HEAR THIS! One company is leading the way in improving audio access for the hearing impaired
[Originally published in FeedMagazine.tv – Spring 2021]
You really want to hear that YouTube content – the life hack that’s going to change everything. But it was recorded badly, the publisher hasn’t mixed it well, and you just can’t hear exactly what your favourite guru is saying. You turn up your iPhone, but Apple has designed the loudness settings to keep you from shattering your eardrums. Then, of course, there are no video subtitles. So, you watch it at your desktop computer with the BIG SPEAKERS and see how that goes.
It’s really irritating when that happens. But if you’re hard of hearing, this is what a regular day on the internet can be like. Fortunately, there are hearing assistive devices making content more accessible.
Audio communications company, Alango Technologies, is headquartered in Haifa, Israel, and has turned its focus to technologies improving access for the hearing impaired. The company’s BeHear ACCESS assistive hearing device was an honouree at the 2020 CES Innovation Awards. Their philosophy is that hearing impairment is a more universal phenomenon than most people readily admit, and use of hearing assistive technology should be as common as getting glasses.
Accessing audio isn’t entirely a matter of loudness or frequency enhancement. Sometimes the speed of speech makes it difficult to understand for people with age-related hearing loss, but also those with cognitive disabilities or language barriers. Even those who need extra time to write down information as they hear it.
One of Alango’s technologies, EasyListen, slows down incoming speech in real time.
“People with a hearing disability have difficulties listening to fast talkers and, eventually, at some age, all talkers seem fast,” explains Alango founder and CEO, Dr Alexander Goldin. “We can slow down speech and make it more intelligible. It’s a unique technology you cannot find today, even in expensive hearing aids.” BeHear ACCESS was designed for older people, who may have dexterity problems, with large buttons and simple controls.
The company’s EasyWatch technology allows viewers to understand fast talkers on TV, movies and streaming video by dynamically and selectively slowing down both the audio and video streams.
“One problem with hearing loss is that many people are not aware of having it,” says Goldin. “It takes, on average, seven years from the onset of the problem to the point where people become aware. And another three years when they start actually looking for help.”
To shorten this time, Alango has developed a hearing assessment kiosk, which can be put in waiting rooms or pharmacies to assess hearing – then provide customised audio feedback to give people an experience of what they are missing.
“Becoming aware of the problem is not enough to look for help. You need to know what you are missing. Hearing isn’t like vision – I can immediately understand that I can’t read a book or see a traffic sign. But if I don’t hear birds outside, they simply don’t exist for me. At our kiosk, we play video clips and allow people to switch the hearing amplification on and off.”
Getting the right solution in compensating for hearing loss isn’t just a matter of increasing loudness. Most gradual hearing loss is selective along specific frequencies. Increasing loudness brings up other frequencies, which may allow a person to fill in the gaps of what they are not hearing, but those missing frequencies are still likely to remain vacant. Alango uses a technology called multi-channel dynamic range processing. This takes into account all parts of the auditory system and tries to make up for it using the frequencies a person is still able to hear.
“Hearing loss cannot be compensated for completely. But we’re trying to get as close as possible.”
Alango’s technologies are designed for TVs and technologies people use every day. They have begun conversations with tech manufacturers about how to best integrate these new assistive features more widely.
Given the capabilities of most modern devices, we may eventually see smart devices taking into account that the ability to access video and audio is less consistent than we assume. A device integrated with its own hearing assessments – and automatic compensation for it – could be just around the corner.
PEOPLE WITH A HEARING DISABILITY HAVE DIFFICULTIES LISTENING TO FAST TALKERS AND, EVENTUALLY, AT SOME AGE, ALL TALKERS SEEM FAST
View the original article at https://online.bright-publishing.com/view/528237499/68/
Shattering disability stigma for World Hearing Day with Israeli BeHear technology enabling self-administered hearing screening
A.R.M. and BeKol leverage BeHear’s innovative hearing check kiosks to raise hearing health awareness and accessibility
A special initiative by A.R.M. Medical Center, experts in Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck, and Oral and Maxillofacial surgery; BeKol, the organization representing the hard of hearing in Israel; and BeHear by Alango Technologies is designed to shatter disability stigma while promoting hearing health awareness and accessibility.
Imagine a world where disabilities are addressed without stigma. Imagine a world where all people are treated with dignity and respect and can easily implement technological solutions without experiencing shame. While this seems like an obvious and morally imperative goal, when it comes to hearing health there is a painful dissonance between its importance and the general levels of awareness and accessibility. Worst of all, there is a high level of social stigma attached to hearing as a disability, as if it is indicative of being “broken”, old, or damaged, as well as the negative and completely inappropriate association of cognitive incapacity.
World Hearing Day is an annual global initiative sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), designed to raise awareness and promote hearing care at community and national levels across the world. This year’s theme “Hearing care for ALL! Screen. Rehabilitate. Communicate.” fits perfectly with the A.R.M.-BeKol-BeHear initiative to provide free, accessible hearing screening.
Using equipment donated by Alango to BeKol, free access will be provided to BeHear’s hearing check kiosks located at the A.R.M. Medical Center in Assuta Hospital, Tel Aviv. The innovative kiosks offer a unique balance of user-independence with precision results, testing in a quick and simple process that anyone can undertake without the help of a healthcare professional. The system guides the user through a 5-minute hearing assessment using an intuitive interface available in English, Hebrew, Russian, and Arabic. Results are received on the spot and can be sent to the user’s email. The user is then invited to compare “what they hear” with “what they could be hearing” once BeHear’s advanced hearing enhancement technology is applied to the sound they hear.
