Classic hearing aids globally address the need for good communication in silence for individuals with mild, moderate and severe hearing loss. However, the first unmet need of a person with mild to moderate hearing loss is communicating in noisy environments.  

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Among individuals in the age range of 55-74 years old, 40% experience age-related hearing loss. However, 80% of those individuals who would benefit from a hearing aid do not use them, and many of those fitted do not wear them (McCormack and Fortnum 2013). A 2012 study (Chien and Lin) reports that nearly 23 million adults in the United States have hearing loss but do not use hearing aids. Furthermore, the average delay between developing hearing loss and buying hearing aids can range anywhere between 5 to 20 years, averaging about 9 years (Simpson et al. 2020). There are serious health consequences related to delaying hearing aid use: epidemiologic evidence suggests that there is an association between hearing loss and an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia (Powell et al. 2021), and the recent 3-year longitudinal ACHIEVE study proved a beneficial relationship between hearing intervention and reduced cognitive deterioration. It is worth noting, however, that the benefits were only significant for adults already at risk of cognitive decline (Lin et al. 2023).

Hearing loss decreases overall quality of life, as daily communication becomes frustrating both for the hearing-impaired individual and for those around them. Communication difficulties cause feelings of frustration, exclusion and helplessness on a daily basis. Even a small degree of hearing loss leads to increased listening effort (Rabbit, 1991; McCoy et al., 2005), as the auditory system becomes more vulnerable to being disturbed by noise. So despite these difficulties, why are people with hearing loss reluctant to use hearing aids, and why do people fitted with hearing aids not wear them?

Reasons for a lack of adoption of hearing aids among viable candidates has been linked to social stigma surrounding hearing aids (Kockhin 1993), and insufficient self-perception or denial of one’s own hearing loss (Jorgensen and Novak 2020). Concerning the lack of use of hearing aids by those already equipped, McCormack and Fortnum (2013) cite the primary reason being an insufficient benefit, especially in noise.  

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What’s more, many people who have mild to moderate hearing loss don’t consider themselves hard of hearing. This could be since their difficulty distinguishing specific sounds or words in speech is generally limited to noisy environments, or because they don’t want to face negative opinions about hearing impairment. The stigma surrounding hearing loss and the use of hearing aids is strong and deeply rooted in the individual’s own view towards themselves, views in their social circles, and also health professionals’ tendency to reinforce those negative views while discussing hearing aids with their patients (Wallhagen 2010). Wallhagen (ibid.) showed this stigma as being related to ageism (being perceived as “too old”), ableism (being perceived as “defective” or “disabled”), and an altered sense of self (being perceived as “deteriorating” or “mentally ill”).  

The need that our innovation addresses is therefore targeted towards two main groups of people who have mild to moderate hearing impairments: those who are disinterested or who have a poor opinion of hearing aids due to stigmatization or a lack of recognition of their own hearing loss, and those who have purchased hearing aids and are dissatisfied with their benefits in noisy conditions. These individuals could greatly benefit from the use of a hearing aid, but they face significant psychosocial and functional barriers related to the perception and use of hearing aids, along with technological limitations.

Pulse Audition's goal is to put an end to the social isolation caused by hearing loss. The Pulse Frames offer relief: with their integrated speech enhancement technology powered by state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, they will empower the user, allowing them to choose what they want to hear, free themselves from the difficulties caused by noise and open their ears to clear, precise speech perception.