Spending money on hearing devices, carrying them around, changing batteries, facing the social stigma associated with hearing aids in India – people with hearing issue have to face several difficulties. But not anymore! A Pune-based company has come up with a free, mobile-based hearing solution and it is super easy to use.
“According to WHO, 10% of India’s population suffers from hearing issues. Out of these, 60 million people are hearing impaired to the point where they need intervention – like a hearing aid device or a cochlear implant. But so far, only about six lakh hearing aid devices are used in the country. This means that 99% of the patients either do not have access to a hearing aid device or they cannot afford one. Quadio’s aim is to increase the number of people who have access to affordable and comfortable hearing aids,” says Neeraj Dotel, the CEO of Quadio Devices Pvt Ltd – a Pune-based company that has come up with an amazing hearing solution in the form of a mobile app called Q+.
Q+ is a free app that provides users with a customized hearing enhancement experience. It makes use of several algorithms that work with a smartphone’s electronic circuitry to do exactly what a hearing aid does.
No intermediate device, no extra wires – all one has to do is install the app on an iOS or Android-based phone and use it with the earphones that came along with the smartphone.
A basic hearing aid amplifies the sound and makes it louder, while the high-quality ones provide signal processing according to the user’s hearing loss. Q+ does the same thing with the help of a smartphone and its processor.
“When working with hearing aids, we realised that there are a couple of problems associated with the device in India. Most people don’t know where to go to get their hearing tested in the initial stages. It is one of those diseases that usually sneak in at an older age, and by the time you realise that you have a problem, it is very late. Then there is the issue of affordability of hearing devices. A decent quality hearing aid costs about Rs. 30,000-40,000. Additionally, the adoption rate of hearing devices is very less. People usually go for low-cost hearing aids, use them for about a week, don’t find them comfortable, and never adopt them,” says Neeraj.
So instead of making another device by miniaturising the electronics and putting them in a smaller piece, the team at Quadio decided to make use of the electronics already available in smartphones.
The app function begins with a very detailed hearing test that has been designed as per ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards for accurate output.
The test helps judge the level of hearing loss and the software behind the app automatically customises itself according to the needs of the user. Headsets or earphones with microphones catch sounds or conversations and send them to the app for processing. The app helps in automatic adjustment of amplification to reduce whistling sounds, along with reducing environmental noise. Q+ also has versatile controls for users to customize their listening experience – so people can follow conversations with ease in quiet as well as noisy surroundings.
Q+ is available for iPhones and smartphones operating on Android 5.0 and above.
According to Quadio’s website, the app works most effectively with an Android operating system that has a latency of less than 50 milliseconds (ms). Latency refers to the short delay between the time when an audio signal enters and when it emerges from a system. The Q+ signal processing software runs on the phone’s hardware and must be calibrated for each phone with its headset to ensure maximum output. Currently, it is accurately calibrated with just a few phones, but the company is working on improving performance across all phones and headsets.
Paresh Patel and Anurag Sharma, two IIT graduates, founded Quadio in 2009. Paresh, who is hearing impaired, went to Cornell University for his Master’s after graduation from IIT Kanpur.
He always used to think that there must be some better technology for hearing aids than what is already available. But on searching, he couldn’t find any that was good enough and affordable at the same time. So he started his own company to develop unique hearing solutions.
The app was launched on May 17 this year. Quadio works with the aim of becoming the provider of affordable and high-quality hearing care solutions for all.
They offer digital hearing devices that provide high-quality listening experience with features like those that are available in expensive devices. The company is also working on remote diagnostic applications so that audiologists across the country can reach patients in the most rural regions using the internet.