Project Lead(s): Brian (Hai) Hu
Thirty-two million people in the developing world are completely deaf.
Hearing aid devices are of no benefit for this population, and cochlea implantation is extremely expensive and invasive.
Most individuals with congenital and pre-lingual deafness are born with functioning vocal chords but their inability to hear severely hampers their language development.
The project team sought to develop a non-invasive, affordable and intuitive technology to improve the communication efficiency of deaf children and hearing-impaired people in the world.
A tool with related training courses (Deaf-Aid Solution or V-Hearing) was developed to allow deaf children to ‘hear’ through vision, using a special type of eye glasses.
It was demonstrated that with training, deaf children would understand what is being said to them by interpreting the visual sound waves associated with the spoken words.
The V-Hearing approach utilizes patent-pending sound wave expression technology, where colour codes for different frequencies convert sound waves into visual cues.
V-Hearing allows deaf people to understand spoken words by interpreting the sound wave patterns associated with specific words.
Another important function of V-Hearing is that it helps deaf people improve their speech, by providing visual feedback.
Four deaf children undergoing training using the V-Hearing technology can now recognize 20–30 Chinese words and 10 English words.
While visual sound waves might differ when the same word is spoken by different individuals, studies have shown that, with training, children are able to understand and interpret the meaning of the patterns, regardless of the speaker.
Recently, two more deaf schools in China have adopted V-Hearing.
Elizabeth Mclntosh, a specialist teacher of the deaf from Ontario Outreach Programs, is willing to adopt the V-Hearing technology and will start a trial with deaf children under five years of age to build up their hearing and speaking ability.
The project team has filed an international application with the Patent Cooperation Treat (PCT) and have received a positive written opinion, and so will first seek patent protection in China, Canada and the U.S.
The team will submit a proposal to Grand Challenges Canada for scale-up funding and an investment of about $1,000,000 has been secured from Chinese investors interested in medical devices and technologies.