Alango – Wear & Hear Named Finalist in What’s Next Innovation Challenge Sponsored by AARP Innovation Labs
Expert Judging Panel Will Determine Winners June 25 with Virtual Audience
Competition Focuses on Hearing Loss Innovative Solutions for 1 in 3 Older Americans
[Haifa, Israel], June 15, 2020 – Alango – Wear & Hear has been chosen as one of six finalists in the What’s Next Innovation Challenge sponsored by AARP Innovation Labs to be held June 25 during the 17th annual What’s Next Longevity Venture Summit virtual event. Finalists were chosen from a large field of applicants who offer the most disruptive solutions to drive adoption and usage of hearing aids for the millions over age 50 who have hearing impairment in the U.S.
“Our finalists in this competition are the top entrepreneurs helping to solve the challenges of hearing loss that impacts one in three Americans between ages 65-74,” said Mary Furlong, serial successful entrepreneur, author and producer of the What’s Next Longevity Summits. “The entrepreneurial talent from this competition not only gets the attention from event attendees who can fund or distribute their innovation and help scale their business, but also gets the chance to go on to national awareness thanks to our sponsor, AARP Innovation Labs. We’re thrilled Alango – Wear & Hear, a company with almost 20 years of experience in sound technology, was one of the finalists chosen.”
Each finalist will make their pitch to the expert judging panel consisting of longevity experts and investors: Dave Blanchard – Hamilton CapTel, Abby Levy – Primetime Partners and Jeannee Parker Martin – LeadingAge California. The judges will vote collectively to determine the winner who will earn a spot at the AARP Innovation Labs Grand Pitch Finale in Washington, D.C. later this year. Past finalists from the What’s Next Innovation Challenge, including Embodied Labs, have gone on to win the national Grand Pitch Finale.
“It is well known that untreated hearing loss is a huge health problem. As documented in the PCAST Report entitled ‘Aging America and Hearing Loss’ (Oct 2015), the traditional hearing aids industry has failed to provide a solution, so we decided to use our expertise in developing digital sound enhancement technologies to offer a disruptive alternative that works better, does more, looks modern, and costs much less. The result is our Wear & Hear brand of Personalized Bluetooth Hearing Amplifiers.”Dr. Alexander Goldin, CEO and Founder of Alango Technologies
The What’s Next Innovation Challenge is one of the hallmarks of the What’s Next Longevity Summit where entrepreneurs join investors, businesses, analysts, nonprofits, media and other experts all focused on the $8.3 trillion longevity economy. The three-day What’s Next Longevity Venture Summit June 24-25, and July 21 offers on demand content including: more than 70 speakers, panel discussions, analyst research presentations and innovative virtual networking opportunities.
Produced by Mary Furlong, founder and CEO of Mary Furlong & Associates along with co-producers Lori Bitter, founder of The Business of Aging, and Sherri Snelling, CEO of Caregiving Club, top sponsors of the Summit include: AARP Innovation Labs, Ageless Innovation, Great Call, CareLinx, Great Call, Home Instead, Simple Meds, CABHI, Nationwide, VitalTech, Medterra CBD, CareMerge, Movano Inc. iN2L, Hamilton CapTel, Thrive, Ziegler-Linkage, WAHVE, My Family Channel and Bindix.
See the event agenda and full list of speakers and sponsors.
Register to attend the Summit here.
