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ABLE PLANET PROVIDES TELEPHONE ACCESS WITHOUT HEARING AIDS.

Nationally acclaimed disability rights champion and inventor, Jo Waldron, has announced that a preliminary field study found that Able Planet(TM) new micro-technology, which provides access to telecommunications for people with mild to severe- to-profound hearing loss, can be used without a hearing aid in some persons for successful telephone access. Able Planet's micro-technology was unveiled in June 2003, when it was originally believed that all people with hearing loss needed a hearing aid to take advantage of the technology.

"This advancement in hearing technology expands the applications of this invention," said Waldron. "As a person who is deaf, I was amazed when I could hear and understand speech clearly without using my power hearing aid. I tried using both the Able Planet(TM) wireline phone and hands-free system with a digital cell phone without even wearing my hearing aid. I was truly in shock. I had always used my micro-technology while switching my hearing aid to the T-coil setting."

"In an initial field study, individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss, including some with severe-to-profound hearing impairments, reported successful telephone communication using Able Planet, Inc. micro-technology without the use of their hearing aid and switching the aid to the T-coil position," said Waldron. "This means that these individuals could understand speech very effectively via a telephone handset without the use of their hearing aid. Interestingly, none of the participants could successfully understand speech while using a regular phone, a hearing aid compatible phone, an amplified phone or even a dual amplified phone without wearing hearing aids."

The auditory system is highly complex and hearing loss is very specific to the individual. Therefore, continued research will be important to further explore this phenomenon.

"It is truly phenomenal that I am able to use a telephone and clearly understand the conversation without my hearing aid," said Linda Jaffee, Colorado resident and field study participant. "Gone are the days of my hearing aid pinching my ear while I am trying to decipher what is being said on the phone."

Previous hearing aid compatible (HAC) technology relied upon inductive coupling to a hearing aid via the T-coil. This breakthrough application from Able Planet, Inc. provides the opportunity for greater telephone or headset access to individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss.

"The impact of this breakthrough will directly lend itself to the recent FCC ruling requiring wireless telephones to be 'accessible to and usable by people with hearing disabilities,' which is why I was so excited about supporting this ruling," said Waldron. "The opportunities that cellular phones can now provide to people with hearing loss are unlimited. The long-standing problem of hearing aid interference can literally become a non-issue. We are so excited at the opportunities this will afford to every telecom or consumer electronics OEM manufacturer. Today...the opportunity for a win-win is finally realized for both industry and the consumer with a hearing loss."

Able Planet is currently exploring relationships with national and international companies in telecom, IP telephony, highway emergency telephones, consumer electronics (headsets and hands-free systems), and computer industries.

"There are millions of Americans who do not have access to voice telecommunication or communications devices, this is even more so frightening when you are in a hospital and cannot call a friend or family member...especially if you happen to be the patient or worse, it is your child or a parent," said Waldron, who was honored by President Ronald Reagan with "The President's Trophy" and was appointed "Disabled American for the Nation," representing the Presidents of the United States and all Americans with disabilities since 1987. "Simple daily communication, such as calling a friend, ordering from room service, understanding a television program, or learning in a computer language lab or just calling a family member, or the doctor, ordering from a pharmacy or making hospital or laboratory appointments for tests, or just simply calling for help or for an ambulance is incredibly scary and frustrating. For the most part, traditional hearing accessible technologies make it almost impossible for people with hearing loss to address healthcare communication needs."

The patent-pending technology, invented this past year by Waldron with technical guidance and testing by hearing industry veteran Dr. Joan Burleigh, will provide the 34 million+ Americans and 500 million individuals worldwide with mild to severe-to-profound hearing loss, the opportunity to effectively communicate with others via telephone as well as hear speech more clearly using a hands-free system and other communications devices.

The Able Planet(TM) technology is very different from traditional hearing aid compatible (HAC) technology in many ways -- performance, size and cost being the top three. When using a hearing aid switched to the T-coil setting, initial studies show almost a 30% difference in average 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.

"Because of the incredible efficiency of this technology, we have created several new standards," said Waldron. "The Telecommunication Act guarantees that all telecom equipment be 'accessible to and usable by American's with Disabilities,' including from foreign manufacturer's, if these companies wish to sell their products in the United States of America...today, our technology allows this guarantee, actually this right to become a reality for millions of people."

Able Planet's micro-technology measures just 1mm, about the size of a grain of rice. The technology is so small that it fits in standard telephones or payphones or in any hands-free headsets such as those used with cellular phones, cordless phones, multi-media computers and laptops, MP3 players, CD players, stereos, and more.

Once installed, the micro-technology is transparent; those who do not use a hearing aid will not know it's there. People with or without hearing loss can use the same phone or hands-free system. This recent study found that people with varying degrees of hearing loss reported successful telephone communication using Able Planet, Inc. micro-technology with or without the use of their hearing aid. Those who chose to use a hearing aid can take advantage of the technology by simply flipping the switch on their hearing aid to the "T" setting and adjusting the volume on their hearing aid.

Traditional technologies have attempted unsuccessfully to improve speech understanding by using hearing aid compatible (HAC) headsets, magnetic open-air or induction coils, hearing aid interconnect ear silhouettes, volume controls, or neck loops. The result is usually the same: volume may be increased but clarity is not greatly improved.

Studies have shown that Able Planet's micro-technology improves the overall frequency response levels of telephones resulting in improved sound clarity. Thus, speech is amplified, clarity is increased and the audio signal is enhanced.

The technology is available for commercial sale to OEMs for an MSRP of $3.10 (rates may vary based on quantity) and is also available for retail sale to corporations, non-profits, government, audiologists or direct to consumers in a standard telephone for $65.95 and hands-free earphone for $34.95 (introductory pricing). Products may be purchased at http://www.ableplanet.com.

Hyatt Hotel Corporation was the first corporate entity to install the new technology. Hyatt has committed to support Able Planet's invention and following compliance directives that are federally mandated, are installing Able Planet's technology in all new guestroom telephone sets purchased for Hyatt Hotels in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

This technology was created as part of Able Planet's mission to develop multiple technologies to benefit people with different disabilities, providing equal access and opportunity in employment, education, travel and entertainment.

For more information, call 303/333-1402 or visit http://www.ableplanet.com.
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Publication:Tele-Service News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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