JUNE 25TH 2020
New natural device to aid a Calmer, healthier life
Breakthrough wearable significantly reduces stress-inducing distortion in the human ear.
Flare Audio Limited has developed a remarkable, wearable device which reduces distortion in the human ear. Aptly named Calmer®, testing has proven two huge benefits. Its design provides a natural way to reduce today’s constant barrage of environmental noise stressors, which are having a negative impact on our mental and physical well-being. The reduction of distortion also results in an improved, higher definition audio experience when listening to live or recorded music; giving ears a natural ‘audio upgrade’.
The World Health Organisation published evidence in (2018) that unpleasant city noise contributes to raised stress levels, a multitude of health issues and even increased risk of premature death. Calmer comes following a decade of research and testing by Flare, a UK-based audio technology company, and could make an invaluable contribution to reducing these risks and improving our day to day well-being.
Made from silicone, Calmer sits barely visible in the user’s ear. Using a simple but revolutionary, non-electric technology, it diminishes mid and high frequency distortions which trigger the human ‘fight or flight’ response. While experts say this response was a vital part of our evolution to alert us to the slightest sound or threat, it is an overactive mechanism in today’s modern world where we no longer need to be alert to the snap of a twig, and this added resonance is loading us with unnecessary stress.
Living in the fight or flight mode for much of daily life results in increased cortisone levels, a reduced vagus nerve function, and high stress and anxiety levels. We’re so used to the barrage of unpleasant audio bombarding our ears on a daily basis, from sirens and construction site noise, to children shrieking and phones ringing, we don’t realise just how much these sounds put us on edge. When first wearing Calmer you’d be forgiven for not noticing much change, but after wearing the device then removing it, you immediately see what a huge difference it makes. You can still hear every sound, but the unpleasant edge is taken off sharp noises. Calmer provides a mellowness; removing the anxiety inducing properties of our environment and resulting in a calmer experience.
How Calmer works
Calmer’s technology is informed by research from Newcastle University and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL, which reported in the Journal of Neuroscience that many of the most unpleasant sounds, such as the scraping of a knife against a bottle, fall in the mid frequency range of about 2 kHz – 5 kHz. Our ears have evolved to alert us to stress by adding over 20 dB of mid-range resonance, which destroys our ability to hear high definition sound or relax in our modern noisy world. This is known as HRTF (Head Related Transfer Function).
The Concha is the small shell shape of the ear that connects to our ear canal which normally resonates mid frequency sounds. Calmer, which has no electrical components, decreases resonance by using a tiny waveguide inside our ears that removes the effect of the Concha. By easing this resonance, Calmer dampens down the most common alert-triggering shrill noises, such as ring tones, dogs barking, tube train announcements and sirens. Mid frequency sounds have none of their normal ‘painful’ aspects. Less tinny and hissy, instead, everything you hear sounds like you are in a recording studio, allowing the wearer greater calm and reduced anxiety levels. Instead of living in a constant state of alert, Calmer literally ‘calms’ your environment in a subtle but potentially life-changing way.
Independent testing by the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR), University of Southampton, confirm Flare’s findings. “We conducted a range of tests on Calmer and found it to significantly reduce sound levels at middle to high frequencies (2 kHz – 8 kHz). This successfully meets Flare’s design objective,” says Gergely Orosz of the ISVR.
“For years our team have been re-thinking the design of audio speakers and earphones and developing technology to reduce the detrimental distortion that traditional approaches can’t address,” explains Flare CEO, Davies Roberts. “During this process I experienced a Eureka moment and uncovered a way to target distortion at source; in the human ear itself.”
As a result, wearing Calmer enhances all audio experiences, which applies to listening to music in the car, at home, at a concert or through a standard pair of headphones. By diminishing distortions in the human ear the device offers increased audio detail and an upgraded sound experience.
“This is a new way of thinking focused on delivering the purest sound with the smallest of interventions,” says Roberts. “As well as making all sound more ‘pure’ and pleasant to our ears, the knock on benefit to our health and well-being could be mind-blowing.”
