite fit in your ear, but there is a lot of interesting signal processing going on. The schematic, Arduino source code, and a MATLAB simulation are provided.