Hearing tests Chalfont, Bucks

Hearing tests Chalfont, Bucks

 

Hearing tests in Bucks are available at the Chalfont Hearing Centre. Covering the the whole of Buckinghamshire and offers the very latest in hearing tests and other hearing related services such as ear wax removal using Microsuction and the traditional water irrigation technique (sometimes referred as ear syringing).

Chalfont hearing centre ear wax removal

The latest digital hearing aids would be offered after a comprehensive hearing test. These can be discussed after the test depending what your hearing loss (if any) are needed.  Small in the ear digital hearing aids to the more powerful over the ear hearing aids are all available.

 

Chalfont hearing News:

Bucks hearing, ear wax removal Bucks

Eargo hearing aids. Chalfont hearing centre, ear wax removal, digital hearing aids and hearing tests.

Hearing aids have been getting a lot better over the years thanks to the tiny electronic hardware that can be packed inside and smart algorithms that produce great sound.

Henley hearing tests

Eargois a company that’s trying to introduce new features to hearing aids to make them more comfortable, easier to use, and cheaper to afford, an important issue in this field.

Henley hearing aids

The new Eargo Neo hearing aids are almost invisible when inside the ears. They have tiny “Flexi Palms” soft tips that keep the hearing aids inside the ear comfortably while optimizing the sound quality. They have a 16 hour battery life per charge, but a recharge case can be used to refresh the Neos on the go. Something useful when taking a plane ride.

Check out the interview with Daniel Shen from Eargo about the company’s new hearing technology:
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Hearing loss in Bucks

Hearing loss in Bucks

 

The Chalfont hearing centre for hearing issues, is a private hearing company based in Chalfont, Buckinghamshire. Leon Cox, the lead audiologist can help with all matters relating to hearing issues & ear wax removal, also the latest hearing instruments (Hearing aids) and conducts hearing tests.  Book ahead for a comprehensive hearing test and discussion on your hearing heath after the hearing test result.

If you are suffering with hearing loss and suspect that ear wax maybe the issue, Leon Cox will conduct either Micro-suction or use the traditional water ear irrigation technique. Microsuction is painless and is the latest way to remove stubborn ear wax from your ear canal.

hearing loss, hearing aids, hearing aid batteries, hearing test

Chalfont hearing centre, Hearing loss. Hearing issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HEARING issue

News originaly taken from the Hearing Review

Hearing Technology Manufacturers Call for EU Response to Hearing Loss

 

The British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA) works closely with its European counterpart the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA), and has supported their recent efforts to raise awareness of hearing loss with EU policymakers, the trade association announced. EHIMA submitted a parliamentary question to the European Commission in July, which has recently received a response from ministers.

 

The question, which was signed by the Austrian MEP Heinz K. Becker, can be read in full here. The question points to a widening gap between people that self-report hearing loss and the smaller proportion that receive treatment and/or wear devices; this “suboptimal use” of devices is estimated to cost the EU over EUR 500 billion (about USD $583.73 billion) annually. Citing the European Pillar of Social Rights—principles 16 and 17 which cover health care and the inclusion of people with disabilities—the question asks how the Commission can support best practices like early screenings, community education about the benefits of hearing devices, and research related to prevention and treatment strategies for hearing loss.

HEARING issues

The European Commission published its answer on August 24, pointing to its efforts to develop the Best Practice Portal, a website described as a “one-stop shop” for best practices in a number of public health initiatives related to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals developed by the United Nations. In particular, the website aims to meet goal 3.4, “to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being, by one-third.” Additionally, the Commission’s 7th Framework Program for Research (FP7) as well as Horizon 2020—an EU research and innovation program—have funded research on the auditory system, screening standards, hearing devices, diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss-related diseases, and sign language. Further, the Commission states they have proposed a EUR 7.7 billion (USD about $9 billion) health budget for Horizon Europe 2020, focusing on initiatives related to lifelong health, rare diseases, and health care technologies, among other things. To further facilitate hearing-related funding, the Commission said, “Horizon Europe will be open to research proposals on hearing loss, including prevention and rehabilitation and innovative treatments.”

