With wireless headphone system, Eversound aims to improve quality of life for older adults

By 2020, Eversound hopes to add two million clients and reach as many senior living communities as possible, in their quest to improve hearing – and quality of life – for countless older adults.
The company, founded by Jake Reisch, Devin Jameson and Matt Reiners, built the first wireless headphone system specifically for seniors. Eversound began as a startup at Cornell University, where Reisch and Jameson met, and their product is now used by over 200 assisted-living communities.
“Over the next couple years, we really expect Eversound to be in every single senior community that really cares about their residents, and understands the impact that a lack of hearing can have on someone’s life,” Reisch, 27, said.
The headphones’ purpose is to re-engaged seniors suffering from hearing loss. Studies have shown that 80-percent of seniors experience hearing loss once they reach 85 years of age. The efficacies of the headset have so far been promising.
“Our clients are reporting 20-percent increases in attendance at group events and 28-percent increases in overall engagement within their resident populations,” Reisch said. “[That] has a noticeable impact on quality of life. It’s the difference between sitting in your room in a recliner, not socializing, to now going and hanging out with friends. When you’re 85-plus, it means a lot.”
It’s that kind of impact that continues to inspire Reisch and his fellow co-founders, who first came up with the idea when their own loved ones began moving into living communities.
Early in the product’s development, Reisch traveled all around Ithaca, New York, and met with hundreds of seniors.  Aids and other devices, he realized, were too small and complicated to adequately address the problem.  He knew that a better solution had to be out there, and it wasn’t long after testing his own invention that he realized he may have found it.
Reisch recalled a 96-year old man, Verne Rockcastle, who had been attending social gatherings at his assisted community but not maximizing the quality of his time. Rockcastle, who died in April of 2015, was basically sitting in silence – then he put on a set of headphones.
“Verne comes up to us after the event, looks at us with a big grin and says, ‘This is the first time I’ve been able to hear clearly – every word – in seven years,’” Reisch said of one of his first clients. “That was kind of the moment when we were like, ‘Holy crap, let’s get to work.”
And there was work to be done.
According to a 2012 report in Hearing Healthy magazine, one in three people over 60 has “life-diminishing hearing loss.” A survey by the National Council of the Aging, meanwhile, found that those who sought aid were “more socially active and less likely to be depressed.”
Eversound has taken that research and designed an easy-to-operate device – one that’s compatible with the common hearing aid but can also be used as a replacement.
“We worked with occupational therapists to design the ergonomics of the headset and all controls to be ideal for older adults who lack manual dexterity,” Reisch said. “We also adapt the sound to amplify specific frequencies that improve voice clarity for older adults experiencing natural hearing loss.”
In 2016, shortly after Eversound’s official launch in November of that year, LCB Senior Living’s Independent Research Council conducted a study after using Eversound’s wireless unit.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the results of the study, which tested 50-plus randomly-selected participants with and without hearing loss who are over the age of 65: “Many measurable outcomes were generated from this study. The results showed consistently more engaged residents, as evidenced by a higher percentage of resident participation (calling out answers, engaging in conversation, asking questions, and other vocalizations … Additionally, survey results and resident self-reporting revealed the assistance the headphones provided in eliminating background noise, made it easier to focus on the group activity.”

 

Zach Shapiro

Zach Shapiro

    Zach is a graduate of the University of Tampa and a former Buccaneers beat writer. He's currently a journalism grad student at the University of Maryland and grateful for the opportunity to contribute to MedTech Boston. New to a personal Twitter account, find him @shapzach

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