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June 11, 2003

Able Planet: New Tech For Hearing Impaired

From: KUSA, CO - Jun 11, 2003

Executive Producer Jack Maher

Some new micro-technology is debuting in Denver today, that could help improve the quality of life for millions of hearing impaired and deaf people..

It comes from a Colorado company called Able Planet. CEO Jo Waldron, who herself is deaf, joined us on 9News Daybreak this morning to talk about the new technology.

Q: Jo, please explain first, how does the Able Planet technology work?

A: Our technology is installed in the handset of a standard telephone, or a hands-free system, like those used with cellular or cordless phones. A person with a hearing loss will put their hearing aid on t-coil mode, which works with our technology to create audio within their hearing aid. This provides significantly better speech clarity.

I was born deaf. And with this technology I can now use the phone or a cellular phone like anyone else and clearly understand and participate in a voice conversation. This has never happened before with such clarity or performance. This will open up so many doors and opportunities for people with hearing loss – in education, employment, and travel. Think what this means for safety alone.

Q: How does this compare to hearing aid compatible technology that is already on the market?

A: Our technology is very different from traditional hearing aid compatible technology in many ways – performance, size and cost being the top three. Based on our initial studies, there was a 30% difference in average speech discrimination scores between the two technologies. This is the difference between guessing at what someone is saying on the phone and fully participating in a conversation.

Q: Can someone with a hearing loss who may be watching 9 News benefit from this?

A: Yes, the technology is available as of today in a standard wire line telephone, and a hands-free earphone/microphone system, like those used with cellular phones and computers. Whether your viewers have a mild to severe-to-profound hearing loss, they can go to to learn more about our technology and our products.

Q: And I understand that Hyatt Hotel Corporation is announcing they will place this technology in their hotel telephones?

A: Yes, Hyatt Hotel Corp. plans to place the Able Planet technology in their hotels in North America. This is our collective goal – equal access and opportunity for all Americans, wherever they go. So if you want to work at Hyatt – or you're a guest and you want to order room service, you can now do so.

Q: Do you plan to work with other companies to do this?

A: Absolutely, we are currently in talks with companies in a variety of industries – from computers and cellular phones to government. These companies want to provide equal access – so we're working together on ensuring that our leading edge technology will allow them to do so.

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