According to BIHIMA’s announcement, the Commission’s response is considered a positive exchange of information. Further, they state, BIHIMA’s European hearing manufacturing partners are encouraged that a greater understanding of hearing loss is being fostered among European policymakers.

“BIHIMA stand fully behind our European partners, EHIMA, in their effort to draw much-needed attention to hearing loss and we applaud this initiative to influence EU decision-making,” said Chairman Paul Surridge.

BIHIMA and EHIMA are together committed to the work of improving the lives of people with hearing loss through promoting greater access to hearing technology.

Source: BIHIMA, EHIMA, European Commission

 

 

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Hearing loss app

Samsung Announces Hearing Loss Detection App and New Initiative

Chalfont hearing news: Original story by The Hearing Review

uSound for Samsung enables users to detect risk of hearing loss free of charge.

The Problem

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 5% of the world’s population—or 466 million people—have disabling hearing loss. In Argentina, hearing impairment constitutes 18% of the existing disabilities according to Info LEG—86.6% of which experience hearing difficulties; 13.4% are deaf.

While those diagnosed with hearing loss can take necessary actions for their individual cases—taking preventive measures to avoid total deafness, getting hearing aids, learning sign language, etc—those who do not know what’s happening to them are subject to a more frustrating experience. This is especially true for children who may lose the chance to develop their cognitive skills and pursue higher education.

Using Technology to Bridge the Gap

uSound for Samsung is an initiative designed to bring technology to people with hearing loss—to help detect the risk of hearing loss and thus improve their quality of life in such essential aspects as communication and education, the South Korea-based company announced.

uSound Test is a free application that is designed to allow users to detect their hearing loss risk. According to the company’s press release, the app reproduces pre-calibrated sounds that users give feedback to. It then compares these results with its database, with the app reportedly detecting specific frequencies the user may have difficulty hearing. uSound Test is designed to analyze the auditory curve that results from the whole test to help determine the degree of hearing loss risk.

uSound for Samsung reportedly issues a report with the results, designed as “a risk indicator,” according to Samsung. Since the test is not designed to be a medical diagnosis, the app recommends users contact hearing health specialists when necessary.

Left to right: Eduardo Ezequiel Escobar, CEO, uSound; Sang Jik Lee, President, Samsung Electronics Argentina; Governor Gerardo Rubén Morales, Jujuy Province, and Dr Gustavo Alfredo Bouhid, Minister of Health, Jujuy Province, sign an agreement to distribute uSound for Samsung in the Jujuy province to help residents detect risk of hearing loss.

Left to right: Eduardo Ezequiel Escobar, CEO, uSound; Sang Jik Lee, President, Samsung Electronics Argentina; Governor Gerardo Rubén Morales, Jujuy Province, and Dr Gustavo Alfredo Bouhid, Minister of Health, Jujuy Province, sign an agreement to distribute uSound for Samsung in the Jujuy province to help residents detect risk of hearing loss.

Cynthia Giolito, senior manager, corporate citizenship, Samsung Electronics Argentina, said: “uSound for Samsung reinforces our mission to offer technology with a purpose that improves quality of life. We are very proud to embark on this path and we hope to have solid results that will promote hearing accessibility in more places.”

Through uSound for Samsung, the company hopes to use its technology and resources to:

  • Raise awareness about hearing loss and improve public policies;
  • Avoid irreversible damage to hearing organs;
  • Encourage learning and cognitive development for children;
  • Develop speech and facilitate social inclusion;
  • Contribute to a more egalitarian society.

Working with the Community

The Government of Jujuy will provide resources and workspaces for the hearing loss-detection campaign, according to Samsung. uSound will continue to help improve hearing experiences with its products, including the aforementioned test and an app that turns the cell phone into an auditory assistant**, according to the company’s announcement. Samsung Electronics will provide the necessary technology to carry out a first pilot test of uSound Test in health centers across Jujuy and will financially support the project.

