Client: Royal National Institute for the Deaf

Sector: Healthcare

Commission: 2004

Launch: 2005

Universal Hear-ring is an experimental research project organised by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf in London. The organisation asked a group of design companies to explore the potential technological and cultural shifts that could take place in the hearing aid market over the next ten years. Observing how spectacles have crossed the boundary from medical to consumer product and become a desirable item, PearsonLloyd explored how they could re-position the hearing aid.

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Wearable ‘ear’ technology is becoming more accepted thanks to advances in the telecoms and music sectors. It is no longer un-common to see people wearing hands free mobile earpieces, bluetooth and MP3 players on, or in their ears. So the design studio proposed that new telecoms technology such as bluetooth/mp3/hands-free could be integrated into ‘hearing aids’ of the future, both for leisure/quality of life and hearing performance purposes.

Called Hear Wear, PearsonLloyd’s hearing aid concept serves a function beyond its medical requirements and acts as a hands free earpiece for general use. Like telecom earwear, the earpiece sits in the ear. By creating an ambiguity between telecoms and hearing product, the hearing aid becomes less visible – even though the object itself is bigger.

PearsonLloyd developed a new aesthetic language for the earpiece, more in tune with jewellery and decoration than technology. Comprising a technical inner core, the earpiece has a decorative outer ring. The interchangeable outer ring enables the product to be customised by the user to reflect their personality using colour, shape and material.