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.
"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.