Eduardo Ezequiel Escobar, CEO, uSound (fifth from left); Sang Jik Lee, President, Samsung Electronics Argentina (seventh from left); Governor Gerardo Rubén Morales, Jujuy Province (eighth from left); and Dr Gustavo Alfredo Bouhid, Minister of Health, Jujuy Province (ninth from left) pose with other related parties for a group picture commemorating the signing event.

Eduardo Ezequiel Escobar, CEO, uSound (fifth from left); Sang Jik Lee, President, Samsung Electronics Argentina (seventh from left); Governor Gerardo Rubén Morales, Jujuy Province (eighth from left), and Dr Gustavo Alfredo Bouhid, Minister of Health, Jujuy Province (ninth from left) pose with other related parties for a group picture commemorating the signing event.

Governor Gerardo Rubén Morales, Jujuy Province, said: “It is a pleasure to accompany uSound, a company from Jujuy, take on its challenges. With the support of Samsung, this project will impact thousands of people with hearing problems. It is great that this project started in Jujuy. We hope it can be replicated throughout Argentina and in other countries—technological innovation knows no boundaries.”

As a team, the Government of Jujuy, uSound, and Samsung Electronics Argentina will help give a larger part of the Argentine community access to tools to potentially change lives through the use of technology.

Ezequiel Escobar, CEO and co-founder of uSoundsaid: “We witnessed a truly historic opportunity for our company and for Jujuy. This plan, using our technologies, will benefit many people from Jujuy and has the potential to expand to help many more people around the world. We are talking about a huge impact that grows even more with the support from Samsung and the Ministry of Health of Jujuy.”

Samsung has been preparing for entry into the hearing care market for several years; Hearing Review reported that the company filed an April 2013 patent for a “small hearing aid.” In 2015, Samsung placed a $13.9 million order for hearing aid amplifiers driven, according to a BusinessKorea article, by Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong’s interest in what it called “mobile health care.” More recently, SamMobile reported in 2016 that Samsung applied for trademark registration of the term Earcle in South Korea, and that its application referenced hearing aids. Additionally, a Samsung device described as a “Samsung Bluetooth Hearing Aid” with the model number SM-R790, reportedly surfaced at the Bluetooth Special Interest Group’s (SIG) database.

 

* Not a medical diagnosis

** Not a hearing aid

*** Translated from Spanish and edited for clarity

Source: Samsung

Images: Samsung

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Depression and Hearing Loss

Depression and Hearing Loss

Chalfont Hearing News:

Depression and its connection to hearing loss seems pretty logical and self-evident, especially if you’re a dispensing professional who experiences daily the difference that amplification can make in a person’s life. In fact, many clinicians find themselves explaining the connection as follows: a person’s hearing loss and related communication problems can lead to gaffes and social faux pas; leading to embarrassment, anxiety, and loss of self-esteem; leading to gradual withdrawal from social situations and physical activity; leading to social isolation and loneliness; and eventually bringing them down the path to depression.

Karl Strom_photo

While this is probably an adequate description for some cases, a recent webinar1 by Victor Bray, PhD, associate professor and former dean of Salus University’s Osborne College of Audiology, points to more recent scientific literature that paints a far more complex picture of hearing loss and its association with depression—one we all should be aware of. The utility of hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive devices is made no less important by this complexity; however, it’s vital to understand who might be most at risk for depression in your patient population, how best to administer simple screening tools (ie, the PHQ-2 or PHQ-9), and why it’s important to refer patients to a medical doctor or psychologist, when indicated. 

