Partially deaf man claims he can 'hear' Wi-Fi

A man who is going deaf claims that he can now "hear" Wi-Fi signals.

London-based science writer A man who is going deaf claims that he can now "hear" Wi-Fi signals.n, 32, was diagnosed with early onset hearing loss when he was in his 20s, reported UK's The Independent.

In 2012, he was fitted with hearing aids, which he learnt how to hack.

Two years later, and after receiving a grant from UK innovation charity Nesta, Mr Swain produced Phantom Terrains, a new tool that makes Wi-Fi signals audible.

He created this with sound artist Daniel Jones.

The tool runs on Mr Swain's iPhone and picks up details about nearby signals, such as the router name, signal strength and distance.

Each detail is given its own sonic tone and streamed to his phone. It is picked up by a special pair of Bluetooth-connected hearing aids.

Mr Swain will as a result always be able to hear Wi-Fi as long as he carries his phone with him. He said that distant Wi-Fi signals sound like click and pops, while stronger networks play a looped song, reported UK's The Daily Mail.

Mr Swain told New Scientist magazine that the modern world is suffused with data.

And yet, despite wireless communication becoming a ubiquitous presence in modern life, the underlying infrastructure has remained largely invisible.

"Since radio towers began climbing over towns and cities in the early 20th century, the air has grown thick with wireless communication," he said.

On being able to hear Wi-Fi signals, he said: "You expect it to be really strange, but it very quickly becomes ordinary.

"It was a big blow to find I was losing my hearing, so it was nice to have my expectations turned around. (Instead of thinking) of it being a disability, it could be an enhancement," he said.

This article was first published on Nov 17, 2014.
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