How Technology Is Tackling Hearing Access to Improve Lives
The World Health Organisation estimates that 466 million people on the globe experience some form of hearing loss or are completely deaf. With hearing problems being more and more common, new mobile apps have become available over the past years that are transforming phones into personal hearing assistants for the deaf or hearing impaired. Addressing the barriers created by disabilities and helping users engage with the world around them, hearing loss apps might be able to improve your quality of life also. Let’s have a look at the newest apps and tech in the hearing loss world.
As a type of technology that changes lives, most hearing loss apps use automatic speech recognition which enables computers to translate spoken words into text. Speech recognition is already being used for voice dialing, texting and appliance control. It is the reason why you can’t shout “Hey Siri!” into a room full of iPhone users and create tumult.
According to Deafness Forum Australia, approximately one in six Australians has significant hearing loss. If you or a loved one are dealing with hearing loss, you’ll find that you can benefit greatly from the new software that is being developed, often in collaboration with hearing aid manufactures. Whether you’re trying to keep up in group communication or want to be able to independently take important phone calls, there is most likely an app that will help you do just that.
“In the next five to seven years, your hearing aids are going to be like Jarvis from Iron Man,” Sawalich, Starkey’s President, reports to Bloomberg Businessweek. “It’s going to be your personal assistant. It’s going to know more about what’s going on with your body that you want to know—your heart rate, blood pressure, glucose. The ear is the new wrist.”
Easy Communication Is Often Just A Tap Away
The biggest guns in commercially available hearing aid technology will help you hear when you want to hear. They are essential for better hearing and depending on the type of hearing loss you are experiencing and your needs, there will be something that is fit for you. Hearing aids, cochlear implants, and brain stem implants are some of the most notable forms of technology. They have been around for a while, successfully helping people with varied severity of hearing loss.
Hearing aids have received major upgrades thanks to innovative apps. Using artificial intelligence to selectively filter noise and focus on specific sound sources—for instance, the person across the table in a busy restaurant, is just one of the many cool features you will be able to enjoy and impress your family and friends with. Today, every hearing aid comes with a smartphone app, allowing you to access health metrics, including steps walked, stairs climbed, and even cognitive activity. One of the most interesting features presented by some of the newest hearing aids? Near-instantaneous translation of more than 20 languages!
You may already have heard of some of the latest hearing aid innovations: Assistive listening devices, bone conduction hearing aids and devices and middle ear implants. Hearables, a term used for technology or a group of technologies that work in combination in order to enhance your hearing ability, allow you to use your hearing aid to listen to music or take phone calls via Bluetooth (amongst many other functions). Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? The integration of multiple purposes and technologies certainly makes hearables an adaptable and ever-evolving, useful tool for anyone suffering from hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Apps
The most convenient forms of technology are undoubtedly the apps we can download onto our phones within a few clicks. According to Business of Apps, there are about five billion mobile phone users in the world. In 2019, there were 2.6 million downloadable apps on Android systems, and 2.2 million downloadable iOS apps. In 2018 alone, there was a total of $194 million app downloads in the year.
Instant accessibility, anywhere, anytime is the ultimate goal these apps are aiming at achieving. Learn how they can make your day to day life easier and give you the autonomy everyone deserves.
Making a phone call can be a massive issue if you have trouble understanding the person on the other end of the line. To stop you from feeling isolated, these apps enable you to stay connected.
RogerVoice Caption Calls (Android and iOS, free) enables people with hearing impairments to have real-time conversations on the phone, by converting speech to subtitles. You can then simply reply by using your voice or by typing. Automated Voice Synthesis also allows written messages to be converted into speech. Rogervoice works in over 100 languages, in any country, quite literally breaking down language barriers.
|National Relay Service App
The National Relay Service provides useful methods of telephone communication for deaf and hearing impaired Australians. Their app provides different calling options for users, amongst them internet relay to type and read the conversation and video relay to facilitate the use of Auslan. The service provided is free. The NRS app is available in Google Play and in the App Store.
Live subtitles for any conversation in any situation.
Speech Assistant (Android and iOS) is an easy to use and completely customisable AAC app designed for people who are speech and hearing impaired. With it you can create and allocate phrases to buttons, then use these to form messages that can be shown or spoken (text-to-speech). You can also type messages using your phone’s keyboard.
Voiceitt translates unintelligible pronunciation into understandable speech, allowing people to communicate using their own voice. Using groundbreaking technology that recognises each individual user’s vocal patterns, Voiceitt speaks their words for them, allowing them to communicate clearly and easily.
Note: This app has yet to be released, but you can sign up for updates on its progress on the Voiceitt website.
A speech to text app for the next generation: With sophisticated features such as a group call option, Ava (Android and iOS) empowers deaf and hard-hearing people to live life to the fullest. Unfortunately, high functionality comes with a price tag. While it is free to use for the first five hours per month, for those hosting conversations and who use the app regularly, Ava offers a premium solution price.
Never miss out on updates and alerts.
OpenAccess Alerts (Android and iOS, free) is a handy app for people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment to send and receive posts about community announcements or emergency messages that might otherwise be communicated using audio or radio. You’ll receive pop-up messages to your phone, targeted according to your location and personal settings.
Think you or a loved one are suffering from hearing loss? Now you can quickly test hearing abilities using your smartphone.
Sound Scouts (Android and iOS, free) lets you test your child’s hearing in a fun and effective way. Sound Scouts incorporates a hearing test into a fun game to evaluate your child’s hearing and was developed in collaboration with the National Acoustic Laboratories.
Lowering communication barriers in social settings.
The HearYouNow app (iOS, free) works by helping you understand conversations in situations such as busy restaurants, during meetings or birthday parties much better.
Children and young people are increasingly affected by hearing loss or hearing conditions such as Tinnitus. The idea that these problems should only concern older society members, is a thing of the past. Noise-induced hearing loss is at the center of this issue. Excessive use of headphones and earbuds, going to concerts and loud bars or restaurants, from an early age, and even overexposure to environmental noise for prolonged periods of time is taking its toll.
The biggest problem for affected kids? Almost all education is passed on through hearing, less through visual aids. As a result, deaf students or pupils experiencing hearing loss will often find themselves excluded from important dialogues in educational institutions. Technology plays a huge part in their educational experience. The software we have listed for you below can help hearing-impaired students make a massive difference in their academic success:
The following are some hearing loss apps designed to empower:
The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children has developed a helpful app aimed at teaching common Auslan signs to children and adults. The app features 150 common signs, the Auslan alphabet, and numbers 0 to 10. Each entry is paired with a photo of the handshape as well as a video demonstrating how to use the sign making it easy and fun to learn to communicate with Auslan.
HelpTalk (only for Android, free) allows people who are unable to communicate fluently to create sets of icons that represent their needs and feelings. The app also has a ‘talk’ interface, allowing you to type in anything you’d like that isn’t represented by the icons. HelpTalk also features an SOS mode too: When the SOS button is tapped, the app sends an alert message to a preconfigured number of a carer or family member with the user’s current location and coordinates.
As you can see, technology and hearing loss apps are able to drastically improve the lives of those affected by hearing loss, bridging the gap between you and the sound source by eliminating the effects of distance, background noise, and reverberation. The convenient and effective devices that have been developed in the last years, not only increase the quality of life but give back the independence that was lost with decreasing hearing abilities.
If you’re not sure how exactly your hearing is affected and what measures you should take, we highly recommend that you make an appointment with an Attune Audiologist and get to the bottom of your hearing problem.
If turning up the volume alone is not enough anymore, take charge of your life and hearing. Why wait? Innovation is happening fast, time to take advantage of it.