Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hearing Loss and Earthquakes

A very strange story is being reported concerning a 75 yr old with hearing loss. Robert Valderzak, from Virginia had been using a special speakerphone with a light on it that flashed when it was ringing and an audio device system to communicate. After experiencing an earthquake his hearing was somehow restored. Robert considered it an act of G-d.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hearing Better With Your Smart Phone

From WSJ:
A group of hearing health professionals, including ear, nose and throat doctors, audiologists and sound engineers, have teamed up to tackle the wide and underserved market of people who have some hearing loss, but not necessarily enough to require a hearing aid.
Kevin Leung, left, who has hearing loss, was surprised by the ACEHearing enhancement when he tried out the device earlier this year at Ximplar's office in Hong Kong.
"Although 38% of the world's population has some degree of hearing loss, only a very small percentage actually seek professional help," said Andrew Van Hasselt, who chairs the ear, nose and throat department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Prof. Van Hasselt is one of the principal developers of ACEHearing, a "firmware"—software embedded in hardware. They say ACEHearing essentially turns everyday consumer electronics into hearing-enhancement devices. The innovation is a finalist in this year's Asian Innovation Awards.
The first application of the technology will be on smartphones, either as a downloadable app or firmware that will be installed in phones before purchase.
Users will be able to assess their own hearing in a quiet room by performing a hearing test that takes about five minutes. The device will capture and assess the individual's hearing profile, and then calibrate the smartphone to adjust and enhance its sound output by filling in gaps in the part of the sound spectrum where hearing is less than ideal. It doesn't just make everything louder.
Clinical trials have shown no significant difference between the ACEHearing test and a traditional test administered by an audiologist, according to Paul Lee, director at Ximplar Ltd., a Hong Kong-based software company that developed the ACEHearing technology.
"We've tested it in a quiet room, and those results are absolutely valid," Mr. Lee said. "We are going for accuracy first, but we want to make the test as short, simple and engaging as possible."
ACEHearing will be able to help a wide spectrum of people, from those with a small amount of hearing loss to people with severe hearing loss, according to Prof. Van Hasselt.
And although ACEHearing isn't meant to replace hearing aids, it could prove useful to those who already have them, as it eliminates the need to wear a hearing device while on the phone, thus eradicating annoying and sometimes painful telephone signal interference.
The team hopes to move beyond smartphones in the near future, and implant the ACEHearing firmware in headsets, earphones, MP3 players and even telephone servers and switchboards.
"People are using everyday consumer electronics all the time, so we're incorporating it into the devices that people already have," Mr. Lee explained.
Many people don't seek treatment for hearing loss, according to the ACEHearing team. They are put off by the long process of getting a professional hearing test, which requires a referral to a specialist and multiple doctor visits. There's also the cost of a hearing aid, which can run from $1,000 to $4,000 per ear.
"A lot of people feel they're not bad enough to go and seek help," Prof. Van Hasselt said. And as anyone with a hard-of-hearing parent or grandparent knows, once hearing aids are procured, it's often a hard sell to persuade loved ones to wear them.
The ACEHearing team believes that they have solved the problems of convenience and cost (which would be included in the price of a smartphone or comparable to an app on iTunes), as well as the stigma of wearing a hearing aid.
At noisy dinner parties or business meetings, ACEHearing says users can wear a Bluetooth, leave their phone on the table, and be able to hear everything that's being said loud and clear.
Professor Van Hasselt of Chinese University of Hong Kong developed the firmware with Ximplar Ltd., a Hong Kong-based software company. The technology will first be deployed on smartphones using a touch screen, above.
Although ACEHearing is a finished technology and has an app compatible with both Apple and Android operating systems, it isn't expected to be commercially available until early 2012.
Currently, the firmware is being shopped around as a licensing opportunity for smartphone and earphone manufacturers, said Guy Proulx, managing director at Transpacific IP Ltd., a management and consulting firm that has taken on the marketing of ACEHearing.
"We're trying to hook up with large manufacturers, and go after the biggest players in the marketplace," he said.
Mr. Proulx added that there were several parties interested, but he declined to give further details.
The team hopes that ACEHearing will eventually become pervasive on all devices that produce sound.
"I can't hear some high-frequency sounds, and I became increasingly frustrated on the phone with my wife and kids," Prof. Van Hasselt said. "I was convinced that if we could bring together all the hearing expertise we could, we could help millions of people, including myself, to have a better quality of life."
The team's combined years of research and clinical experience in sound and hearing fast-tracked ACEHearing's development, which has taken about 18 months.