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), is present in 5-10% of the general population (up to 40% in some groups), and is a serious medical illness that negatively affects feelings, thoughts, and actions. The primary risk factors for depression are co-morbid chronic medical conditions (hearing loss is a pervasive chronic condition, especially among seniors) and recent stressful events. And, as with cognitive decline and dementia—the subject of my editorial last month—the stakes in treating depression are high for society and healthcare professionals. As Hsu and colleagues (2016) pointed out:

Depression is a common mental disorder, which affects 350 million people in the world. Unipolar depressive disorders and adult-onset hearing loss, the most common neuropsychiatric conditions, and sense organ disorder, respectively, are the first and second leading nonfatal causes of year loss due to disability among adults in high-income countries.2

Several of the studies reviewed by Dr Bray tend to suggest that the odds ratio for acquiring depression increases by a factor of about two if you have untreated hearing loss. However, a lot of the studies also show that a variety of chronic illnesses—ranging from cirrhosis to diabetes mellitus—can be associated with depression, so there could be some underlying neurophysiological common cause in hearing loss and other health problems that hasn’t been discovered yet. Dr Bray also looks at some very intriguing research about how dual-sensory loss (ie, hearing and vision loss) and sudden sensorineural hearing loss (particularly among young people) can greatly increase the risk for depression, as well as studies that are shedding light on how treated hearing loss might positively affect those suffering from anxiety, loneliness, and depression. 

As Dr Bray explains, the linkage of hearing loss to depression could come from both a social (downstream) effect, as described at the beginning of this article, and a biological/neurological (upstream) effect, as proposed in a model by Rutherford et al.3 If that were the case, an effective treatment plan could involve therapy and/or medication from a psychologist, in coordination with a hearing device and/or auditory and cognitive retraining from a hearing care professional. 

Dr Bray’s webinar was sponsored by Hamilton CapTel, and the company also sponsored an exceptionally interesting and well-viewed webinar last year about hearing loss and associated co-morbidities (including depression) by Harvey Abrams, PhD.4,5 When viewed together, they put an exclamation point on the fact that hearing loss isn’t just about the ears, it’s about health, the brain, quality of life, healthy aging, and so much more—while underscoring the crucial role of the hearing care professional in general healthcare.

To see Dr Bray’s webinar, visit https://bit.ly/2Lpt4AW

Citation for this article: Strom KE. Depression and hearing loss. Hearing Review. 2018;25(8):6.

References

1. Bray V. Depression, hearing loss, and treatment with hearing aids [Webinar]. July 13, 2018. Available at: http://www.hearingreview.com/2018/07/new-webinar-depression-hearing-loss-treatment-hearing-aids

2. Hsu W-T, Hsu C-C, Wen M-H, et al. Increased risk of depression in patients with acquired sensory hearing loss: A 12-year follow-up study. Medicine. 2016;95(44):e5312.

3. Rutherford BR, Brewster K, Golub JS, Kim AH, Roose SP. Sensation and psychiatry: Linking age-related hearing loss to late-life depression and cognitive decline. Am J Psychiatry. 2017;175(3):215-224.

4. Abrams H. Hearing loss and associated comorbidities: What do we know [Webinar]? May 31, 2017. Available at: http://www.hearingreview.com/2017/05/new-webinar-hearing-loss-associated-comorbidities-know/

5. Abrams H. Hearing loss and associated comorbidities: What do we know? Hearing Review. 2017;24(12):32-35. Available at: http://www.hearingreview.com/2017/11/hearing-loss-associated-comorbidities-know/

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City, University of London to Pilot Language and Reading Intervention for Children

City, University of London to Pilot Language and Reading Intervention for Children

Chalfont Hearing Centre, Bucks

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-school-kids-classroom-lesson-children-image31061178

Researchers from City, University of London have been awarded £97k ($USD approximately $136,479) from the Nuffield Foundation to pilot a language and reading intervention with 120 children in their first year of formal education, the school announced on its website.

Involving Dr Ros Herman, Professor Penny Roy, and Dr Fiona Kyle from the School of Health Science’s Division of Language and Communication Science, in collaboration with Professor Charles Hulme from Oxford University, the study—which is reportedly the first reading intervention study to include both deaf and hearing children—will trial the new intervention in primary schools for a year and compare outcomes with other schools that offer the standard literacy teaching.

