Kudos to GRAND Sponsor
Keeping people connected
By Richard J. Anthony, Sr.
GRAND Magazine is fortunate and proud to have the support of some outstanding companies and organizations. We thought you might like to get to know them better. So here is the inside story of one of our sponsors, ClearSounds Communications.
ClearSounds Communications is the leading developer and manufacturer of advanced listening devices for the hearing impaired. The company, founded in 1982, also provides audio listening devices for people who simply want a superior sound experience.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Michele Ahlman, the president of ClearSounds. Following is an excerpt of that interview.
What accounts for the passion you have for your family business?
I think it’s because I’ve seen the effects of hearing loss in my own family — the frustration that turns to irritation and the strain hearing loss can put on relationships. The pity is that it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s what motivated us to create new assistive listening devices using cutting-edge technology to provide advanced solutions for individual needs. We can’t eradicate hearing loss, but we can help to eliminate the isolation it can inflict on people who are dealing with hearing loss.
Who in your family has hearing problems?
My dad, grandparents, and aunt have had to deal with hearing loss. They are members of a large and growing community of people who struggle with staying connected with family, friends, and coworkers because of diminished hearing. Every one of them is unique, a lesson our industry is still learning. Instead of selling hearing aids, we have to offer holistic solutions that enable spouses to communicate and grandparents to connect with their grandkids — plus, to the millions of Boomers who want to continue working or pursue other interests in which the ability to hear and comprehend are essential.
The company didn’t start as a manufacturer, right?
The original company, HITEC Group International, was started by my mother, Madeline Uzuanis, as a distributor of amplified communications systems. She built a distribution network that set the standard for large state distribution programs. HITEC Group integrated the best available products to design customized solutions. I started helping after school, and my dad—who, like thousands of his generation, lost his hearing after military service — eventually earned an MBA and left his job to help my mom. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act propelled our growth and a quick succession of innovative solutions, like the first ADA-compliant hotel guest room for people with hearing loss.
Why did you decide to produce your own line of assistive listening devices?
My parents are both entrepreneurs — you know, the type who are never satisfied with the status quo. It’s what sets us apart. More than that, we’re disruptive innovators. We thrive on breaking new ground. We weren’t satisfied with what was “available,” so we decided to create our own line of user-friendly assistive hearing devices designed around the lifestyle needs of our customers. Our research showed that customers look for three things: functionality, price, and style. They want a complete solution backed with value-added service. And that’s what the ClearSounds brand now stands for: advanced listening devices for the home, office, and on the road that improve the quality of life for people with hearing loss.
Can you give me an example of a ClearSounds solution that is an industry leader?
I can give you two examples, both recognized this year by the Consumer Electronics Association for excellence in design and engineering. The first is our new i800 Bluetooth Cordless Phone with iPhone Dock and Audio Speakers, the only device that docks both an iPhone and an amplified landline-based cordless phone. The second is the Quattro 4.0 Bluetooth streamer with removable mic designed for both hearing aid users and non-users to enjoy cell phone technology, music, and one-on-one communication without interference and with bold, remarkable sound. Both are examples of aesthetically pleasing style and innovative technology.
Other than ClearSounds’ signature line of products and services, what else is the company doing to make a difference in the community?
We have a number of initiatives under way that are part of our ongoing marketing program for ClearSounds. We see ourselves as educators and advocates as well as providers of products. A program we’re especially interested in is our Teen Hearing Challenge, an outreach program to educate teens on the dangers of loud noise and how to protect their hearing. We’re developing a curriculum to incorporate into their science program to help educate teens on the dangers of loud noise and how to protect their hearing. We want to get the message to parents and grandparents, as well, so they can remind teens of the consequences of prolonged exposure to ear-piercing noise.
What’s next for ClearSounds?
I’d broaden the question: What’s next for the hearing health community? Just as the vision/eyewear industry has gone mainstream with retail storefronts, hearing health practitioners will soon showcase their communication products and services in eye-catching, consumer-driven spaces. It has to happen. It’s the only way to attract the industry’s target market: active adults, 45 to 64. The time will come when a handful of savvy, forward-thinking people will lead a revolution that substitutes phrases like “hearing aids” with terms like “personal communication devices” or “personal listening assistances.” Hearing technology is advancing at a rate that matches the rapid-fire pace of the PC industry and the proliferation of personal communication devices, all of which are produced to improve the quality and value of the communication experience. That’s the kind of disruptive innovation we see in ClearSounds’ future.
Richard J. Anthony, Sr. serves as Executive Vice President of GRAND Media. He is a consultant, teacher, author, TV producer/host, and entrepreneur.
A Personal Note from Richard Anthony, Sr.
An article I wrote titled “Confession of an Amplification-Challenged Male” appeared in a previous issue of GRAND Magazine. It was a macho piece about my grudging acceptance of hearing loss. Since then, I have learned that hearing loss is no laughing matter. My hearing has gotten worse, forcing me to either get professional help or become disconnected from family, friends, and business associates. And our youngest daughter, who has been deaf in one ear for over 25 years, recently had a cochlear implant. For years, she had been told that her hearing could not be restored. I watched her cry before the surgery at the prospect of being able to really “hear” her husband’s and two children’s voices for the first time. And my wife and I shared her joy when the device was activated.
My research for this article about ClearSounds introduced me to many other stories about people, young and old, whose lives were diminished because of the inability to hear. Relationships were destroyed, careers aborted, and self-esteem shattered.
My exhortation to anyone with a hearing problem is this: Don’t laugh it off or kid yourself about the negative effects that impaired hearing will have on your life and the lives of those close to you. Get professional help.
For information about and resources for hearing impairment, loss, and healthcare, we recommend the following:
ACIalliance.org (American Cochlear Implant Alliance)
ALDA.org (Association of Late-Deafened Adults)
ASHA.org (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association)
ATA.org (American Tinnitus Association)
Audiology.org (AmericanAcademy of Audiology)
Betterhearing.org (Better Hearing Institute)
DeafChildren.org (American Society for Deaf Children)
DHHS.ca (Deaf and Hard of Hearing Society)
Hearingloss.org (Hearing Loss Association of America)
NAD.org (National Association of the Deaf)
NIDCD.nih.gov (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders)
TDIforaccess.org (Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing)