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Listen Technologies & the power of shared experiences

We explore how the company’s assistive listening solutions are helping to remove language and accessibility barriers

Listen Technologies, a provider of assistive listening, multi-language audio transmission and live streaming audio solutions, has been designing and manufacturing wireless listening solutions for 24 years. The company was founded on the belief that everyone deserves the same great listening experience. Its award-winning technologies and solutions help people overcome challenges to communication – hearing loss, noise, distance, acoustics, language, face coverings – so they can hear clearly and engage fully in experiences.  

Jonathan Stanley

This commitment to providing inclusive experiences extends across industries and a variety of solutions that meet users’ needs. Houses of worship, manufacturing facilities, courtrooms, conference rooms, classrooms, sports bars, theatres, and museums are some venues where Listen Technologies’ easy-to-use solutions are helping people hear, connect, and stay safe. 

The company also offers solutions that make theme parks, attractions, and vehicle/vessel and guided and self-guided walking tours more accessible, secure, and engaging with immersive storytelling.

We recently spoke with Jonathan Stanley, chief experience officer at Listen Technologies. He talked about inclusion, the power of shared experiences, and the future of assistive technology.

As CXO of Listen Technologies, you are responsible for customer and employee experiences and aligning culture with purpose. What does that mean?

I am responsible for creating exceptional customer, employee, and partner experiences, leading a company culture aligned with our purpose, values, key goals, and strategies. Everyone at Listen contributes to fulfilling our purpose – everyone deserves the same great experience.

ListenTALK-parent-and-child-listening-audio-guide-in-museum

We see a future world without language and accessibility barriers, where communication is seamless. This is a world where everyone celebrates our differences, shares richer human connections, and has a mutual understanding of what’s being said. This is the future Listen Technologies is creating. We’re investing, so everyone feels like they belong. I’m excited that everything we do is about making a difference in people’s lives.

So much of what Listen Technologies does is about inclusivity. Can you talk more about that?

We believe in inclusive experiences, but there are several challenges to clear communication in different environments. For example, noise and distractions, distance, safety, and privacy can hinder people’s ability to engage with others and the experience fully. We provide solutions that offer a crystal-clear audio experience that have applications for assistive listening and clear communication in the harshest environments.

Listen-EVERYWHERE-couple-listening-together.

For example, we can deliver audio across private channels in courtrooms for people with hearing loss. This ensures that they can hear clearly and securely. We also provide solutions for language interpretation to remove language barriers for those who speak another language – so they’re included.

It’s about helping people belong and ensuring everyone has the same experience.

Yes! When we founded the company 24 years ago, it was about removing accessibility barriers and providing inclusive experiences, so no one feels left out. There is nothing worse than social exclusion, it’s an awful, isolating feeling. What we do changes that. We want people to feel good about participating in experiences.  

We have a variety of technologies installed in attractions, museums, and theme parks. Most have been provided to offer clear, distraction-free communication and assistive listening experiences.

ListenTALK-coach trip

We know hearing loss affects 20% of the global population and unfortunately, that number is rising. The World Health Organisation recently published a hearing report in which they anticipate that hearing loss will increase significantly over the next 30 years for various reasons. So, it’s more important than ever to provide exceptional listening experiences for our customers.

How are Listen Technologies solutions enhancing the visitor experience in museums and galleries?

Listen EVERYWHERE is an audio-over-Wi-Fi solution for streaming audio. In venues offering Listen EVERYWHERE, anyone can download the free Listen EVERYWHERE app on their smartphone or device. Then they can simply walk up to a stationary exhibit and enjoy the audio experience. The audio is streamed directly to their smartphone or device.

Listen EVERYWHERE
Listen EVERYWHERE

Those who require assistive listening can stream the audio directly to their hearing aids using Bluetooth from their smartphone. Alternatively, they can use our advanced neck loops, designed for adults and kids, for listeners with telecoil-equipped hearing aids and cochlear implants.

It’s an affordable way for museums to deliver audio so people can hear clearly, and we can do that across multiple channels. So, for example, if an exhibit’s stationary audio is being delivered in two or more languages, we have a solution.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges and opportunities. Can you talk about those?

At the beginning of the pandemic, when everything shut down, and our sales team couldn’t be in the field visiting with reps, we were quickly able to pivot. We realized that our two-way portable communication device, ListenTALK, often used for guided tours on factory floors, in parks, theatres, museums, and attractions, might have a useful application under these unique circumstances.