The research team have shown in previous research that many severely and profoundly deaf children have significant reading delays, yet are typically excluded from reading intervention research.

In this new study, teachers will be trained to deliver the intervention program, comprising systematic phonics teaching alongside a structured vocabulary program, during the school literacy hour. The study will investigate whether all children, or only specific groups of children, benefit from the integrated program and whether a full-scale evaluation is merited.

Dr Herman said, “Our previous research has revealed the scale of reading difficulties among deaf children. Our findings suggest that deaf children will benefit from specialist literacy interventions such as those currently offered to hearing children with dyslexia. In addition, deaf children and many hearing children require ongoing support to develop the language skills that underlie literacy.

“As a result we hope our new study, which will pilot a combined language and reading intervention, will address these issues so that teachers can provide the vital support needed to prevent both hearing and deaf children from unnecessarily falling behind their peers.”

Source: City, University of London

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Neurofeedback May Reduce Severity of Tinnitus, Study Shows

Neurofeedback May Reduce Severity of Tinnitus, Study Shows

Chalfont Hearing Centre

Researchers using functional MRI (fMRI) have found that neurofeedback training has the potential to reduce the severity of tinnitus or even eliminate it, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), the international society of radiologists, medical physicists, and other medical professionals announced on its website.

sherwood_fig_1

The standard approach to fMRI neurofeedback.

 Tinnitus is the perception of noise, often ringing, in the ear. The condition is very common, affecting approximately one in five people. As sufferers start to focus on it more, they become more frustrated and anxious, which in turn makes the noise seem worse. The primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain where auditory input is processed, has been implicated in tinnitus-related distress.

For the study, researchers looked at a novel potential way to treat tinnitus by having people use neurofeedback training to turn their focus away from the sounds in their ears. Neurofeedback is a way of training the brain by allowing an individual to view some type of external indicator of brain activity and attempt to exert control over it.

“The idea is that in people with tinnitus there is an over-attention drawn to the auditory cortex, making it more active than in a healthy person,” said Matthew S. Sherwood, PhD, research engineer and adjunct faculty in the Department of Biomedical, Industrial, and Human Factors Engineering at Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio. “Our hope is that tinnitus sufferers could use neurofeedback to divert attention away from their tinnitus and possibly make it go away.”

Matthew S. Sherwood, PhD

Matthew S. Sherwood, PhD

To determine the potential efficacy of this approach, the researchers had 18 healthy volunteers with normal hearing undergo five fMRI-neurofeedback training sessions. Study participants were given earplugs through which white noise could be introduced for periods of time. The earplugs also served to block out the scanner noise.

sherwood_fig_2

Overview of the experimental design. Each participant completed 5 sessions.

To obtain fMRI results, the researchers used single-shot echo planar imaging, an MRI technique that is sensitive to blood oxygen levels, providing an indirect measure of brain activity.

“We started with alternating periods of sound and no sound in order to create a map of the brain and find areas that produced the highest activity during the sound phase,”  Sherwood said. “Then we selected the voxels that were heavily activated when sound was being played.”

The volunteers then participated in the fMRI-neurofeedback training phase while inside the MRI scanner. They received white noise through their earplugs and were able to view the activity in their primary auditory cortex as a bar on a screen. Each fMRI-neurofeedback training run contained eight blocks separated into a 30-second “relax” period followed by a 30-second “lower” period. Participants were instructed to watch the bar during the relax period and actively attempt to lower it by decreasing primary auditory cortex activity during the lower phase.

Neurofeedback training paradigm.

Neurofeedback training paradigm.

The researchers gave the participants techniques to help them do this, such as trying to divert attention from sound to other sensations like touch and sight.

