Thursday, October 2, 2014

General public ignores reality of hearing loss

Almost everyone will be confronted with declining physical capacities when ageing, including hearing loss. According to the European Federation of Hard of Hearing People (EFHOH), around 51 million people are currently diagnosed with hearing loss in the European Union. And yet, there is a great need for further awareness of the situation of hard-of-hearing and deaf people because it is very often not well understood, said French Senator Claire-Lise Campion. In her speech at the hard-of-hearing congress organised by Bucodes SourdiFrance on 27 September 2014 in Paris, she emphasised the need for associations to raise awareness but also to be present with their user experience whenever solutions are implemented.

Accessibility - there is no one size that fits it all

Anne-Marie Desmottes, president of the Association des Devenus Sourds et Malentendants de la Manche made a point of emphasising the need for accessibility that is tailored to the person and the situation. Indeed, for someone who is hard-of-hearing, the accessibility mode of choice might be audio feed via telecoil or speech-to-text interpretation - or both; for a deaf person, it could be sign language interpretation; for a person that lost hearing later in life it might be only speech-to-text.

Mobile accessibility features - available today

Luckily, there are already a number of features that can help persons with hearing loss adjust to their condition, while still taping into the full potential of mobile communications. Some of the most relevant accessibility features for the hard-of-hearing include:

  • Improved Call Quality
  • Vibrating Alerts
  • Visual Indicators for battery status, network coverage etc.
  • Messaging Options (instant text, email, text phone etc.)
  • Video Conferencing
  • Hearing Aid Compatibility Settings
  • Adjustable Maximum Volume Control Allows you to change default volume control limit
  • Closed Captioning for Web Video or Streaming

These features can be further improved and supplemented by dedicated apps that focus on optimising the adaption of the mobile phone to the user’s individual hearing. This year’s winner of Window’s Imagine Cup competition for example is the Project AMP, the goal of which is to replace "expensive hearing aid frequency processing with Windows Phone 8 and a Bluetooth headset”.