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37 million people at risk of “danger of distraction” when wearing headphones

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Call for audible technologies to improve safety

London, UK – May 14, 2019: New research shows that 37 million Americans feel they have put themselves at risk in the past 12 months when wearing headphones or earphones while walking, jogging or cycling. Examples included stepping out on a road, hitting someone, or not hearing an emergency vehicle approaching.

Commissioned by Audio Analytic, a leading AI technology company focused on sound recognition, the research explored the risks people in the United States face on a daily basis from being distracted from their surroundings while listening. music on the go.

The risk increases in young consumers. More than one in four young people between the ages of 18 and 34 put themselves at risk by wearing headphones, as 26% admitted to having been in at least one dangerous situation in the past year, with many doing so several times. times.

Despite these admissions, research has found that the majority of people say they are aware of the dangers of wearing headphones and earphones in public. 96% of the population consider it dangerous to wear earphones or headphones while driving, while other activities considered dangerous are cycling (91%), running (86%) and public transport ( 72%).

Comments from Dr Chris Mitchell, CEO and Founder of Audio Analytic; “A worrying number of people put their lives at risk every day by wearing headphones and cutting off their sense of hearing. Many of us wear headphones to block out the world and increase our focus, but this comes with the risk of losing awareness of our surroundings. Lack of important information in our environment can ultimately expose us to dangerous situations – and we need to do more to prevent accidents, we believe contextual AI technology can be a catalyst for this. ”

Dr Richard Lichenstein, professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland, added; “Our analysis of accident reports showed that a warning was issued before the accident in 29% of crashes involving pedestrians wearing headphones. The use of headphones has become common for a significant proportion of pedestrians – and headphones with noise-canceling functions have become more popular. If noise-canceling headphones can now be designed to recognize warning sounds and actively alert the wearer to danger, or automatically change the sound transmission to increase awareness, then it is possible to reduce the risk of injury to wearers. listeners.

The results highlight the demand for headphones to use artificial intelligence, with 88% wanting their audio devices to recognize them and alert them to the sound of emergency vehicle sirens. Other important sounds that people want their headphones to recognize include: fire alarms (92%), important announcements starting such as train platform changes (83%) and gunshots (90%).

Additionally, 88% of Americans agreed that dynamic noise cancellation, where headphones conserve battery life by automatically activating noise cancellation when needed, would be useful in a variety of places such as the home, commuting and the gym. Additionally, 58% would buy headphones with dynamic sound equalization, which allows them to optimize the audio experience for different acoustic environments.

Dr Chris Mitchell continued; “Modern headphones with active noise cancellation can increase the risk of distraction, but these devices also offer a solution. They are equipped with external microphones offering the possibility of adding intelligent sound recognition to ensure contextual awareness. When the headphones themselves can hear and recognize important sounds, like a siren, car horn or even a doorbell or someone talking, the devices can alert the wearer or instantly change settings to let more sound through. to improve awareness. Moreover, by better understanding the world around us, portable devices with sound recognition could also improve sound quality and better manage battery power. Advanced AI technology can make the next headset we buy smart enough to understand the context. We can then get lost in our music without losing contact with the world around us.

Other facts from the report include:

  • 74% of people surveyed in the United States own at least two pairs of headphones (in addition to the ones that come with phones.)
  • 46% of people wear headphones for more than two hours a day
  • 54% are “excited about” or “think it would help” to have artificial intelligence on audible devices. Only 12% would worry or avoid it
  • 81% of respondents are willing to sacrifice battery life in exchange for smarter features
  • The industry has passed the wired-versus-wireless tipping point, with wireless devices now more popular among consumers, especially among those spending more than $ 101.

Download the full 2019 Global Hearing Aid Report; AI attitudes and expectations here


Notes to Editors
The survey was conducted among 6,012 consumers in the United Kingdom and the United States (3,008 in the United Kingdom and 3,004 in the United States).

The research was conducted independently by Sapio Research on behalf of Audio Analytic at the end of March 2019. The breakdown of respondents is representative by gender, geography and age. In this study, the odds are 95 out of 100 that a survey result does not vary, more or less, by more than 1.3% from the result that would have been obtained if the interviews had been conducted with all people in countries.

According to the 2010 United States Census (, there are 234,564,071 U.S. residents over the age of 18. Our survey found that 15.72% of those surveyed felt they had put themselves in a dangerous situation at least once in the past 12 months by wearing a headset, earphones or earbuds.

About audio analysis
Audio Analytic is the global leader in intelligent sound recognition, using advanced edge-based AI to provide consumer technology with a broad sense of hearing.

At the heart of the company is a technological platform made up of two synergistic parts:

  • Alexandria ™ is the largest commercially usable audio dataset for machine learning, with millions of taxonomically structured audio files with full data provenance.
  • AuditoryNET ™ is a highly optimized deep neural network for sound recognition, which models the ideophonic characteristics of sounds.

In addition to core technology, nearly 50 experts in acoustics, data, machine learning and embedded software engineering.

The company has successfully licensed its technology to major global brands, including two of the world’s largest companies as well as Hive, Iliad, Sengled and others. The company has partners including Arm, Intel, Knowles, Ambarella, Ambiq, Vesper, Frontier and others.

Audio Analytic Ltd. is a private company backed by VC, founded in 2010 and headquartered in Cambridge, UK, with offices in San Francisco.

Marnie spicer
RP Kaizo
+44 (0) 20 3176 4723

Neil cooper
Audio analysis


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