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June 11, 2003

Technology Allows Those With Hearing Loss To Use Phones

From: KMGH, CO - Jun 11, 2003

Microtechnology Created By Colorado Woman

DENVER -- Millions of Americans don't use a telephone because of a hearing loss, but on Wednesday, a Colorado company unveiled a new device that literally would change their world.

The technology was invented by a woman in Colorado who has been deaf since birth. Until recently, Joe Waldron never used a regular telephone because they interfere with her hearing aid, making it nearly impossible for her to clearly hear a phone conversation.

"The frustration, the isolation, the denial -- you're not allowed to participate," said Jo Waldron.

So she came up with micro-technology that enables people with mild to profound hearing loss to clearly hear telephone conversations.

"It literally creates a wireless link which enables the audio to be created within the hearing aid," said Waldron.

The technology is small -- just 1 millimeter, or about as thick as a penny -- but the opportunities that it creates are enormous.

"It means the opportunity for success, it means the opportunity for employment, it means the opportunity for inclusion," said Waldron.

Waldron calls her company AblePlanet because it enables people with a hearing loss to communicate directly with those who may be miles away but still close at heart.

"It really loses something in the translation when you have to go find someone to get on the phone with your sons and go 'You did what?'" Waldron said.

The technology fits into the handset of all phones and most cell phones, but cannot be installed individually. The Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver will be the first hotel in the country to install the technology in its guest rooms.

The phones cost about $66.

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