Review: The Bean Quiet Sound Amplifier

An intelligent amplifier boosts hearing without a prescription

3 min read
Review: The Bean Quiet Sound Amplifier
Photo: Etymotic Research

For those over 40, it’s not unusual to begin to find it difficult to see nearby objects. But many can avoid—at least for a while—the hassle and expense of prescription lenses by buying a pair of cheap off-the-rack reading glasses from a drugstore. Hearing declines with age as well, but unlike with vision there hasn’t traditionally been good intermediate technological assistance between simply turning up the TV volume and getting a hearing aid, which can cost US $4,000 and up.

In recent years, a number of companies have tried to step in to fill this niche with personal in-ear digital sound amplifiers that selectively boost the volume for the audio frequencies used in speech and do some ambient noise cancellation. There are also smartphone apps that use the phone’s microphone and send enhanced sound to your earbuds. Now Chicago-area Etymotic Research has entered the market with a different approach.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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