Las Vegas – The City of Noise Brings Us Enhanced Listening

Barbara Kelley Headshot picture

Barbara Kelley, Executive Director, Hearing Loss Association of America
Follow Barbara on Twitter, @Bkelley_HLAA.

A trip through Las Vegas is an assault on the senses. You can’t take shelter from the bombardment of noise. I attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week along with more than 115,000 people all in search of seeing the latest in tech that will enhance and improve our daily lives. Thousands also go to discover the science-fiction-type tech that will happen in the future so we can say we saw it first!

I had the amazing experience of being part of the 2023 CES Accessibility Leaders sponsored by the CTA Foundation whose mission is to link seniors and people with disabilities to technologies that enhance their lives. We bring our experience to CES exhibitors to engage with us to learn how to reach the market of people with disabilities.

My 2023 Takeaways

I’ve been part of this group for several years, but this year I realized an over-arching theme of enhanced listening, sound quality, listening augmentation, and accessibility. Let’s look deeper into why.

Amazon told us they see more integration of accessibility being baked into the internet of things. Daily life depends on the internet of things – the connection of devices and ultimately their connection to us humans is how our lives run. Our hearing connects us to daily life, and it enhances and builds our relationships with people. People with hearing loss depend on technology to stay in the hearing world.

This past fall, the over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid market opened. HLAA, along with CES, and other groups advocated for the passage of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017. Essentially, this is Day One of this new market. Consumer electronic companies have entered the market, as have hearing aid manufacturers who produce traditional prescription hearing aids. The opening of this market brings a new delivery channel, and it has heightened awareness about sound, our access to it, and how we can listen more clearly and stay connected.

I heard terms like “hearing enhancement” and “listening augmentation” used frequently to market products and attract people beyond those who have significant hearing loss and who have already taken the step to hearing aids or cochlear implants. Who doesn’t want sound quality and clarity and “enhancement?” We all do. If you’re an adult, you naturally have degradation to your hearing over the years due to noise. How often do you say, “I can hear but I can’t understand?” Taking our hearing seriously has crept into the big conversations, especially at CES.

What Else?

HLAA plays a vital role in consumer education. Take for example, our resource on over-the counter (OTC) hearing aids. This web page has received more hits in the past three months than any other during the same period. We have a chance to reach people who might take that first step to addressing their hearing loss sooner rather than later.

HLAA also works with legislators and regulators for accessible technology. We also work with industry for accessible products through our Industry-Consumer Alliance for Accessible Technology.

On a bigger scale, I realized how dependent all of this tech is on the cloud and how valuable, yet fragile, data is.

For people with hearing loss, or for those who want some hearing enhancement when and how they want it, we live in a good time, and it’s getting better.

Enjoy the Show! I brought back a few photos showing or talking about “augmented listening.”

Man wearing caption badge at CES 2023 Las Vegas
Mike Williston of Badger demonstrates how real-time captions are displayed on a wearable badge, particularly useful in medical settings where people wear masks.
Barbara Kelley on CTA panel at CES 2023 Las Vegas
Panel discussion on “The New World of Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids” with Patrick Pannett (CES author of “Equal Access”), Frank Lin, M.D., (Johns Hopkins), Barbara Kelley (HLAA), and John Luna (Nuheara).
Man trying on caption glasses at CES 2023 Las Vegas
XanderGlassesTM caption real-time conversation viewable by wearing these glasses. Not just for people with hearing loss, but for anyone needing some augmented listening, like in a noisy restaurant.
Alango hearing aid app at CES 2023 Las Vegas
Apps like these are used to customize listening in headphones and wearable hearing devices. This one is from Alango.

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