About Mary Furlong/Mary Furlong & Associates
Founded in 2003, Mary Furlong & Associates (MFA) is a strategy, business development and marketing company. A serial entrepreneur, Mary founded SeniorNet.org, and ThirdAge Media, prior to MFA. For 17 years, Mary has produced the industry leading What’s Next Boomer Business Summit and Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit, adding the Washington Innovation Summit and What’s Next Canada in recent years. Author of Turning Silver into Gold, How to Profit in the Boomer Market and The MFA Longevity Market Report, Mary has been recognized by ASA, Fortune, Time and as one of the top 100 Women in Silicon Valley. She is an adviser to the Ziegler LinkAge Fund, CABHI and numerous start-up companies in addition to her private client practice. For more info, visit: www.maryfurlong.com
About Alango – Wear & Hear
To combat the “silent epidemic” of worldwide hearing loss, Alango Technologies, Ltd., a leading supplier of sound enhancement technologies for voice communication established in 2002, launched the Wear & Hear line in 2015. Although untreated hearing loss can lead to isolation, depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia, less than 25% of people in developed countries (and less than 3% in low income countries) use hearing aids. The Alango Wear & Hear line was created to disrupt the conventional treatment of hearing loss. Its personalizable hearing amplification solutions provide stylish, affordable, and self-tuned listening experiences to people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. For more info, visit: www.WearAndHear.com
World Hearing Day: March 3
This year’s theme is “Hearing for life: Don’t let hearing loss limit you”
Every year on March 3, WHO, the health agency of the United Nations, engages organizations in World Hearing Day public awareness activities. This year’s theme, “Hearing for life: Don’t let hearing loss limit you,” highlights the importance of hearing loss prevention and timely and effective interventions for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
We at Alango – Wear & Hear are pleased to join in this effort. Read the full article from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders by clicking this link. Learn more about age-related hearing loss by clicking this link. Do something about your own hearing loss by trying out our affordable, personalizable, stylish, multi-functional hearing amplification products using the 30-day “Buy & Try” policy in our Web store.
Alango Founder Describes His Vision for Better Hearing
What inspired a computer engineer with expertise in sound enhancement to tackle the “silent epidemic” of untreated hearing loss?
Dr. Alexander Goldin, the Founder and CEO of Alango Technologies, was recently interviewed by Tyler Gallagher of Authority Magazine. The following is an excerpt from the full article, which is posted on both Medium.com and Thrive Global.
Dr. Goldin states: Here is a sad statistic from World Health Organization: in 2001, roughly when I started analyzing the situation, there were 250 million people worldwide with disabling hearing loss. Today, this number has increased to 466 million. And, it is estimated that by 2050 over 900 million people will have disabling hearing loss.
If we provide an affordable, self-administered solution to hearing loss, we will help children to succeed more in learning, adults to be more efficient at work, and the elderly to stay active and connected to other people. We will reduce the huge cost of unaddressed hearing loss and use that money to make other aspects of human life better, I hope.Dr. Alexander Goldin, Founder & CEO at Alango Technologies
When asked What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption? Dr. Goldin responded:
“When people are asked about hearing loss and a treatment for it, they will answer “hearing aids” even though, as I mentioned earlier, worldwide adoption rates for hearing aids are incredibly low. We at Alango Technologies are creating a new category of hearing enhancement devices that are affordable, versatile, stylish, and self-tunable. Unfortunately, most hearing-impaired users are not aware of this option. We need to inform them. And, after people hear about something new, it takes them a long time to start believing in it. We need to shorten this process and that is where we need help. I hope this interview will give us such help.
Bottom line: Won’t you help us in our efforts to get the word out? Share this article, or simply mention to someone who could benefit that affordable, versatile, stylish, and self-tunable hearing enhancement devices exist today. It’s bound to be life-changing.
Do You Think Your Hearing is Fine?
If you are between the ages of 20 and 69 – you probably suffer from hearing loss. But there is good news – you can check it by yourself and do something about it.
If you think your hearing is fine, think again. A federal study reports that about a quarter of the people between the ages of 20 and 69 who think their hearing is “good” or “excellent” are in fact showing signs of hearing loss.
Hearing loss is often attributed to noisy work environments, or to aging. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 24 percent of hearing loss is due to loud workplaces.
What surprised us was we found many people with evidence of noise-induced hearing damage who don’t have noisy jobs, who got that damage from their home or community.Dr. Ann Schuchat, acting director of the CDC
Loud noises – from sirens to lawnmowers and rock concerts to sporting events – can permanently damage hearing. That damage builds up over time, and once it’s lost, it’s lost forever.
The study finds that the loss often starts early in life. Approximately 20 percent of Americans in their 20s have lost some ability to hear the softest sounds. The effect is much more pronounced in men than in women. And a quarter of people who have lost some hearing don’t even know it.
Hearing loss is especially problematic for older adults, who can find themselves socially isolated when they can’t hear what people around them are saying.
The CDC also notes that chronic exposure to noise has been associated with increased stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, distractability, and annoyance.
