We hear about diabetes all the time. And just about everyone has been affected by cancer. But one chronic health condition is reported twice as often as these two: hearing loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5.7% of American adults have serious difficulty hearing or are deaf. And the noisy world around us is exacerbating the issue; the CDC estimates that about 40 million U.S. adults ages 20 to 69 have noise-induced hearing loss. A range of sound sources causes this damage, such as noisy sporting events, power tools, and headphones.
Hearing impairment is a big problem, and new high-tech glasses could help. Unveiled at CES 2023, XanderGlasses display captions of in-person conversations in real time. How do they work? The glasses have noise-cancelling microphones that capture speech from conversations. Built-in speech-to-text technology converts the sounds into words that appear on the lens. With a built-in touchpad, the wearer can position where the text appears on the glasses, which run on rechargeable batteries that Xander says have “enough capacity to get you through a long Thanksgiving dinner.” However, if Turkey Day talk turns to politics, you might be tempted to tap the off button and pretend to follow the conversation.
The glasses are self-contained; there is no need to connect them to your smartphone, WiFi, or cellular connection. They don’t link up to an app or database — important given privacy concerns over capturing what others say. The glasses are HIPAA-compliant, and only the wearer can see the conversations, which don’t go to cloud services and Xander doesn’t collect data.
How accurate are the captions? Its makers say the glasses are 90% accurate in noisy environments, such as city streets and crowded restaurants, and are more accurate in quieter settings. This is thanks to the Vuzix AR technology that powers the hardware. And with the possibility of prescription inserts, people who regularly wear glasses won’t need to swap pairs to access the speech-to-text capability. Xander, a Boston-based startup, plans to launch the glasses as a direct-to-consumer product in spring 2023.