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Plenary talks: A vibrotactile sensory substitution device for the deaf and profoundly hearing impaired

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1 Author(s)
Eagleman, D. ; Baylor Coll. of Med., TX, USA

There are 2 million functionally deaf individuals in the United States and an estimated 53 million worldwide. The cochlear implant (CI) is an effective solution for regaining hearing capabilities for certain populations within this group, but not for all. First, CIs are expensive, ranging from $40,000 to $90,000. Second, CIs require invasive surgery. Third, there is low efficacy of late CI implantation in early-onset deaf adults. Given these considerations, millions of deaf individuals would benefit from a hearing replacement that has low cost, does not involve an invasive procedure, and may have a higher efficacy for early-onset deaf adults. To this end, we are developing a low-cost, non-invasive, plasticity-based solution to deliver auditory information to the brain. Specifically, we are developing a “vibratory vest” by which auditory information is captured, digitally processed, and delivered to the skin of the torso using small vibratory motors. The term for such a technique is sensory substitution, and has previously proven successful in allowing those who are blind to have visual experience through the tongue or skin. In this talk, we will present our fully functional, real-time, Bluetooth-operated prototype, and demonstrate our results from several speech perception experiments. Funding for this research is supported by a training fellowship from the Keck Center of Interdisciplinary Bioscience Training of the Gulf Coast Consortia (NIBIB Grant No. 5T32EB006350-05) and the Renz Foundation.

Published in:

Haptics Symposium (HAPTICS), 2014 IEEE

Date of Conference:

23-26 Feb. 2014