Hearing Aid Alternatives: Inexpensive SMARTO Device Offers Appealing Features for Patients and Professionals

smarto hearing amplifier behear goldin interview
September 14, 2022
Battered and bruised, stuck in a cabinet for many months, then ready for action at a moment’s notice — think of all the loved ones, spouses and companions who shouted, “Can you hear me now?” into its bulbous black microphone, those ubiquitous pocket amplifiers had a great run. If you haven’t already, now might be a good time to ditch the old-fashioned pocket amplifiers and replace them with a device that has as many features as many medical-grade hearing aids.
In this episode, acclaimed audio engineer, Alexander Goldin tells us about the new BeHear SMARTO non-custom amplifier and how it broadens the appeal of amplification devices to those in your community — people who maybe cannot wear traditional hearing aids but nevertheless need help.
According to the company, the SMARTO offers
  • 70 dB of gain; no feedback
  • Noise reduction and directionality
  • Programmable for personalization**
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Customizable tinnitus masking
  • Slow down speech option
  • Emergency call function
  • Rechargeable for 40 hours of use
  • On-ear and in-ear headsets included

** Fitting rationale conforms to NAL-NL2 targets

More details can be found here on the company’s website

Full Episode Transcript


Brian Taylor 0:11
Hello, and welcome to This Week in Hearing. I’m Brian Taylor. This week we’re going to be talking about disruptive OTC amplification technology. And with me to discuss it is Dr. Alexander Goldin, who is President and CEO of Alango Technologies. Dr. Goldin, welcome to This Week in Hearing.

Alexander Goldin 0:30
Thank you very much, Brian, for inviting me. It’s my pleasure to be here and also to meet you again for

Brian Taylor 0:37
Yeah, it’s been a while I think it was back in maybe 2016. You are on a panel that I was moderating at a AAA. And at the time, I think OTC technology was sort of a glimmer in everybody’s eye. And now, you know, a few years later, it’s kind of upon us. So it’s great to revisit it with you today.

Alexander Goldin 1:02
Yeah, my pleasure.

Brian Taylor 1:04
I thought we could start by having you share with our audience a little bit about your background, and a little bit about your company Alango technologies, because I know you’re not new to the field of audio. And it’s good for our listeners, I think to catch up a little bit about your background.

Alexander Goldin 1:22
Sure, sure. So I will start from a story. You know, once I met someone, walk in a very beautiful slender footed dog with long brown fur, and I asked him what breed it was. And the man proudly replied, it’s a multi breed dog, so that it’s me. I’m a multi background engineer. I have a PhD in applied mathematics and physics, that I applied to data analysis in photon correlation spectroscopy and kinetics fluorescence analysis. I have a good background in image processing, and in electrocardiogram signal analysis, but for the last 30 years, I’ve been applying mathematics to improve digital sound in various applications. And 20 years ago, I founded Alango technologies to make it more efficient.

Brian Taylor 2:22
Alexander, thank you for the for the introduction. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the products that you brought to market?

Alexander Goldin 2:30
Our first product was Behear Now, that was later replaced with Behear Access. Both products, look and work as bluetooth stereo headsets, that they have integrated hearing enhancement functionality with all the technologies that we’ve been developing for the last 10 years based on our prior experience that actually work for improving hearing as compared to other technologies that we do that improve voice communication.

Brian Taylor 3:14
Okay. I think a good place to go next would be to talk a little bit about some of the gaps that you see in the hearing market. I mean, I think all of us are familiar with the low uptake rates, the reasons around affordability, stigma, access, cumbersome buying process. And I know when you were on the panel that I moderated back in 2016, you had some rather provocative opinions at the time. I think maybe those opinions. The those opinions are not maybe as provocative today as they were back then. But maybe share with us some of your thoughts on how you see the hearing care market.

Alexander Goldin 3:53
Well, a lot of things changed since then, actually. And, you know, we we seen the we saw the rise of some interesting products like Bose Hearphones, and we saw that they were discontinued in both hearing aids and the other ups and downs. And I’m not hearing health professional. But I’ve been following the health the Hearing Health solutions for a long time. And I think that today, the biggest gap in hearing care is the limited variety of solutions it can provide besides hearing aids as we know that and when people need hearing aids, they have to admit they have a problem. And I think this is the hardest part for many. And that’s why no one wants to use hearing aids unless they have no choice. So we have to give them the choice. And on other hand, there are older people for whom wearing hearing aids has become I’m too difficult, but the demands for quality amplifications have increased even more. So hearing care professionals need a variety of products to offer their clients, products that adapt to different lifestyles, to different perceptions. So what is comfortable, or even cool products that do not compromise some technology, and very importantly, have a viable sales model. And that was missing in those failed products. And our mission as a company is to offer such alternatives or help others to do so by sharing our technologies with them.

