Hearing aid maker provides affordable solution for situational deafness

VitaSound's PAE-300 handset (shown above in blue) resembles a music player.
VitaSound's PAE-300 handset (shown above in blue) resembles a music player.
The BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer works with most iOS-powered devices.
The BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer works with most iOS-powered devices.
Kisai Intoxicated's breathalyzer port is concealed by a winding stem-looking hatch.
Kisai Intoxicated's breathalyzer port is concealed by a winding stem-looking hatch.

If you're a baby boomer, there's a good possibility your hearing might not be as good as it once was, particularly in noisy environments, such as at social gatherings or in restaurants. Hearing aids are expensive. Prices usually fall in the $2,000 - $5,000 range (per ear), so hearing-impaired adults often postpone seeing an audiologist as long as possible.

VitaSound Audio, a company that makes hearing aids, however, has introduced an affordable audio-enhancement device that allows users to better hear and distinguish sounds in everyday situations. The system is called the Personal Audio Enhancer (PAE-300), and it's designed for individuals who experience situational hearing difficulties, typically in areas where background noise or low-audio levels make it challenging to understand what's being said.

The unit features four sound modes, each of which is designed to address common, 'hard to hear' listening situations: Watch Mode for watching television (featuring a wireless connection within a 33-foot range without line-of-sight requirements), Talk Mode for conversing face-to-face in noisy environments such as restaurants, Listen Mode for talking on a mobile phone or listening to an audio player, and Relax Mode, which provides soothing sounds for relaxation or temporary relief from tinnitus.

The PAE-300 employs patented Neuro-Compensator technology, digital sound processing that VitaSound says employs brain science to provide clearer and more natural sounding audio. Four distinct EQ settings, called 'hearing models,' tailor audio for the four most common (statistically) types of hearing impairments affecting people with early-stage hearing loss.

The handset resembles a music player, so it's relatively inconspicuous when worn in public. The system consists of a handset, a wireless base station transmitter (capable of docking up to two handsets), earphones with microphone, carrying case, A/C adaptor, and cables that make it easy to use with stereo or TV. Additional handsets can be purchased and each is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts up to 14 hours.

VitaSound's Personal Audio Enhancer (Model PAE-300) system has an MSRP of $399, including one handset clad in blue or charcoal gray. For more information, visit VitaSound Audio on the Web.

Personal breathalyzers measure impairment

Labor Day is fast approaching, a holiday when beer and other alcoholic beverages flow freely at backyard gatherings and picnics. Responsible individuals know better than to drive when impaired, yet many are incapable of judging whether their blood alcohol content (BAC) is at the level when operating a motor vehicle is legally impermissible.

Common sense says "when in doubt, catch a cab," but statistics show far too many social drinkers elect to do otherwise. But what if there was a way to know you were in fact over the legal limit? This is where personal breathalyzers come in, replacing speculation with a digital determination of how drunk you are.

The BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer is the alcohol monitoring device that combines fuel cell sensor technology, Bluetooth connectivity, and smart phone app-enabled features.

Designed for accuracy, the unit works with an iPhone and allows users to quickly and easily estimate their BAC, as well as track, share, and understand results.

The device uses a professional-grade alcohol sensor and an internal breath pump. Readings are displayed on an iPhone 4S, 5, iPad 3, iPad Mini, or iPod Touch 5. A feature, called ZeroLine, actually learns how your body processes alcohol and estimates when your BAC will return to 0.00%.

The results can be saved and even shared with friends via text message, Facebook, or Twitter. The software can even map where the readings occurred.

The Mobile Breathalyzer sells for $149.99, and the companion iOS app is a free download from the Apple AppStore. For more information, visit BACtrack.com.

Tokyo by Night (Life)

A personal breathalyzer, however, can only provide valuable information if you remember to take it with you. Tokyoflash solves this problem but combining a breathalyzer with a digital watch!

Called the Kisai Intoxicated, the wrist-worn device tells time and has a built-in sensor to determine how intoxicated you are. Once the sensor has warmed up, you blow for 5 seconds and wait for the watch to give an on-screen reading. A green display showing 0.00% means you're sober. A yellow display showing between 0.41 and 0.60% means you're buzzing. A red display showing 0.61% or above means you're drunk!

The manufacturer stresses, however, that the watch is intended strictly for entertainment, handily avoiding any accuracy claims. The very unusual-looking timepiece is made of stainless steel, sports an LCD display with time, date, alarm, and so forth, and is charged via USB (cable included.) A full charge takes 3 hours and is supposedly good for up to 30 days. The device even includes a video game designed to test if your reaction time is up to par.

Kisai Intoxicated sells for $149. For more information, visit TokyoFlash.com.