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Vibrating vests let hearing-impaired feel music at concerts in France

Devices designed to enhance sensation for gamers now being used to allow the hard of hearing to enjoy music by feeling the rhythm instead

Dancing to music at festival in France Pic: FreeProd33 / Shutterstock

Vibrating vests are to be used at events such as concerts and festivals to make them more accessible to the hearing-impaired.

Savalaure classical and baroque music festival taking place in Cantal in late July will be among those offering the vests, so the hard of hearing can join in.

“I think this is a big step forward for these audiences, who are often on the fringes of many cultural events” Nathalie Perdu, organiser of the Savalaure festival, told franceinfo.

Using an algorithm to turn sounds into pulsations, the vests are able to transform low frequencies into vibrations.

Originally designed for use by gamers

However, the vests were not designed for this - their original use was to enhance sensation for gamers, cinema-goers and in virtual reality experiences.

Harnessing this technology to make sound culture inclusive for all is the Paris-based company Timmpi, which specialises in immersive and inclusive audio technologies.

The SUBPAC tactile bass technology used in the vests makes use of receptors on the skin, in the muscles, as well as bone conduction, working to create a deeper connection with the music.

Marie-Claire Hall, who is profoundly deaf, demonstrated the jacket for Savalaure festival organiser Ms Perdu, dancing to the beat the moment Michael Jackson began playing.

“Without the vest, I can’t hear the music” Ms Hall said. “But thanks to the vibrations, I can feel everything. I’m so happy”, she added.

Funding for the vests, which cost around €1,000 each, may have to rely on grants and subsidies for the time, but there are now companies that rent them out for large events as well.

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