Eyra Abraham has been hard of hearing since she was three years old and regularly wears hearing aids except at certain times, like sleeping. In the early 2010s, Abraham lived in a condo building where she had the unfortunate experience of sleeping through a late-night fire drill.
“It made me realize my vulnerability in situations I am not wearing my hearing aids, but require me to hear, and I was certain there had to be a solution,” says Abraham, Founder of Lisnen. “I went looking for a listening device that would address my problem – I needed a device that moved with me and could provide real-time awareness using another form of sensory communication, such as vibration or a visual cue. But, unfortunately, there wasn’t an available solution that could do this.”
Originally from Nova Scotia, Abraham graduated from McGill University with a computer science degree. It was during a recession and that led to pivoting her career plan to focus on marketing and communications in the non-profit and government sectors. Tech was a new professional space for Abraham, and she was delighted by the opportunity to return to her computer science roots and help further empower her community.
As an essential next step, Abraham tapped into the community to validate the market demand. “When looking at the problem space, you must verify whether it’s universal. So while I understood the problem from my experience, I consulted and validated it with others in the community to ensure it was not unique to me.”
“As a founder, my partnership with AGE-WELL has been critical, providing access to their vast, interdisciplinary network. Further, it has given me a greater understanding of the older adult perspective, which is important because people tend to lose their hearing later in life, and most people with hearing loss are older adults.”– Eyra Abraham, CEO, Lisnen
Abraham also understood how cell phones had transformed communication in daily life for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. “We’re pretty much married to our cell phones as a way to communicate, so I wanted to piggyback my solution on that trend by leveraging smart devices.”
The exploratory phase led Abraham to create the Lisnen app for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to gain awareness of critical sounds, such as fire alarms or doorbells, that require their immediate attention. The technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) via a smart device and microphone to listen for specific sounds or alerts based on the user’s preferences. Then, it issues a vibration or visual notification when particular sounds are detected.
Lisnen, an AGE-WELL startup affiliate, launched in the fall of 2022. The company’s app is offered as a subscription-based solution.
“As a founder, my partnership with AGE-WELL has been critical, providing access to their vast, interdisciplinary network,” says Abraham. “Further, it has given me a greater understanding of the older adult perspective, which is important because people tend to lose their hearing later in life, and most people with hearing loss are older adults.”
Abraham has successfully partnered with key industry, government and community stakeholders from North American, European, British, and Australian markets to pinpoint how the Lisnen app can evolve to align with new accessibility standards and regulations, and address emerging challenges.
Abraham and her team continue to co-create with the community and benefit from AI’s ability to continuously collect data from the users’ experience to improve the algorithm and detect the targeted sounds in different environments.
When she considers what’s next, she’s laser-focused on integrating technologies (e.g., smartphones, tablets, etc.), so no matter what space a person is in, they can depend on having effective awareness of their environment through alternate sensory alerts.
“When I was travelling abroad by myself recently, I was grateful to have Lisnen to give me a sense of convenience and security when I wasn’t using my hearing aid. I knew that as I moved through different environments and situations, I would be alerted through my phone if needed.”