Aug 2019 Cambridge Independent

Audacious, a first-of-its-kind mobile phone technology for those with hearing difficulties, is now on sale in the UK. Audacious technology clarifies what you hear on a mobile thanks to a unique Cambridge-devised hearing test. The test reveals your auditory ability, and the resulting pattern is then ported on to a SIM card, with sound frequencies adjusted according to your profile. The SIM card costs £14 a month for the 2GB option, peaking at £24 a month for the 10GB plan.

Audacious was founded by Matthew Turner, who has had moderate to severe hearing loss his whole life. Matthew set up the network in response to the lack of support provided to him and many others by the telecoms networks.

The Audacious network is underpinned by the work of audiologists such as Prof Brian Moore, emeritus professor of auditory perception at the University of Cambridge. //www.psychol.cam.ac.uk/people/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Prof Moore worked with long-time associate //www.cne.psychol.cam.ac.uk/people/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Dr Michael Stone, whose engineering background helped develop the test and transform the results into an algorithm which can dynamically adjust the audio of a mobile phone call.

Prof Brian Moore

Professor Brian Moore, who developed the hearing test side of Audacious' technology, at the Department of Experimental Psychology, Downing Street

“Matthew got this thing going,” Prof Moore said. “He contacted me with the original idea 10 years ago, but it was only two or three years ago that I got more involved.” The solution doesn’t involve any hardware and allows users to retain their standard phone. All calls are processed through the Audacious network which pre-compensates for your hearing loss. “The SIM card isn’t doing any processing but automatically tells you that calls need to be processed in a user-specific way,” Prof Moore says. “It’s partly a question of frequency shaping – that is, for high and low frequencies – but we also do amplitude compression, so we apply amplification to soft sounds, and not to loud sounds, fitting the sound in a range that the person can comfortably hear. The profile is stored on the phone.”

“It’s compensating for loss of signal in the inner ear,” adds Dr Stone, who graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in engineering science and joined Professor Moore’s Auditory Perception Group in 1988. “It’s not just amplifying, it also takes into account the likelihood of speech you don’t want to amplify too much – there’s subtleties in the volume adjustment.” The solution involves “no perceptible latency and lag on the call”.

Matthew, who is also founder and CEO of Goshawk, said: “Having lived with moderate to severe hearing loss since birth, I am fully aware of the emotional impact millions of people are experiencing as they struggle daily to communicate using the mobile phone. “It was a real struggle to talk on the phone and it had a negative impact on both my personal and professional life. As no mobile operator was offering or appeared to be working towards a solution to this global challenge, I made it my personal mission to develop the technology that could tailor phone calls to individual hearing loss or needs and so empower people across the UK to have better, clearer conversations.”

“In the UK around 10 per cent of the population has hearing loss to some degree, and probably a fairly large proportion could benefit from the Audacious system, which is about five to ten million people,” adds Prof Moore. Audacious, which went on sale online last week, is currently in discussions with “a high street brand” as well as hearing aid dispensers and clinics - and its technology also has the potential to help those who struggle with sound quality on their mobile and find phone calls stressful. The network launches as new research from Audacious reveals that nearly 70 per cent of Brits revealed they have struggled to be heard or hear clearly on phone calls. These unclear calls leave Brits frustrated (18 per cent) and stressed (17 per cent), with figures rising to 90 per cent and 70 per cent respectively for those with hearing loss.

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