Roberts has seen trial wearers of Calmer transformed within just a few minutes. “We witnessed one high-stress individual’s demeanour completely change before our eyes,” he describes. “His clenched jaw relaxed, he went from hunched forward to leaning back in his seat, his posture opened and his tense grip on his pen loosened. His whole being was visibly calmer and more relaxed.”
Who could benefit from Calmer?
“Calmer has a remarkable effect without you really realising, until you remove the device then experience the reality once again,” continues Roberts. “We’re hoping Calmer can help all sorts of people, including those suffering from stress and anxiety, auditory over-load, tinnitus, or those living with sensitive hearing. Also office workers who need to reduce stress and improve productivity and music lovers who simply want to experience music in the purest detail. The application potential is wide.”
Flare Audio’s ethos is focussed around audio innovation. Its products include award winning earphones and high-end speakers, as well sleeping aids and patented aluminium and titanium ear protectors.
Calmer: RRP: £19.99 / US $24.99 / Euro €22.99
Available globally on the Flare Audio website.
Fitting Guide: https://vimeo.com/432425334
Wellbeing / Tinnitus: Sadia Sadia, Installation Artist
Music: Gary Langan, Producer, Founder Member of Art of Noise:
Calmer: Additional Research Information – IMAGES SUBJECT TO COPYRIGHT
The human ear, sound and how it effects our wellbeing
Noise = An unwanted, unpleasant sound.
Amygdala = A mass of grey matter inside each cerebral hemisphere. It performs a primary role in processing memory, decision-making and emotional responses (including fear, anxiety, and aggression). Part of the Limbic system its job is to prioritize everything that comes into your brain: smell, sight, taste, sound and feelings.
Cortisol = Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body: metabolism, immune response and it is very important in helping the body respond to stress.
Noise triggers a stress response in the amygdala. Our amygdala learns what sounds might signal impending danger. When one is detected, the amygdala triggers a release of cortisol (a stress hormone) and an involuntary startle reaction
Resonance = distortion
Why don’t we want distortion? Distortion is noise.
The definition of noise is unwanted sound, or sound that is judged to be unpleasant, loud or disruptive to hearing. This distorted sound loads us negatively.
Much like poor diet, pollutants, distorted vision, which all affect our well-being, the sound we hear has the same effect.
How noise affects us
A knife scraping against a glass bottle is the most unpleasant sound for most human beings. Researchers from the Newcastle University and Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL, both in England, reported in the Journal of Neuroscience that when we hear unpleasant sounds, the auditory cortex and the amygdala interact more intensely and process the negative emotions. The amygdala is a small almond shaped part of the brain that processes our emotions and aggression. It also controls fear responses and forms emotional memories.
Study author, Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, said, “It appears there is something very primitive kicking in. It’s a possible distress signal from the amygdala to the auditory cortex.”
Study leader, Professor Tim Griffiths of Newcastle University, and colleagues, used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to find out how the brains of 13 participants responded to a variety of different sounds.
Unpleasant sounds are between 2 kHz to 5 kHz frequency range
After analysing all the sounds the participants liked and hated, and placing them in order of unpleasantness, the researchers found that disagreeable sounds tend to be between the frequency range of about 2 kHz to 5 kHz.
Dr. Kumar said: “This work sheds new light on the interaction of the amygdala and the auditory cortex. This might be a new inroad into emotional disorders and disorders like tinnitus and migraine in which there seems to be heightened perception of the unpleasant aspects of sounds.”
A survey of 1,000 UK-based office workers for business solutions company The Remark Group found almost two thirds (65%) admitted they could not complete work on time because of noise in their workplace. Nearly half (44%) said that noise had a negative impact on their overall wellbeing, while more than 40% admitted reporting that noise at work caused them to feel stressed.
According to the survey, sudden bursts of noise are the most irritating in the workplace, with the most annoying being: colleagues’ telephone conversations (74%); personal conversations (65%); sudden laughter (62%); telephone ring tones (58%); doors slamming (56%); eating noises (55%); business conversations (53%); coughing/sneezing/sniffing (50%) and music (40%).