Feel the vibe: expand the range of perceptible vibrations in music for the deaf and hearing impaired
The joy of listening to music or even to a simple melody is one of the fundamental drivers behind human art and culture. This everyday pleasure is, however, not accessible to people with hearing impairments which affect over five percent of the population. Although classical hearing aids have made substantial progress, they still necessitate residual capacities along the auditory pathway and they do not retribute the complete range of the auditory spectrum. On the other hand, as we have all experienced during concerts, a small part of audible sounds, particularly in the lower range, is also transmitted by structure-borne vibrations and thus perceived by mechanoreceptors of the somatosensory system. This project will bring together expertise in sensory processing (Prof. Huber, University of Geneva) and biomedical engineering (Prof. Prsa, University of Fribourg) to explore new ways for transforming the wide frequency spectrum of audible sounds into the range of perceptible substrate vibrations in order to enable the hearing-impaired to enjoy the full spectrum of music. These studies will go hand-in-hand with the design and development of a novel type of portable vibrotactile stimulation device that enhances the range of information perceived by deaf individuals during musical events.