In 2009, designer Amelia Marzec lost hearing in one ear following a tumor. She was told she’d need a pricey surgery to restore her ‘hearing’ – doctors would implant a hearing aid behind her ear by drilling a screw into her skull. With the implant, she’d be able to ‘hear’ through the ear again through bone conduction technology- when sound waves hit a receiver on the implanted screw, sound would be converted into vibrations in her skull, allowing her to ‘hear’ again.
After two surgeries to remove her tumor, and facing an additional $30,000 surgery to implant the hearing aid, Marzec opted to just let her body adjust to hearing through one ear. While she was healing, she noticed she was hearing sounds through tympanic hearing and vibrational resonance- she was experiencing sounds through touch and vibrations.
With this revelation that she could ‘feel’ sound, and using her own experience as a guide, she created the Re-Wired Helmet only two months after losing her hearing. The Re-Wired Helmet is ‘a wearable device that translates ambient sound into haptic feedback using bone conduction technology.’
One of Marzec’s first sketches for the Helmet
The Re-Wired Helmet is a non-invasive alternative for hearing-impaired patients who want to regain the ability to experience sounds:
Re-wired consists of a helmet that leaves the wearer free to roam their environment and experience a physical sensitivity to sound. The helmet contains small, sensitive microphones, signal amplifiers, vibration components, and effects circuits. It adapts to any head shape. Dials to adjust the sound and volume are mounted on the side.
While Beethoven is arguably the most famous user of bone conduction technology- he was able to ‘hear’ his music through vibrations in his jawbone when he bit a rod attached to his piano- Marzec and her innovative helmet are on the fast-track to greater success; not only was she dedicated to finding a way to improve her own hearing, she has also created an inexpensive, non-invasive alternative for others who face a similar problem.
Watch a video below of Amelia explain The Re-Wired Helmet:
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