Bottom line: It’s best not to assume that your hearing is fine. The good news is it’s very simple to check it by yourself. There is a built-in hearing assessment in the BeHear NOW personalizable hearing amplifier (which also looks and functions just like a Bluetooth headset). With our 30-day “Buy & Try” return policy, you have nothing to lose. And with our upcoming “Black Friday” special offers there is no time like the present to do something about it!
How to Survive a Family Gathering When You Have Hearing Loss
5 tips for enjoying the upcoming holiday season when your hearing is impaired
Having hearing loss can sometimes make you feel left out of conversations.
It’s easy to turn down invitations to parties and events, or to withdraw from group conversations because of hearing loss, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are 5 tips for enjoying the upcoming holiday season:
- Determine who might not know about your hearing loss. Make it a point to connect with those people during the celebration. Tell them about your hearing loss and that you want to hear what they have to say. Ask them to get your attention when they want to communicate. Try using this common “drill”: “Please look at me, speak slowly and forgive me if I ask you to repeat what you said.” Have a laugh about it. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
- Check your expectations, fears and concerns at the door. It’s Thanksgiving! The whole family is here, and you want nothing more than to participate in it all. You already know that the day will not go perfectly, and you may miss a lot of the news and conversation. That said, you can always get contact information for those with whom you wish to continue communicating. Emails, texts and cell phones now afford us a variety of convenient and accessible ways to communicate – just one more thing for which to be thankful.
- Double, or single-sided deafness? Location, location, location. Sit in the middle of the table and try your best to hear what’s going on. Or seat yourself at a good angle to at least see everyone. If you can, have some family members who know how to communicate with you (and who won’t place extraordinary demands on your hearing) sit near you so you can have your own conversation circle.
- Save the day for a family member with hearing loss. Let them know you know that they are hard of hearing and offer to help them communicate with others if they need assistance. You can be their translator – stand or sit near them to help with conversations. Make a point of spending some time chatting to make them feel part of the celebration.
- Try using a personalized hearing amplifier. A headset from the Wear & Hear line can give you the boost you need to take an active part in holiday conversations. These devices are self-tunable, lightweight, and very comfortable. When not in use, the magnetized ear buds will hold the headset in place on your chest (like a pair of glasses). They let you be in charge of your own hearing!
Active Noise Cancellation vs. Noise Reduction
What is the Difference, and Which Technology is Used in BeHear NOW and Why?
Even before this article came out comparing the BeHear NOW with Bose Hearphones we received inquiries about how our products enhance hearing in noisy places. There seemed to be some confusion about how two leading technologies – Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Noise Reduction – work in headphones in general, and whether they are used in the Wear & Hear line of assistive hearing products. Because ANC is a much-heralded feature in high-end Bluetooth headphones, many people were curious to know why we do not use it in our BeHear NOW Bluetooth headset with personalized hearing enhancement. Our engineers have contributed the following texts in an attempt to clarify our choice.
How Does ANC Work?
In the process of ANC a microphone is used to monitor the environmental noise in order to create an “opposite” sound wave with an inverted phase. This anti-wave is reproduced via the earpiece and mixed with the original acoustic sound wave to cancel out the noise before it reaches the user’s ear.
What Happens in the Hearing Enhancement Process?
In the hearing enhancement process a microphone is also used to pick up the environmental sound. This sound is amplified based on the specific hearing requirements of the user and then the processed, slightly delayed output sound is reproduced via the earpiece.
As a result, this hearing-enhanced (amplified) sound actually masks the direct environmental sound wave causing the hearing-impaired user to hear mainly the enhanced sound reproduced by the earpiece, and not the acoustic waves coming from the environment.
Why ANC and Noise Reduction Cannot be Employed Simultaneously
The two methods – ANC and hearing enhancement – are conceptually contradictory. The conflict arises from both acoustic and methodology contradictions. Acoustically, since the same “monitoring” microphone is used by both the ANC and hearing enhancement technologies to pick up the environmental sound, the two signals – the immediate ANC anti-wave and the slightly delayed hearing-enhanced wave – may produce an unpleasant acoustic effect known in physics as “wave beats” when the two signals are mixed together in the user’s ear. Another conflict arises from the fact that one technology (ANC) tries to achieve noise reduction by sending the anti-wave, while the other (hearing enhancement) tries to substitute the direct acoustic sound with its enhanced and amplified version, making the ANC anti-wave obsolete.
