February 28, 2019
Over the course of 2019, RAZ Mobility will be making a significant effort to become more data driven in order to offer people with disabilities the best possible solutions. This evidence-based approach will help RAZ Mobility accurately evaluate new solutions, as well as existing solutions.
With that in mind, together with a start-up company called TuneFork, RAZ Mobility tested new technology intended to help individuals who are hard of hearing, hear better on their smartphones. The trial was conducted with the assistance of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). There were 21 participants, more than 75 percent of whom used hearing aids at least some of the time.
The purpose of the trial was to test whether an amplifier in combination with audio personalization helped people hear better on mobile devices. In order to “personalize” the audio, participants took a hearing test on a smartphone and, much like hearing aids, the audio was adjusted based on the hearing test results.
Using an amplifier allowed the solution to help people with even severe hearing loss. Without an amplifier, audio personalization wouldn’t be able to help people with much more than 60db of hearing loss. With an amplifier, the solution could potentially help people with up to 90bd of hearing loss.
The results of the trial were very encouraging. Eighty-Five percent of trial participants reported that they could hear better with the amplifier combined with the audio personalization, compared to the smartphone alone. Perhaps more significantly, 89 percent of participants reported that their hearing was better with the amplifier and audio personalization compared to just the amplifier. The conclusion is clear: for the large majority of people who are hard of hearing, amplification alone is not as effective as amplification PLUS audio personalization.
Note that trial participants removed their hearing aids for the purpose of the trial. It is not clear whether the technology would help people hear better on their devices if they wore their hearing aids. However, the technology may be helpful even to people who own hearing aids since many people do not like to wear them when they are on phone calls.
RAZ mobility is exploring the various ways in which audio personalization technology for mobile devices can be introduced to the market. One possibility is to incorporate the technology into the Lucia cell phone for people who are blind, visually impaired or hard of hearing.