It started with one customer who had a demo system. Before the shutdown, they planned to use it to conduct tours of their warehouse. Shortly after the shutdown, they wanted to buy the demo system and several additional systems. This allowed them to stay in business during the shutdown, despite the requirement for masks and physical distancing.

ListenTALK
ListenTALK

ListenTALK enables people and companies to communicate clearly and safely. It’s become the leading standard for organizations that stand behind their safety mission, and we’re proud of that.   

Our products fit several applications. They are not only for the hard of hearing but can also help with guided tours, language interpretation, situational hearing, workplace communication, safety, training, portable assistive listening, and more. ListenTALK offers two-way and one-way communication solutions, enabling people to keep a safe physical distance and still communicate clearly.

Many theatres, parks, and attractions are recovering from the pandemic lockdowns and coping with reduced staff and budgets. What advice do you have for them if they cannot easily redesign or retrofit to accommodate assistive listening technology?

Seeing the number of museums and attractions that continue to struggle as we recover from this pandemic has been heart-breaking.

History, art, culture, and entertainment have always been an important and enriching part of my life. From an assistive listening standpoint, many people believe that technology is inaccessible because it’s expensive. But we’ve designed our audio-over-Wi-Fi solutions to be very affordable. We help smaller venues, museums, attractions, large theme parks, theatres, and even churches with affordable audio-over-Wi-Fi listening solutions.

Often, people think expensive hearing loop retrofits are still required to adapt old theatre systems. But it’s not the case anymore.

ListenTALK-school-group-in-museum

Historically, the challenge for existing theatres and venues is that it is extremely expensive to retrofit a hearing loop. These systems are typically installed under the carpet or flooring, making them cost prohibitive for many venues. Today, venues can enable their public spaces by plugging in a very simple device, broadcasting audio-over-Wi-Fi for a very tiny fraction of the cost – while providing their guests with superior listening experiences.

We have solutions for many environments and applications. For example, we provide assistive listening solutions on cruise ships, which as you know, are massive. We can provide an assistive listening experience in many parts of the ship, directly to small, discreet devices. This makes it easy for everyone to enjoy everything a cruise ship has to offer.

What are other benefits of audio-over-Wi-Fi?

First, our audio-over-Wi-Fi solution, Listen EVERYWHERE, is affordable and scalable. People connect to the audio stream using their own smartphone or device. This eliminates the device cost in many cases. Additionally, we have just introduced a dedicated Wi-Fi receiver. Therefore, makes Listen EVERYWHERE is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Following the ADA guidelines, any public space where audio is a key part of the experience requires an assistive listening system. This includes theatres, conference spaces, arenas, and other public spaces where audio is transmitted through a microphone and speakers.

Listen EVERYWHERE-with phone
Listen EVERYWHERE

Now, a museum or attraction can easily install Listen EVERYWHERE and distribute a physical device for someone who doesn’t arrive with their smartphone or device. For so many people who have their smartphones or devices with them, connecting to audio is easy and straightforward. For many smaller museums, we provide the complete solution, including the mobile app to receive the audio. This is an affordable way to provide assistive listening, delivering audio directly to a user’s device.

We work in hundreds of theatres and concert halls and deploy a variety of technologies for both assistive listening and clear communication. Many theatres and cultural venues are adopting audio-over-Wi-Fi because it’s an affordable, easy-to-use, and easy-to-install solution.

You’ve said innovation is the basis of Listen Technologies’ ethos. How so?

We are continually innovating. We have just launched three new solutions. One is supportive of simultaneous language interpretation, making the process of language interpretation easier for interpreters using our tour guide system, ListenTALK.

We have also introduced private channels for Listen EVERYWHERE, meaning we can deliver password-protected audio over Wi-Fi. Many people have concerns about audio broadcasts being listened to when they aren’t secure. As a result, we’ve introduced private audio channels that have applications in classrooms, courtrooms, and company conference rooms.

Having a Tour Through the City Streets

With the introduction of private channels, we provide audio securely and directly to a user’s device using a password. So, no one else can connect to the Wi-Fi network and listen to the audio.

Most recently, we launched a fully ADA-compliant audio-over Wi-Fi listening solution, not only for assistive listening but for crystal clear listening in a variety of environments and spaces.

Creating a seamless guest experience that fosters engagement and belonging is at the heart of everything we do at Listen Technologies. We want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people. That means creating solutions that offer exceptional listening experiences – and clear communication for everyone.

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Lalla Merlin

Lead Features Writer Lalla studied English at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford University. A writer and film-maker, she lives in rural Devon with husband, children, and an assortment of badly-behaved animals, including an enormous but friendly wolf.

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