“Many focused on breathing because it gave them a feeling of control,” Sherwood said. “By diverting their attention away from sound, the participants’ auditory cortex activity went down, and the signal we were measuring also went down.”

A control group of nine individuals were provided sham neurofeedback—they performed the same tasks as the other group, but the feedback came not from them but from a random participant. By performing the exact same procedures with both groups using either real or sham neurofeedback, the researchers were able to distinguish the effect of real neurofeedback on control of the primary auditory cortex.

Control over the primary auditory cortex (A1 control) separated by group and session. The experimental group was found to have significantly higher control, averaged across training, than the control group.

Control over the primary auditory cortex (A1 control) separated by group and session. The experimental group was found to have significantly higher control, averaged across training, than the control group.

Whole brain effects of neurofeedback training.

Whole brain effects of neurofeedback training.

Effect of emotion on attention. Emotional distractors resulted in a significantly larger change in response latency in the experimental group when compared to the control group. However, the impact of emotion on attention was not found to change significantly between the groups across training.

Effect of emotion on attention. Emotional distractors resulted in a significantly larger change in response latency in the experimental group when compared to the control group. However, the impact of emotion on attention was not found to change significantly between the groups across training.

Activation of the primary auditory cortex in response to binaural stimulation. Activation significantly decreased from session 1 to session 5.

Activation of the primary auditory cortex in response to binaural stimulation. Activation significantly decreased from session 1 to session 5.

Improvements in control over the primary auditory cortex were found to be significantly related to decreases in the effect of emotion on attention.

Improvements in control over the primary auditory cortex were found to be significantly related to decreases in the effect of emotion on attention.

The study reportedly represents the first time fMRI-neurofeedback training has been applied to demonstrate that there is a significant relationship between control of the primary auditory cortex and attentional processes. This is important to therapeutic development, Sherwood said, as the neural mechanisms of tinnitus are unknown but likely related to attention.

The results represent a promising avenue of research that could lead to improvements in other areas of health like pain management, according to Sherwood.

“Ultimately, we’d like take what we learned from MRI and develop a neurofeedback program that doesn’t require MRI to use, such as an app or home-based therapy that could apply to tinnitus and other conditions,” he said.

Co-authors are Emily E. Diller, MS; Subhashini Ganapathy, PhD; Jeremy Nelson, PhD; and Jason G. Parker, PhD. This material is based on research sponsored by the US Air Force under agreement number FA8650-16-2-6702. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official views or policy of the Department of Defense and its Components. The US Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for Governmental purposes notwithstanding any copyright notation thereon. The voluntary, fully informed consent of the subjects used in this research was obtained as required by 32 CFR 219 and DODI 3216.02_AFI 40-402.

Source: RSNA

Images: RSNA

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Unitron Launches Moxi ALL Hearing Instrument

Unitron Launches Moxi ALL Hearing Instrument

Published on 

unitron_logo

Unitron announced the release of its latest hearing instrument, Moxi ALL.

Like all hearing instruments driven by the Tempus™ platform, Moxi ALL was designed around the company’s core philosophy of putting consumer needs at the forefront. The new hearing solution is designed to deliver “amazing sound quality,” according to Unitron, and advanced binaural performance features that help consumers hear their best in all of life’s conversations, including those on mobile phones.

After powering up overnight, a rechargeable battery is designed to help “keep them in the conversation” for up to 16 hours, including two hours of mobile phone use and five hours of TV streaming. Plus, consumers never have to worry if they forget to charge because they have the flexibility to swap in traditional batteries at any time.

A new way to deliver their most personalized solution 

Consumers can take home Moxi ALL hearing instruments to try before they buy with FLEX:TRIAL™.

“Today’s consumers are not interested in one-size-fits-all. They want to know that the hearing instrument they select is personalized to their individual listening needs and preferences,” said Lilika Beck, vice president, Global Marketing, for Unitron. “This simple truth is driving our FLEX™ ecosystem—a collection of technologies, services, and programs designed to make the experience of buying and using a hearing instrument feel easy and empowering.”

