September 2016

Engineering hackathon designs gadgets to keep music-induced hearing loss in check


How loud and how long people listen to music are two of the main drivers of noise injury that can lead to noise-induced hearing loss (the third driver, if you’re interested, is how often!). Last weekend, HEARsmart sponsored a wearable electronics hackathon and were delighted that someone came up with a potential gadget that could record and display basic information about the immediate and accumulating sound level being experienced.

“Being able to give someone a visual indication of how loud an environment is, is potentially very useful to people who are interested in keeping their sound exposure within safe limits,” said Jane Sewell, HEARsmart Manager. “On top of that, being able to indicate the accumulation of sound exposure over time, taking into account any breaks that rest your ears, provides a potentially powerful tool for preventing hearing damage in young people.”

HEARsmart congratulated Stefan Burger (hackathon participant) on his invention and after some market analysis may pursue discussions about how it may be further developed for real world use.

The Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) and Women in Engineering (WIE) from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in Victoria organised the wearable technology hackathon on the 17th September. The event focused on the development of tools to assist individuals with hearing impairment or to prevent hearing loss using open source Arduino technology.

The group used the technology to develop and test various novel ideas from the sound sensor described above, to devices that could use smart phones to translate spoken word into text in real time, alert deaf people outdoors of approaching cyclists and deaf carers to the sound of a baby crying. Mehrnaz Shoushtarian, Chair of IEEE EMBS Victoria said “the sponsorship from HEARsmart has allowed our wearable technology project to be directed toward solving an important health problem and IEEE Victoria is excited about this collaboration.”

HEARsmart, in association with our parent HEARing Cooperative Research Centre, was delighted to help support this fun event, “it’s great to get people from different disciplines and backgrounds to come together over the same problems and see what can be created” said Jane.