Brian Taylor 5:41
Yeah, so let’s talk about some of those alternatives that your company is brought to market that start with the device that you’ve already mentioned. The Behear Smarto, can you tell us about how that works for your smartphone

Alexander Goldin 5:56
it’s a powerful handheld or body worn hearing amplifier that also functions as In Amplified bluetooth stereo headset and assistive listening device, for example, for TV watching. But what’s really new about it, handheld amplifiers have been around for a long time. However, to now these devices were just linear sound amplifiers, the users who are struggling with amplified ambient noises, and experiencing acoustic feedback with even moderate level of amplification. So we called our new device smarter because it’s extremely simple it convenient to operate without compromising the technology under the hood, amplification or functionality. So smarter integrate state of the art technologies that can only be found in Advanced Hearing aids, wideband, multi channel dynamic range compression, noise reduction, adaptive directional microphone, acoustic signal suppression and more. And out of the box, it comes pre programmed for some moderate level of high tone hearing loss. But users can easily customize it by adjusting volume, and bass treble balance with the big colorful, big convenient buttons on the device itself. Also smarter supports Bluetooth 5.0. And by connecting Smarto to a smartphone app, it’s possible to change the right left ear balance, change the level of noise reduction and do many other customizations where the app users can test their hearing whenever they want. Following that the smarter default hearing profile and hearing amplification parameters will be replaced with those exactly matching using hearing loss and with smarter and when smarter is used for making phone calls or listening to audio from the from from their phones, the sound will be automatically adjusted or personalization or personalized according to the hearing loss. And in operation modes, users can adjust the sound further by volume and tone controls. And finally, Smarto integrates an easily programmable tinnitus masking noise generator for people suffering from ringing in the ears. And again while the smart smartphone app users themselves can easily adjust the level, the tone and the sharpness of the masking noise for the best therapeutic effect. And with all this advanced digital signal processing features that we insert included in that smart is very easy to operate. You see it has large shaped volume button, easy to navigate, tone control balance, separated colored buttons for voice, a accepting false answer and for for end, the directivity button toggles between omnidirectional and sound focus mode for challenging, noisy, noisy environment where it can actually point it to my conversational partner. And all buttons or group of them can be disabled to prevent accidental accidental pressing by users for example with advanced level of dementia. Smarter comes with two types of simple but high quality headsets. This is one of them over the ear and then we have another one that is in in ear inserts and both headsets have additional wired microphone that is used for voice calls because it’s closer to the to the den The device. And the sound microphone is also used to eliminate unnecessary sounds like handling noise of the device, which is very annoying in other like traditional types of, of these devices. And one of these buttons can also be programmed for emergency calls. And I forgot one important feature in Behear Smarto as well as Behear Access. They both integrate alarm to proprietary Easy Listen, technology that can dynamic is slowed down incoming speech during phone calls, improving speech intelligibility.

Brian Taylor 10:44
Yeah, that’s, I think that it’s unbelievable what it is all the features that are available. And I think that I don’t know any of our viewers out there that are in clinical practice that don’t have something like a pocket talker on hand. And this completely blows that any kind of pocket talker out of the water when it comes to an assistive device that people can use in the clinic or take out in use in the assisted living facilities. So there’s a lot I want to cover with you. I got a couple I have a few follow up questions. One is this this easy listen feature that you just mentioned. That sounds really cool. Tell us a little bit more about how that works.

Alexander Goldin 11:26
You know, many elderly people with or even without measured hearing loss experienced difficulties understanding, fast speech or even normal speech. It’s similar to speaking over the phone in a foreign language, the brain doesn’t have enough time to digest the information and easily listen dynamic dynamically makes parts of the speech data difficult to comprehend longer, giving the brain more time. This obviously introduces some delay, that is quickly compensated during pauses or parts of the speech that don’t convey any useful information such as prolonged with a sound sounds. And users can control the technology and choose the most appropriate level depending on what the topic Who are they talking to.