As the latest addition to the FLEX ecosystem, Moxi ALL is proof of Unitron’s ongoing commitment to putting consumers at the center of its mission to provide the most personalized experience on the market when it comes to choosing hearing instruments.

The global roll-out of Moxi ALL begins February 23, 2018.

Source: Unitron

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Hearing protection, Chalfont Buckinghamshire

GN Store Nord Develops Device to Protect Soldiers’ Hearing

soldier aims gun
GN Store Nord has announced a “first of its kind, fully fledged hearing protection solution, enabling defense and security forces to hear more, do more, and be more.” With this advanced tactical hearing-protection solution, GN reports that it is leveraging unique leading competencies within intelligent audio solutions in both hearing aids and headsets to create an unparalleled noise management solution. The product will be manufactured at its Bloomington, Minn, facility where ReSound is also located.

The global market for military communication systems is estimated to be about $630 million, and features competitors such as Peltor (3M), INVISIO, Silynx, Racal Acoustics, and MSA Sordin, according to long-time hearing industry analyst Niels Granholm-Leth of Carnegie Investment Bank in Copenhagen.  GN has embarked on several projects in its GN Stratcom organization, which is currently part of GN Hearing, although the company could eventually establish it as a stand-alone division alongside its Hearing (ReSound, Beltone, and Interton) and Headset divisions (Jabra).

The new patented hearing protection solution is designed specifically for defense and security forces. GN says the solution offers the user a communication headset which is designed to be comfortable, highly durable, and protects the user against high volume noise. At the same time, by leveraging GN’s expertise within situational awareness, the solution allows its user to clearly identify important sound in 360°.

Anders Hedegaard

Anders Hedegaard

“The GN Group encompasses consumer, professional, and medical grade hearing technology under the same roof,” says CEO of GN Hearing, Anders Hedegaard. “This unique platform makes it possible to expand GN’s business into adjacent opportunities within the sound space. With our user-centric approach we aim to be the leader in intelligent audio solutions to transform lives through the power of sound.”

GN will be starting to build a small, swift group related to this new business opportunity. This year, GN will participate in military tenders in the United States and with other NATO-countries. The new product line will, under the name GN FalCom, include:

  • Comfort. Designed for optimal physical comfort allowing for multiple hours of use in extreme combat situations;
  • Clarity. Enables users to localize sounds all around them without the need to remove the earpiece. To maintain high quality communications at all times, GN FalCom will integrate seamlessly with military radio technology, and
  • Protection. Allows users to stay connected while benefitting from noise protection. For example, users will experience the highest level of safety without blocking out wanted sounds.

The  hearing protection solution builds on GN’s expertise in sound processing from both GN Hearing and GN Audio—and across R&D teams in the United States and Denmark. It is a successful result of corporate level investments made through GN’s Strategy Committee guided initiatives to explore opportunities outside of, but related to, GN’s existing business areas. According to the company, the hearing protection solution will be manufactured at GN’s existing production facilities in Bloomington, Minn, and will not impact GN’s financial guidance for 2018.

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Google’s Pixel Buds: ‘Sorry, Can’t Help, But Always Learning’

Want to know what A.I. Hell is like?

How about interacting with a machine that repeatedly professes stupefaction when you just know it should know what you’re talking about?

I was excited when I heard last fall that Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google’s new wireless ear pieces would perform a kind of “real time” translation of languages, as it was billed.

The ear pieces, “Pixel Buds,” which arrived in the mail the other day, turn out to be rather limited and somewhat frustrating.

They are in a sense just a new way to be annoyed by the shortcomings of Google’s A.I., Google Assistant.

The devices were unveiled at Google’s “Made By Google” hardware press conference in early October, where it debuted its new Pixel 2 smartphone, which I’ve positively reviewed in this space, and its new “mini” version of the “Google Home” appliance.

The Buds retail for $159 and can be ordered from Google’s online store.