“Increasing visibility raises acceptance and reduces social stigma.” states Dr. Alexander Goldin, Founder and CEO of Alango Technologies. “There is no excuse for people to be deterred from attaining the hearing care they need due to complicated bureaucracy, fear of going for screening, or high costs. We hope that through the donation of our kiosks to Bekol and the screenings that will take place, many people will be empowered to take control of their hearing health and address any issues they might have sooner, rather than later. People tend to like playing with gadgets so many will find that our hearing assessment is actually an interesting and engaging experience.”
“We at A.R.M. Medical Center work hard to raise awareness about the importance of early diagnosis of hearing loss and the need for appropriate and customized treatment,” states Prof. Michal Lunz, Director of the Department of Ear Surgery and Hearing Rehabilitation, A.R.M. “Each year, in conjunction with World Hearing Day, we hold a special week-long event. We invite the public to come and get tested by A.R.M.’s team of experts and receive the best diagnosis and consulting, all at no cost, in order to make good hearing health accessible to everyone.”
BeKol Executive Director Damian Kelman explains, “Bekol constantly strives to raise awareness and increase accessibility to good hearing health. World Hearing Day 2021 marks a unique opportunity to enhance Bekol’s efforts to provide free hearing screenings to the general population and to elderly adults in particular. With the newly and highly appreciated addition of BeHear kiosks to our centers and hearing mobile stations, we at Bekol look forward to expanding and maximizing the impact of our screening program throughout the year as well. Increasing testing availability and simplifying the process is a critical part of disrupting the barriers to hearing health.”
Free screenings using the Hearing Check Kiosks will take place over the course of two days (March 8 & March 10). The appointments are conditional on pre-registration by phone: 03-7645464, and will take place at A.R.M. Medical Center located at 20 Habarzel Street, 1st floor, Assuta Hospital, Ramat Hachayal, Tel Aviv. In addition to the hearing screenings, A.R.M. offers at no cost consulting appointments with its team of leading otologists and audiologists.
A.R.M Medical Center was founded in 2009 as a center of expertise in the fields of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck, and Oral and Maxillofacial surgery. With its team of leading Israeli doctors, it works to deliver all-encompassing solutions for patient needs, with full consideration of the best available technologies. The A.R.M Medical Center operates within “Assuta”, the most advanced private hospital in Israel. For more information, visit: www.aram-ent.co.il/en
BeKol is the organization representing the hard of hearing in Israel that strives for the empowerment, attainment of equal opportunities, and real integration of the hard of hearing in Israel, in all areas of life. The goal of the BeKol is to ensure that every hard of hearing person in Israel will be able to make the most of their skills, to the extent that their heart desires. For more information, visit: www.bekol.org
About Alango Technologies
Alango Technologies, Ltd. (www.alango.com) has been developing sound enhancement technologies since 2002, selling over 50 million software licenses that improve the audio experience in automotive, entertainment, and smart home applications around the world. Realizing the importance and opportunity of combining the sound enhancement technology found in hearing aids with the advances and costs in the consumer electronics world, the Company is now using its field-proven expertise in sound technology to create products for personal hearing enhancement: the “BeHear” product line (www.WearAndHear.com).
BeHear, HearLink, and Wear & Hear are registered trademarks of Alango Technologies, Ltd. in the United States. All other trademarks are the property of their respective holders.
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Self-Tuned Bluetooth Hearing Amplifier with Telecoil Support Introduced
Designed to aid those with situational hearing loss, the BeHear® ACCESS personalizable hearing headset joins Alango’s Wear & Hear line of hearing enhancement and assistive listening devices
IFA – Berlin, Germany & Tirat Carmel, Israel — September 6, 2019 — Today at the IFA Berlin international tradeshow Alango Technologies Ltd. (“Alango”), a global leader in digital voice, audio, and hearing enhancement technologies, will introduce the latest member of the Wear & Hear line. BeHear ACCESS is a Personalized Hearing Amplifier housed in a stylish Bluetooth® stereo headset. It enhances hearing in various situations, such as face-to-face conversations, live concerts, mobile phone calls, streaming music, TV listening, and others. BeHear ACCESS integrates telecoil receivers making it ideal for use in venues equipped with Induction Loop Systems. Alango will also introduce HearLink™ Plus, a long-range, low latency audio transmitter. This device channels sound from audio sources (such as television sets) directly to BeHear headsets to clarify and personalize the listening experience.
Addressing Growing Concerns About the Prevalence of Untreated Hearing Loss Worldwide
According to recent data from World Health Organization, around 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss, and that number will practically double by the year 2050. Untreated hearing loss is associated with isolation, cognitive decline, and dementia. Globally, hearing aids provide a solution to less than 3% of those that could benefit. Factors for low hearing aid uptake include high cost, stigma, limited functionality, and the long fitting (personalization) process.
“With our Wear & Hear line, we aim to change the unfortunate worldwide hearing health situation. Alango leverages almost two decades of practical experience developing digital sound processing technologies and incorporates them into consumer electronics devices,” states Alango Founder and CEO Dr. Alexander Goldin. “The result is stylish, self-tunable, all-around hearing enhancement products like BeHear ACCESS – viable solutions to the worldwide hearing loss epidemic that cost a fraction of what people generally pay for even basic hearing aids.”
Samples are currently available for reviewers and distribution partners. General availability for both BeHear® ACCESS and HearLink™ Plus is scheduled for Q4 2019. For more information about Wear & Hear, visit www.WearAndHear.com.
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