New Hearing Tech Engages Older Adults in Events

CAST | February 27, 2020 | by Donna Childress

The Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing evaluated group listening systems and Personal Sound Amplification Products.

New wireless headphones are helping older adults to become more engaged in events, according to a recent case study by the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW). Ultimately, this increased engagement can help reduce social isolation.
 
The FPCIW evaluated the Eversound wireless headphones as part of its Hearables for All initiative, which explored the potential of hearing devices that are worn or embedded to assist older adults. Hearables for All studied technologies that supported group hearing experiences such as community meetings as well as personalized, over-the-counter consumer hearing devices. A grant from The Consumer Technology Association funded the research.
 
Eversound is a portable sound system that uses a wireless microphone to broadcast to up to 10 headsets at meetings and other group events. One of its goals is to encourage better engagement and participation among people with mild hearing loss.
 
After 730 people used Eversound at a group event, 77% said they had a better understanding of the event, and 75% said they would wear their Eversound headsets to future events. Care staff observed improved mood and behavior in memory care (64% increase) and skilled nursing (48% increase).
 
The case study presented this overall finding: Group listening systems that address hearing loss in social and community settings, with appropriate training and use, can bring better engagement and participation.
 
In addition, the Eversound devices fit over the ears like traditional headphones and may be more appealing to the majority of older adults who do not use hearing aids. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that of adults aged 70 and older who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than 30% has ever used one. FPCIW names accessibility, affordability, and stigma as possible reasons older adults do not use hearing aids.
 
FPCIW also evaluated Personal Sound Amplification Products with 120 older adults. This study, too, noted cultural barriers to using devices that bring attention to hearing impairments. The mixed results included these positives:

  • 57% of users said their PSAP devices helped them to hear better.
  • 39% said they were more likely to participate in community events.
  • 29% said their PSAP improved their enjoyment of life.

The case study also noted that as wireless earbuds become more prevalent and more accepted, older adults may further adopt hearing devices.
 
See the full Hearables for All report.

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