Google’s Pixel Buds: ‘Sorry, Can’t Help, But Always Learning’

Getting the things to pair with the Pixel 2 Plus that I use was problematic at first, but eventually succeeded after a series of attempts. I’ve noticed some similar issues with other Bluetooth-based devices, so I soldiered on and got it to work.

The sound quality and the fit is fine. The device is very lightweight, and the tether that connects the two ear pieces — they are not completely wireless like Apple’s (AAPL) AirPods — snakes around the back of one’s neck and is not uncomfortable.

The adjustable loops on each ear piece made the buds fit in my ears comfortably and stay there while I moved around. So, good job, Google, on industrial design.

Translating was another story.

One has to first install Google Translate, an application from Google of which I’m generally a big fan. Google supports translation in the app of 40 languages initially.

You invoke the app by putting your finger to the touch-sensitive spot on the right ear piece and saying something like, “Help me to speak Greek.” When you lift your finger, it invokes the Google Assistant on the Pixel 2 phone, who tells you in the default female voice that she will launch the Translate app.

Google’s Pixel Buds: ‘Sorry, Can’t Help, But Always Learning’

Several times, however, the assistant told me she had no idea how to help. Sometimes she understood the request the second time around. It seemed to be hit or miss whether my command was understood or was valid. On a number of other occasions, she told me she couldn’t yet help with a particular language, even though the language was among the 40 offered. It seemed like more common languages, such as French and Spanish, elicited little protest. But asking for, say, the Georgian language to be translated stumped her, even though Georgian is in the set of supported tongues.

This dialogue with the machine to get my basic wishes fulfilled fell very far below the Turing Test:

Me: “Help me to speak Greek.”

Google: “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help with that yet.”

Me: “Help me to translate Greek.”

Google: “Sure, opening Google Translate.”

Me: “Help me to speak Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help with that.”

Me: “Help me to speak Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I don’t understand.”

Me: “Help me to speak Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I can’t help with that yet, but I’m always learning.”

Me: “Help me to translate Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that.”

In answer to Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, who writes of a new era of “continuous learning” for humans, I would like all humans to tell their future robot masters, “Sorry, I can’t help with that yet, but I’m always learning.”

When it does work, the process of translating is a little underwhelming. The app launches, and you touch the right ear piece’s touch-sensitive area, and speak your phrase in your native language. As you’re speaking, Google Translate is turning that into transcribed text on the screen, in the foreign script. When you are fully done speaking, the entire phrase is played back in the foreign language through the phone’s speaker for your interlocutor to hear. That person can then press an icon in the Translate app and speak to you in their native tongue, and their phrase is played for you, translated, through your ear piece.

Google’s Pixel Buds: ‘Sorry, Can’t Help, But Always Learning’

Even this doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes, after asking for help with one language, the Google Assistant would launch the Translate app and the app would be stuck on the previously used language. At other times, it was just fine. In the worst instances, the application would tell me it was having audio issues when I would tap the ear piece to speak, requiring me to kill the app and start again.

This is all rather cumbersome.

I went and tried Translate on my iPhone 7 Plus, using Apple’s AirPods, and had pretty much an equivalent experience, with somewhat less frustration. All I had to do was to double-tap the AirPods and say, “Launch Google Translate,” and then continue from there as normal. It’s slightly more limited in that the iPhone’s speaker is not playing back the translation for my interlocutor; that plays through the AirPods. But on the flip side, it’s actually a little easier to use the app because one can maintain a kind of “open mic” by pressing the microphone icon. The app will then continuously listen for whichever language is spoken, translating back and forth between the two constantly, rather than having to tell it at each turn who’s speaking.

All in all, then, Pixel Buds are just a fancy interface to Google Translate, which doesn’t seem to me revolutionary, and is rather less than what I’d hoped for, and very kludgy. It’s a shame, because I like Google Translate, and I like the whole premise of this enterprise.

At any rate, back to school, Google, keep learning.

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