Brian Taylor 12:19
It’s pretty cool that you have that that feature on on the device. You also mentioned that the smartphone has wireless connectivity with through an app or through Bluetooth connection. Is that am I right about that?

Alexander Goldin 12:33
Well, first of all, Smarto works is a fully functional bluetooth stereo headset with personalized or customizable sound according to users hearing loss or personal preferences. And this wireless capability allows its use also as a TV listening system. It integrates Qualcomm, AptX, low latency audio streaming that eliminates the lip sync problem associated often with the standard Bluetooth protocol. And of course, low latency audio streaming is only possible when both the receiver and the transmitter employ the same low latency protocol. So we recommend using our Behear link transmitter that is optimized for use with all our Behear products.

Brian Taylor 13:19
Got it. So I mentioned already that this is like a pocket talker on steroids. Tell us a little bit more about the target market who do you see as somebody out in the real world that would be benefiting from the smarter device.

Alexander Goldin 13:39
So our first device that I mentioned before, which is Behear Access addresses people with hearing loss who for whatever reason are not yet ready for hearing aids. Behear Access provides them with the situational hearing amplification whenever they need it. On top of the standard functionality of a stereo bluetooth headset. Behear Smarto targets to other types of users. The first type are elderly people, and for many of them hearing aids are not amplifying enough. They are difficult to operate due to dexterity issues. They are too small so that they are easily lost or broken. And some elderly people cannot use hearing aids because any foreign object in their ears results in itching and others experience a level of dementia requiring a very simple and yet powerful devices. So this is the first type and the second type of users. We talk we target with beer smarter a client facing professionals who will buy smarter to give it temporarily to the visitors so clients who experience difficulties for communication due to their hearing loss. This could be medical staff in hospitals. Kleenex caregivers in nursing homes social working therapy in aid

Brian Taylor 15:06
Now I think for all you audiologists out there listening that are working in a medical environment, we are interacting with other nurses, physicians, social workers, I think your device would be a great tool to put in their toolbox when they’re working with patients that have hearing loss just like you described. So I think it’s great that you have a product like this available, make it available to them. So they have when they’re interacting with the with patients that don’t hear very well, they have some way to effectively communicate. All right. Can you tell us a little bit about where a person could buy any of your any of your devices?

Alexander Goldin 15:49
Behear Smarto is available online. We are distributors, such as the globe in others. They are today available in general online platforms such as Amazon or Best Buy. And they are they can be purchased from Alango Behear website audiologist or hearing care professionals can buy it from Oaktree that is our distributor in the United States

Brian Taylor 16:18
Oaktree products, right? Yes. Right.

Alexander Goldin 16:21
So in I hope in that in the very near future, it will be available in some retail stores as well as pharmacists, as soon as OTC category will be finally working.

Brian Taylor 16:35
That’s great. That’s great information. And we’ll make sure that people can look in the in the chat box of the of the video and they have access to your website there. Can you maybe share with us a little bit about what you see down the road and maybe products that are on the drawing board that you want to bring to market what the future holds for Alango Technologies, anything you want to share with us there,

Alexander Goldin 17:01
I think that the market demand for hearing care will grow and the market demand for hearing care professional will grow. But the work will change it will be redefined. And here we shall probably talk a little bit about over the counter hearing aids. And what’s happening today and OTC hearing aids are supposed to help. Close the current huge service gap between the number of hearing impaired people who need help and the number of people who use any form of amplification. They are supposed to reduce the cost and time people need to get the basic hearing care. However, I don’t think OTC hearing aids will solve the problem of hearing loss if they adjust the simplified or limited version of prescription hearing aids with the added self fitting capabilities, which is not exactly new. And that that’s one big problem with hearing aids that currently doesn’t allow them to be sold efficiently as a consumer electronic device and this big problem is the return rate. As far as I know, for direct to consumer aid, the return rate may be 35% or higher, which is totally unacceptable for consumer electronic industry. Even for prescription hearing aids fitted by professionals that may be 20% or higher. Ya know, Bose, a consumer electronics company eventually failed with their approach of creating the direct to consumer hearing aid relied on their excellent, very intuitive and scientifically proven self feeding procedure. So why should others succeed? I believe that the major impact OTC hearing aids the immediate impact they will create is the competition that will be open for hundreds of new players who see the world market potential of 1 billion devices and try to figure out solutions that work for a significant percentage of this big number. And that can lead to several breakthroughs in technology. Finally, solving the main complaint of hearing aid users the main problem why they retooled that which is hearing in noise but it will also lead to a diversity of devices users can choose from and who will guide them when people enter a store and see 20 devices Maybe all of them are good, how they can choose from all these devices. And I think that that’s where hearing care professionals can and should help listening to people understanding their problems, instructing them how to do a hearing test and recommending specific device to them based on user’s lifestyles, or cosmetic preferences. I think many people would like to get some advice before spending maybe $300, between $300 and $800 for a device on the shelf. So customers will pay professionals for the information instead of paying for devices. And that means hearing care professionals will need to follow technological trends in new devices, more than they do now when they rely on the marketing information that is provided to them by big five companies that they are working with. So I think it may be difficult to change to accept this new way of doing business. But this is not the first time in history when technology changes the profession. Right. So that’s my view on OTC hearing aids and the future of the profession.

