New Glasses Double as Hearing Aids

New Glasses Double as Hearing Aids

A new type of eyeglasses hear just fine.

Scientists from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands have developed spectacles with tiny embedded microphones on each side.

This is no laboratory pipedream. They were developed commercially and people are already wearing them.

The glasses, called Varibel, dampen surrounding noise while selectively strengthening sounds coming from in front of the wearer. The device separates proffered sounds from the unwanted with twice the sensitivity of a traditional hearing aid, the manufacturer claims. 

According to the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one in three people past the age of 60 suffer from hearing loss.

Apart from their unaesthetic appearance, traditional hearing aids intensify sounds from all directions, sometimes making it hard for a user to focus on normal conversation. This causes many to withdraw from social settings and even leave their jobs earlier in life.

But with Varibel, sounds are picked up primarily from the direction a user is looking.

"Practical experience with the hearing-glasses supports the theoretical claims that the ability to understand speech is much better,” said Cor Stengs, a researcher involved with the clinical tests of the product. “There is a significant improvement in the sound quality.”

Sara Goudarzi
Sara Goudarzi is a Brooklyn writer and poet and covers all that piques her curiosity, from cosmology to climate change to the intersection of art and science. Sara holds an M.A. from New York University, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, and an M.S. from Rutgers University. She teaches writing at NYU and is at work on a first novel in which literature is garnished with science.