As someone with a significant hearing loss, I don’t tend to make a lot of phone calls. If I can just send a text or WhatsApp message instead of having to talk to someone, I’ll definitely choose to type rather than dial.
Unfortunately for me, along with millions of other customers in the UK who have some form of hearing loss, there’s never been anything to help make phone calls easier for us.
In fact, when I recently upgraded my phone, I never even bothered to look at any options that might help me hear voice calls. Naturally I went through the common ritual of researching what new releases had the best superficial features, such as having the sharpest camera or being the lightest model. But I didn’t think to investigate any aspect of a mobile phone’s most primary function.
I just assumed that every model would be plagued with the same fundamental flaw that makes using a mobile an everyday challenge for people with a hearing loss, namely the sound quality of the actual phone call.
And whilst technological companies have been engaged in an arms race for the latest features, designs and network coverage, they’ve pretty well ignored a significant barrier for millions of mobile users.
However, this could be about to change with the launch of Audacious, a network that’s committed to making clearer mobile calls possible for millions of people across the UK.
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Why Audacious is so important
The truth is, it’s a lot harder to hear someone over the phone than it is if you’re talking face to face. As a person who’s lived with a significant hearing loss for many years, I’ve become very good at lip reading. But of course, when you’re on a voice call with someone, that’s no help at all. Which is one of the reasons why I find voice calls so frustrating.
The quality of sound on a mobile phone can make it extremely challenging to hear what someone is saying. A common misconception is that it’s entirely based on the volume of the sounds. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have told me to turn the volume up on my phone or stick it on speaker. What a lot of people don’t realise is the quality of the sounds and pitch of the frequencies are of equal importance and, currently, the quality of these sounds on a mobile are simply not good enough.
Worse than that, for those who rely on a hearing aid, this can actually make things even trickier when you’re on the phone. The most common form of hearing aid clips behind the ear to amplify certain sounds and cut out background noise. But unless you hold your phone at a very strange angle, your hearing aid will assume that the sound coming from your phone is background buzz and will do its best to make sure you can’t hear it at all.
Add to that the fact that background noise and poor signal can sometimes make even those with perfect hearing struggle on the phone sometimes and you can see why I prefer texting.
In short, the simple act of making or receiving a call on your mobile can cause disproportionate and undue stress and anxiety to people with a hearing loss.
So needless to say, I was delighted to hear that Audacious is a positive, progressive and inclusive company, dedicated to making mobile phones more accessible to people who need help hearing.
What is Audacious?
Audacious is a brand new SIM-only network designed to improve the quality of phone calls for people with hearing loss. It does this by using the same technology found in hearing aids to tailor your SIM card to the unique way you hear.
So, when you buy a SIM from Audacious, you take an online hearing test similar to the one you’d take if you were getting a hearing aid. Except with Audacious, you can do the test using your own phone, so you can hear exactly what it’ll sound like on your device. And the results are life changing.
This is all thanks to the fact that Audacious has a detailed understanding of hearing loss. The company’s founder, Matthew Turner, has experienced 80% hearing loss since childhood. And he’s determined to not only overcome his personal challenge of making and receiving phone calls, but to support others facing the same barrier.
After years of hard work, Turner founded Goshawk Communications with the primary objective of developing a mobile service that made mobile calls clearer. Not only did he have the foresight to understand that mobile communications would become an integral part of modern day society, he had the intellect and experience to develop the technology and bring it to market.
Goshawk worked with consumers who had a range of hearing difficulties to build a solution to meet everyone’s individual hearing needs and enhance the quality of life for millions of people.
Turner enlisted the help of Professor Brian Moore and Doctor Michael Stone, two of the world’s leading Hearing Scientists and they worked together to develop a way to test and improve hearing ability over the phone. After many years of rigorous testing, the technology developed by Goshawk has achieved Class 1 Medical Device Certification by the EU.
The results are incredibly impressive, with nine out of 10 people hearing a positive difference.
Want to find out more? Here's everything you need to know about Audacious.
The Audacious hearing test
Naturally, I was really keen to do the hearing test and receive an Audacious SIM tailored to my hearing.
