Back in the day, Mrs Sciencebase worked for an innovative and aspirational electronics company. One of the developments they were working on at a time long before mobile phones were ubiquitous was how to make phone calls clearer. They wanted to get rid of the squelch and muffled tones that are commonplace. The idea had to be to do this without increasing the signal bandwidth that is needed to transmit the mutterings of caller and receiver.
The problem was never solved and so remains a serious issue particularly for those who have hearing problems. Turning up the volume doesn’t cut it as that simply makes the mid-range muffle mufflier and squeezes the squelch so that it becomes unbearable. A novel solution has been developed by a startup, Audacious, in conjunction with leading hearing specialists, Brian Moore and Michael Stone.
Potential users do a special hearing test, which they call a Sound Check using their current phone and a web browser. Based on their responses, Audacious can then tweak the sound at source before it is compressed for transmission as usual via the phone network. This, they suggest, improves the sound quality for the recipient and gives them a much better experience than they would have with a standard call that isn’t tailored to their hearing profile.
You use your own phone, but switch to their SIM and all the calls you receive via their system are essentially tweaked so they’re clearer for you. You can retake the audio test periodically and the EQ and compression algorithm will update your account so that you continue to get the best out of your phone.
Now, I know for a fact I’ve got some left-right hearing discrepancy and while I’ve still got pretty got top-end for some in their sixth decade, I know that my mid-range hearing leaves a bit to be desired and given that that is the range at which most of the characteristics of speech are heard. I tried the test and when I’d finished, the system played some speech as it would be with an Audacious SIM card and lets you hear how it was before and after. It did seem to make a significant difference to hear the call with the Audacious treatment as opposed to the muffled and squelchy calls I hear on my phone with my current provider.
I’ve tried doing the built-in Samsung EQ sound improvement in advanced sound settings that also involves a simple hearing test on your phone, but that’s not really improved things enough to give me clearer calls. Until audio/video messaging is as accessible as conventional phone call this does sound like the way forward.
You can take the Audacious sound check here and hear the difference for yourself. The assumption is that you have some kind of hearing deficit, which most of us of a certain age, and especially musicians and concertgoers often do, and anyone who has a career in a noisy environment. Find out more on their website or via their Facebook.
Can you hear me, Mother? Can now, son!