For the reasons explained above, ANC is not applied in the BeHear NOW headset. Instead, and in order to clarify the speech in noisy environments, BeHear NOW applies a dedicated noise reduction technology to the hearing-enhanced sound, thus making the sound perceived by the user significantly less noisy. Additionally, BeHear NOW allows the user to control the amount of noise reduction applied – a feature that is not available to users of ANC.
The Choice is Clear for Assistive Hearing Products
We don’t think ANC is important for our target user given its irrelevance when combined with hearing enhancement technology. Furthermore, we didn’t want to increase the product price by introducing a feature that would increase the cost of the device without providing a substantial benefit to our users.
Alango Wear & Hear Development Team
For more information about our Wear & Hear line of assistive hearing products visit the products page of our Web site.
Better Hearing is Now Within Reach – Part 3
How is this Concept Different from the Conventional Solutions?
Our first personal hearing product, released commercially in the Fall of 2018, is called BeHear® NOW. It is a stylish, comfortable, high-quality Bluetooth stereo neckband style headset that can be used to listen to music or make phone calls. In addition, it can be used to enhance ambient hearing, very similar to or better than hearing aids. Its retail price of $249 ( €249) makes it very attractive to a wide population.
What About Sound Quality?
BeHear NOW has four microphones, two in the earpieces and two in the control boxes. Using four microphones enables unprecedented sound quality for both ambient hearing and voice communication. The headset features two 13mm hi-fi speakers delivering uncompromised sound. It includes a large rechargeable battery allowing the wearer to use its ambient hearing amplification during an entire day without recharging.
The Difference is in the Sound Enhancing Software
BeHear NOW can be used as a standalone hearing amplifier, but its true value comes with its software. It pairs with a dedicated, free smartphone application called W&H BeHear for iPhones and Android that enables full control and self-adjustment of the headset. When the personal hearing mode is activated, the wearer can choose the most suitable preset (Indoors, Outdoors, Crowd or Live Music). S/He can change noise reduction settings from low to maximum depending on the environment.
Fine Tune the Device on Your Own
One of the problems with hearing aids today is that they require professional fitting in an audiologist’s office. Given the large number of people who suffer from hearing loss worldwide, it should be apparent that there are not enough audiologists on earth to provide hearing aids to everyone who needs one, especially in rural, distant areas. With BeHear NOW that is not an issue. Wearers can modify the spectrum of the sound they hear in real time by moving their finger on a grid to locate what we call the Best Sound Point. The Best Sound Point is a highly personal definition, depending on the wearer’s preferences, capabilities, and current location!
Furthermore, the W&H BeHear application contains a simple hearing assessment that anyone can perform and get immediate results. This is not a medical procedure, of course, but when completed, all BeHear NOW sounds will be modified to fit the wearer’s own personal hearing profile.
Advantages That People With Normal Hearing Will Also Appreciate
BeHear NOW also includes some advanced features that may be useful for people with normal hearing as well. For example, many people have trouble with fast speech. We all prefer that the other person speak slower when we need to write down a phone number, understand a foreign language, or are otherwise being distracted. BeHear NOW can do it automatically. When BeHear NOW is used to make or take a phone call, the wearer can activate a special mode called EasyListen™ to slow down speech and improve understanding. While listening to music, the wearer can activate ListenThrough™ technology. Nearby human voices, the noise of an approaching car and other important or alarming sounds will pass through while ambient noise will be blocked, allowing him/her to enjoy the music to the fullest.
Great Potential for Improving Quality of Life
The Wear & Hear line of assistive hearing products is highly innovative, leveraging two successful concepts (consumer electronics and sound technology advancements). The resulting solutions have the potential to improve quality of life for millions of people worldwide. As Helen Keller once famously remarked, when asked which sense was more important, vision or hearing: “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.” We want the world to sound better to all. With the aid of our personal hearing devices, people can reconnect socially, without the stigma or high cost of a medical hearing aid.
What’s Next? Feedback and Market Education
The first members of our Wear & Hear family of personal hearing devices are ready for purchase, here on our Web site, and through our international partner channel. However, the market needs educating. There are about 400 million people with disabling hearing loss who desperately need a solution, but they have no idea that there is a high-quality alternative to hearing aids. Our concept of affordable, stylish, multi-functional hearing enhancement solutions needs to capture the attention of both the hearing impaired and those who can help us bring them to market. Can you help?
