Deaf News: Deafened science writer develops tool to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ WiFi through his hearing aids

Posted on November 14, 2014

A science writer has developed new a technology to audibly demonstrate the humming of WiFi connections.

When he began losing his hearing, Frank Swain decided to try and find a way to replace the sounds. However, he didn’t just want to be able to hear again; he wanted to be able to listen in on things even hearing people cannot access.

In collaboration with sound designer Daniel Jones, Swain began developing a tool to make WiFi – which cannot normally be heard with human ears – audible. The pair named their project ‘Phantom Terrains’.

The system works by locating any local WiFi elements (routers, data rates, encryption modes) and giving each a sonic tone. The tones are streamed to Swain’s phone, which is in turn connected to his hearing aids, allowing him to pick them up as audible sounds.


The audio stream is made up of layers, depending on how close the WiFi signal is. For example, distant signals give intermittent pops and clicks, while stronger signals create an ongoing looped melody.

In order to show how the technology works, Swain took a walk and recorded the various WiFi signals he encountered. He noted the sounds and also created a visual representation, shown below -:


The stronger network signals are shown as wider shapes, and the different colours show the broadcast channels. The pattern itself shows the security level of that particular signal.

Although the graphs and sounds are artistic, there are also wider implications for the tool. Swain feels it could be the starting point for some kind of ‘auditory prosthetic’ technology, enhancing the range of normal hearing or supporting hearing loss.

It could be that we are entering an age of augmented reality for the ears.

Read more here -:

Visit the Phantom Terrains project here -:

By Emily Howlett

The Limping Chicken is the world’s most popular deaf blog.

Make sure you never miss a post by finding out how to follow us, and don’t forget to check out what our supporters provide: 


The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

Find out how to write for us by clicking here, how to follow us by clicking here, and read our disclaimer here.

The site exists thanks to our supporters. Check them out below: