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June 11, 2003

New technology for hearing-impaired unveiled

From: Denver Business Journal, CO - Jun 11, 2003

Amy Bryer

Denver-based Able Planet unveiled its new micro-technology hearing aid chip June 11 designed to help the hearing-impaired use telephones, wireless phones, computers, and CD players.

The device is smaller than the head of a pushpin and can be installed in telephones and other communications equipment to enhance the sound for people with hearing aids.

"As of today, people with hearing loss no longer have to face with frustration simple daily communication," said inventor and AblePlanet CEO Jo Waldron.

Waldron, who has been an advocate for the hearing-impaired for more than 26 years and was born deaf herself, told an audience on the steps of the state Capitol that Hyatt Hotel Corp. is the first company to install the device in 300 telephones at its three Colorado properties.

San Jose-based Teledex, a telecommunications provider for the hospitality industry, has committed to installing the device as well.

The technology sells for $3.10 a piece depending on the quantity purchased or if it's bought with a standard phone, it costs $65.95.

The patent-pending technology-- developed under the technical guidance of hearing industry veteran and Colorado State University researcher Joan Burleigh -- works differently than current technologies that increase volume, but not clarity.

Users can just adjust their hearing aid to the "T" setting and turn down the volume on their hearing aid to use the Able Planet device. The device has been able to increase speech discrimination by about 30 percent.

The device is not noticeable to users without hearing aids, but can amplify speech and clarity of the audio signal for those with hearing loss.

Able Planet hopes to get its hearing device installed phones at hotels, malls, and amusements parks across the country, Waldron said. She also hopes cell phone companies will begin putting the chip in new phones. The device opens a world of communication possibilities for the deaf and hard of hearing, she said.

"I have not been on a mission of privilege, but a mission of opportunity," Waldron said. "My passion has been driven from simply not wanting children to grow up the same way I did."

© 2003 American City Business Journals Inc.