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Music for the Deaf

Enabling Engineering

The Need

Music is art conveyed through sound. It is prevalent in almost all human cultures, used in contexts ranging from religious ceremonies to commercial entertainment. Music is even commonly used as a form of therapy. For those who are hard of hearing or completely deaf, though, music is difficult or impossible to experience. The goal of this project is to attempt to communicate music to people who are deaf or hard of hearing through vibrations and light.

The Solution

Deaf people are inherently dependent on senses other than hearing for communication. Typically people with hearing impairment are more visually acute and will also utilize vibration as a means of communicating. Because of their predisposition to these senses, it is most natural for them to experience music using touch and vision as proxies for audio signals. This will enable them to access a medium that is socially and culturally relevant, and there is even research indicating that conditioning the brain of young deaf people to process vibration the same way other people process sound could actually carry developmental benefits. The proposed device for this project, comprised of a vibrating vest with thermoelectric modules that connects to a MP3 player, is designed for mobile use. It will allow users to play any audio and experience it physically. The audio cord, which contains signals that represent music, will be fed into an Arduino that will turn them into vibrations and temperature
changes. The user will feel the vibrations of the music in their arms and the small of their back. By feeling the relative frequencies of the music through the chair and feeling chills at significant moments in the song, the user will be able to experience music in their own way.