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Tech ideas to help raise awareness of hearing loss

Action on Hearing Loss and Microsoft staff at ideas day

For the last couple of years, Microsoft UK has hosted an Ideas Generator event for charities. It’s a chance to explore how charities can harness the latest technology to provide real-world solutions. This year, the Microsoft team chose Action on Hearing Loss to attend along with four other charities.

The Ideas Generator

The process starts with each charity working through a ‘problem statement’ before the event. This explores the issues that technology might be able to address.

This year’s event took place in October. Hosted at Microsoft UK’s headquarters in Reading, our team, drawn from across the charity, were eager to make a start.

We focussed on addressing a key issue from our problem statement. How can we use technology to raise awareness of hearing loss and deafness? And can it play a pivotal role in reducing the average 10-year wait before people take action and seek professional advice from their GP or audiologist?

The Microsoft team supporting us at the event volunteered their time and were experts from retail, tech, research and marketing. Some had direct experience with hearing loss and tinnitus, while others were new to the topic. They were all astounded by the devastating impact that unaddressed hearing loss can have and keen to help find a solution.

Coffee Break Innovation

First, to get the creative juices flowing, an exercise in team working and creative innovation – make a cappuccino to introduce ourselves to the Microsoft team.

Action on Hearing Loss logo printed on top of coffee

Team PionEar

With our team name, PionEar, chosen, it was down to serious work. We were encouraged to pitch ideas and solutions, no matter how wacky or off-the-wall they might be.

Microsoft ideas day

First, we set the scene by describing the social isolation and stigma that hearing loss and deafness can bring. To help start conversations around the issue, the team unveiled a radical artificial intelligent headphone that let users set up a ‘hearing’ profile, matched to their hearing ability. In noisy environments, the headphones could raise the volume (to a safe level). In addition, push notifications from the device to a smartphone app could inform users about their hearing health. This would be a good way to keep users engaged about their hearing, and flag up if they need to visit their GP or audiologist.

And the winner is…

Action on Hearing Loss! The team were so happy and can be rightly proud of their achievement. The judges said the winning idea was one that ‘rode the current trends in technology’ and ‘created an industry standard that normalised the issue.’ The prize is a two-day workshop hosted by Microsoft to take the idea to the next stage.

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