Better Hearing is Now Within Reach – Part 2
This is the second installment of a 3-part series. If you haven’t yet read the first installment, you can read it here.
An Unorthodox Approach Brings Hope
The development trend for hearing aids throughout history has been to make the devices smaller and less noticeable. We, on the other hand, wanted to make our hearing enhancement devices stylish, and even fashionable. Instead of making them expensive medical devices, we wanted to make them affordable consumer electronics devices. In addition, we wanted our devices to be high performance and multi-functional. And finally, we wanted our devices to act as hearing protectors by reducing loud ambient noises to safe levels.
Consumer Electronics Can Serve a Wider Purpose
We chose a Bluetooth headset as a basic form factor for our hearing enhancement device concept due to its ubiquity. Its cost of goods is low and public acceptability is high. In order to transform it into a powerful hearing enhancement device we first investigated its existing components, and found:
- At least one microphone. In many Bluetooth headsets we can find a dual microphone, something relevant to high end hearing aids only.
- A high-quality speaker that is much better than that of hearing aids, due to their size limitations.
- A Digital Signal Processor that is 4-5 times more powerful than that of most of hearing aids.
- Bluetooth connectivity present only in the latest, greatest and most expensive hearing aids
- An environmentally friendly rechargeable battery
The Missing Component: Hearing Enhancement Software
That means that there is only one important piece missing to transform ANY Bluetooth headset into a powerful hearing enhancement device. This piece is software. Just do it, and you have exciting news for more than 1 billion hearing impaired people world-wide. Since we are a software sound processing company, we did it! We created a licensable software reference design that makes it possible to add hearing enhancement functionality to virtually any Bluetooth headset. We call our solution Hearphones™.
In order to be sure that our solution was good, and that it really could help hearing impaired people as well as or better than hearing aids, we decided to go one step further. We decided to create our own brand of concept products that we call Wear & Hear, with our slogan “Life Sounds Better”.
How Does this Approach Compare to Conventional Solutions?
In the next post in this “Hearing Better is Now Within Reach” blog series, we’ll compare this unorthodox approach with the conventional solutions.
Better Hearing is Now Within Reach – Part 1
The Need, the Conventional Solution, and the Despair
The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 15% of the world’s population (that’s around 1.2 billion people!) suffers from hearing loss of greater than 25 decibels. Even though hearing loss is typically associated with old age, the majority of sufferers are under the age of 65. It is well known that hearing loss is a terrible experience for an individual and has multiple consequences. Children with hearing loss are likely to experience delayed speech development, impaired communication and reduced cognitive skills. In adults, hearing loss has been linked to poorer job performance and, as a result, lower salaries. In the elderly, hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of dementia, falls, depression, social isolation and loneliness. These problems impose a heavy financial burden on the society.
There is good news, though. Research shows that 95% of hearing impaired people can be helped by hearing amplification. The solution that jumps to mind immediately is hearing aids. Hearing aids have a long history: from hearing trumpets used over 100 years ago, through the development of the first wearable electronic devices, to the modern era of small, digital devices of various styles. Yet, hearing aids are used by less than 20% of hearing impaired people in developed countries, and less than 3% in low income countries. Why?
Why Aren’t More People Using Hearing Aids?
- Extremely high cost. A pair of hearing aids costs between $2000-$8000 dollars. Unless it is fully covered by insurance, it is not surprising that most people hesitate before buying them.
- Social stigma. Justified or not, people feel that wearing hearing aids will make them look older or handicapped. It is interesting that this feeling does not actually depend on the age. Many elderly people refuse to wear hearing aids. We all want to be young.
- Limited functionality. We’re used to multi-functional electronic devices that can do much more than just their main functionality. Smartphones are a classic example, but we have others, such as: radios, smartwatches or fitness bracelets. Basic, reasonably priced hearing aids can only do voice amplification.
- Performance. 20% of people who buy hearing aids return them. Although they are badly needed, these devices don’t help them. 17% of those who decide to keep their hearing aids are not satisfied.
What Can Be Done to Surmount These Obstacles to Better Hearing?
In the next post in this “Hearing Better is Now Within Reach” blog series, we’ll look at an unorthodox approach that addresses all four of these obstacles to bring hope to those experiencing mild to moderate hearing loss.