Article proudly sponsored by Audeara
Each year in March, the World Hearing Organisation uses world hearing week to remind everyone of an often overlooked part of our health: our ears.
This year, Audeara wants more gamers to take note and have their own hearing tests done.
We sat down with Dr. James Fielding to discuss how Audeara plans to change the way we hear our games, for the better.
What inspired Audeara, why headphones?
The idea came from our work with patients in the hospital and seeing the hurdles to getting hearing tests done. We decided to build a device to make it easier for people to do a hearing test, and being a life long musician the light bulb came on and we changed course to build a device that would use the test result to enhance the experience.
Health in Gaming is definitely a growing focus, what inspired your move into the gaming world?
After building the prototypes for our tech and trying them in a number of different ways we loved using for gaming ourselves and when friends and early beta testers said the same thing we knew we were on to a winner. What’s important to us is people being able to have a great time while staying healthy. Gamers are also keen to try new things and test out new tech to get the most out of their experience. For me, it was the first time I switched on the personalization playing Assassin’s Creed. There was no going back from that.
I am guilty of it and I am sure a lot of gamers assume you can just turn the sound up, why is that such a bad thing?
There are two main things you want to keep in mind when it comes to cranking the volume. In the short term there’s tinnitus (ringing in the ears) in the long term there’s hearing loss. They often go hand in hand but the thing that most people don’t realize is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where you turn the volume up to ensure you’re getting what you need from the game, then your ears try to protect themselves and shut down so you turn the volume up even more to compensate and around it goes. What happens next is that the more sensitive frequencies start to get destroyed first and that changes the balance of how everything sounds in the game and makes conversations harder outside the game. Turning the volume up is a short term fix that is going to cause long term problems.
So using the Audeara app and headphones synced together; We can run a hearing test and assign a personalized profile, how can that help people from a gaming perspective?
The soundstage, effects teams, and musicians involved in games spend months if not years getting the sound exactly right for what they consider the best possible sound to make the most people happy. Unfortunately, we all hear differently and when you can tailor the sound so it’s in sync with your individual hearing profile you’re getting the dimensions and clarity that the game wants you to hear. There’s a beautiful balance between entertainment and performance based on why you’re in the game.
And outside of gaming, what sort of benefits can people expect from better protection of their ears?
It’s about getting the most out of life in a full body sense, you want to stay healthy, active, fast and reactive. You give yourself the best chance if you keep all your senses firing. The ability to have conversations in crowded places is the first thing people take for granted until they lose it. If you imagine walking around with your hands over your ears, that’s how life becomes and it makes everything more difficult. That’s not to mention how truly horrible tinnitus is and the long term effects of hearing loss which are linked to depression and dementia.
Talk to us about world hearing week, why should gamers be taking note of events like this?
This is a week to take the chance to have a think about your own hearing and the hearing of someone you love. Maybe it’s a parent who knows they need to do something about their hearing, maybe it’s your mate who always cranks the stereo or headphones too much and you know its bad idea. The focus of the week is getting your hearing checked because you can’t make any decisions without the information. If you find out your hearing isn’t what it used to take stock of that now to have a think about what you could be doing to ensure you don’t make things worse. Think about the volume you listen to your music and games, think about using earplugs if you go to a loud environment. At it’s simplest, if you think it’s too loud or your raising your voice to be heard over your surroundings then it’s probably too loud. The earlier you can take positive steps to look after yourself the better it is for you and everyone you love.
How do you get started on a hearing test? Do we have to have a pair of Audeara headphones?
Our Audeara headphones are based around hearing test technology and you need the headphones for the app to work because all the tech for our system is in the headphones themselves. That way no matter what device you do your test on we know that the headphones are making accurate test tones that we can use to let you know how your hearing compares. There are lots of online and app-based tests that can give you an idea of how you compare as well and they’re a great place to start if you can’t wait for your headphones to arrive.
Do you take the tests yourself?
At an audiologist, they will be conducting the test for you and asking you to press a button when you can hear the test tone. In our system, we put the power into your hands so you can take the test yourself as many times as you like. This lets you ensure you’re always getting exactly what you should from your headphones and lets you see how your day to day actions could be impacting your hearing.
What are your plans for the future of Audeara Gaming, how do you hope to help gamers around the world?
We are continuing to develop our gaming platform and gaming headphones and will be working with world-class gaming experts. We offer over the air updates in our platform so as the tech gets better, so do the headphones. We want gamers all over the world to experience the benefit of personalized sound and keep track of their hearing to ensure they can love gaming forever.