Brian Taylor 21:24
I think there’s a lot for professionals to take in there. I really love what you have to say about navigating all of the choices, guiding a person through the process of picking what might be best for them looking at all of the different variables. I think that in many ways, it’s a much different approach than what we use today. So I think it’s, it’s great for the consumer. And, you know, it’s somewhat challenging, especially for professionals who may not want to accept some of the realities. So I really appreciate your insights on this, on this some of these trends that are that are happening sort of at our feet right now. And any before I let you go, any final words that you want to share with our audience?

Alexander Goldin 22:14
Well, I think that, you know, what, what I said at the end of this interview reflects, I would say, a change in my vision, compared to what was the panel when I was rather radical, and I thought that the solution would come in next three years. And everyone will accept it very fast. But, you know, as the experience comes, understanding that situation is is more complicated. I believe that we are in a moment of time where stars are aligning, that eventually provide the solution to the majority of hearing impaired users who need the help and who are deprived today for whatever reason, from from the solution. We see not it’s, it’s the general understanding of the problem. It’s the progress that we made during the last years in the semiconductor industry. Because today, finally, we are capable of creating consumer electronic devices providing hearing amplification for the required 15 to 20 hours. It’s possible today, it’s not yet we don’t see such devices yet. But it’s already possible. We have the great progress in the microphones. So you know, today, consumer grade microphones are not worse than the microphones used in the most expensive hearing aids because of this progress, because the requirements of of of earbuds of from the mobile phone manufacturers, we see the progress in many areas, the speakers, the everything, and Bluetooth and Bluetooth low energy, of course, and low energy audio that will create revolution, because it will create a much higher acceptance rate for the ear devices, removing the stigma of having something in your ear during the day. So we are now in a very interesting moment in time. And today, like, you know, in during our panel, I still believe in three years, and hope that will finally happen.

Brian Taylor 24:46
Well, I think that it’s I think the one of the messages I’m taking from our conversation today, Alexander is that hearing care professionals need to stay abreast of what’s happening in consumer electronics. Things happen quickly, they need to know where your website is where to find you and others like us. So, again, could you share with us the name of your where to find you on the web?

Alexander Goldin 25:12
Well, our, you know, we have two sites. One is a site of our technological company, which is www.alango.com. And we have decided for our beer line of products, which is alango behear.com.

Brian Taylor 25:36
And people will see that on the screen. Yeah. So

Alexander Goldin 25:39
you will be able to see the screen. Yes. And so thank you

very much, Brian.

Brian Taylor 25:47
Yeah, no, my pleasure. And I think again, if you’re, if you’re hearing care professional out there, it would make sense to have as many of these be here. Behear Smarto devices as you can in your practice. There’s all kinds of applications for them, as you mentioned,

Alexander Goldin 26:04
yes. It was designed with, you know, audiologist in mind.

Brian Taylor 26:08
Exactly. Exactly. So, Dr. Alexander Goldin, President and CEO, engineer, entrepreneur Alango technologies. Thanks for being on our broadcast today.

Alexander Goldin 26:21
Thank you.

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About the Panel

Brian Taylor, AuD, is the senior director of audiology for Signia. He is also the editor of Audiology Practices, a quarterly journal of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, editor-at-large for Hearing Health and Technology Matters and adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin.


Alexander Goldin, Ph.D. is the Founder & CEO of Alango Technologies, Ltd.


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