Happily, it’s really quick and easy to set up your personal sound profile on the Audacious website. For those of you who’ve had tests for a hearing aid, the online Audacious test will be pretty familiar. Except you get to use your phone so you can hear how it’ll sound on your device.
It’ll play a series of beeps and sounds at different volumes, pitches and tones and as soon as you hear the noise, you press the button. This gives Audacious the information it needs to tailor the SIM to your own individual way of hearing.
Of course, this does mean that you’ll need a second device, like a laptop, desktop or tablet, to do the test on, while you listen to the noises on your phone. But the main advantage is that you’ll know exactly what the SIM will sound like when it’s in your phone.
The test takes less than five minutes and this creates your personal profile that’s completely tailored to you.
What’s even better is that you can retake the test at any time. Audacious recognises that hearing profiles change over time and has therefore given users to ability to redo the test to ensure they’re always getting the best quality calls and the clearest possible communication.
Making and receiving calls with an Audacious SIM
Once you’ve set up your profile, the difference in the sound quality is immediate. It’s so much clearer and easier to decipher than anything I’ve ever experienced over the phone.
Indeed, I found it was only when I heard the sound quality of my personal hearing profile from Audacious that I realised just what terrible sound quality I’d been putting up with for years.
I’ve always just resigned myself to the fact that I can’t hear very clearly when using a mobile and as a consequence, I avoid chatting whenever I can. I deliberately miss calls and text the person back instead or I pretend the signal’s too bad to let me ring someone rather than waste time by trying to hear over the phone.
But the Audacious SIM gives the best possible experience of making a phone call and honestly, it’s nothing short of life-changing.
The sound quality is fuller, clearer and much easier to understand than anything I’ve ever heard through a handset. And it’s given me the confidence to not only answer my phone when it rings, but to actually call people for a chat, which is something I’ve never felt able to do before.
Even when I’m out and there’s a load of background noise, I can still call my friends to find out where they are and actually hear what they’re saying to me. It’s a total game-changer.
Finally there’s a way to combat the isolation, stress and sheer frustration that people with a hearing loss experience when using a mobile. And take it from me, it really can make a profound difference to the quality of a person’s life.
Would I switch to Audacious?
In a word, absolutely. The technology in the Audacious SIM has completely changed the way I interact with my phone and, consequently, my friends, family and colleagues. And you really can’t put a price on that.
Having said that, the cost of an Audacious SIM-only plan is certainly not the cheapest on the market. But when you’re getting a SIM that’s completely tailored to the unique way you hear, you wouldn’t exactly expect it to be.
Rather than just joining the race to the bottom by offering cheap SIM-only deals, Audacious is adding huge value to its customers who’d really struggle to make use of their minutes on any other network.
And after all, I’d much rather pay for phone calls I can hear rather than ones I can’t, even if it does mean it costs a few extra quid per month.
As well as providing people with SIM cards tailored to their individual hearing needs, Audacious also provides everything we’ve come to expect from a mobile phone provider.
Based on EE’s network, Audacious customers will be able to enjoy 99% network coverage in the UK. And Audacious offers inclusive roaming in all EU countries, so you can use your minutes, texts and data for no extra cost from anywhere in the European Union.
Currently, Audacious has three SIM-only packages to suit your needs. So whether you’re addicted to Instagram or you just like to send the occasional email, there’s a plan that’ll fit your usage habits without breaking the bank.
In a crowded marketplace, Audacious stands out for its unrivalled commitment to providing customers with a personalised, high quality, service that greatly enhances the user experience. And by doing so, has highlighted the shortcomings of major providers who have so far failed in their responsibilities to customers who suffer from a hearing loss.
Research shows that as many as 11 million in the UK have a hearing loss. That’s one in six people who could benefit from a SIM card that’s tailored to their needs. And yet no other network has so far stepped up to address this problem. Which, when you come to think of it, is pretty outrageous.
The technology that Audacious has developed is a very significant step forward and will doubtless provide a more inclusive way for people to access an essential means of communication. Being able to hear more clearly when using a phone makes calls easier, more effective and less stressful or anxiety-inducing.
Audacious’ revolutionary technology, combined with its commitment and passion for removing communication barriers, should ensure that, finally, mobile users with a hearing loss will finally have their voices heard.
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