June 16, 2024

The World Health Organization states that nearly 20% of the global population is deaf or hard of hearing. According the Organization, those who are deaf have hearing loss so severe there is very little to no functional hearing. Around the world, music has a substantial positive impact on others. Music helps people form connections and bonds and should be able to be experienced by everyone. 

Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals have had different forms of consuming music. These forms include feeling vibrations in a variety of ways sign, language interpreters and performers who paint the picture of the music and song playing. Ways for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community to experience music existed since the 1990s, according to Sam Nichols and Sam Carmody in an article for Sunny Extra. However, in recent years, technological advances have developed in how they can experience sound even further. 

One of these new forms of hearing sound is called a haptic vest. This vest transmits different sounds as vibrations on the skin. Haptic vests will provide uses with physical stimuli, vibrations, or motions. 

Professor Jaclyn Long, an adjunct professor, stated, “This technology could be helpful for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (DHH) community if the vest has a different place for each instrument, riff, rhythm, etc, to show a cohesive melody that hearing individuals would hear displaced by feeling vibrations.” 

Music is a universal language that assists people in expressing themselves and understanding those around them on a deeper level. The experience music gives someone can be a very personal moment. Music’s impact on a person’s life can change their life in a beneficial way. 

Madison Robinson, freshman music education major, expressed the impact music can have on a person and how the haptic vest will give the deaf community a more personal connection to music. 

“Music has had an incredible impact on my own life, and I think the more people it can reach- the better. With the invention of this vest, I really think the deaf and hard-of-hearing community will be able to experience music in a much more personal, effective way through this creation- and look forward to hearing specific occurrences of how this invention assists the community in experiencing music at a larger capacity,” Robinson said. 

A haptic vest can give deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals a new way of experiencing music like never before, as the vibrations of music are felt closer than ever before. 

“So much of what makes music beautiful is the emotion it conveys, a sensation that is hard to achieve from the very basic fundamentals of music that can be experienced by the deaf and hard-of-hearing  community without assistance, such as bass, percussion, and other vibration-based instruments and elements, without the use of specific technology, such as this vest,” Robinson said. 

Individuals can learn a variety of things from music. People can learn more about themselves, others and the world around them through music.

“I also feel this could be helpful from an educational standpoint. It gives another opportunity for the deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to learn about music,” Long said. 

Music is such a beautiful way of showing emotion and connecting with other individuals. With the haptic vest, anyone can experience that feeling on an intense level. For the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, this is a long-term investment that will help give the community a connection to music that is greater than past known ways for their community to experience music as a whole and increases inclusivity. 

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