Hearing loss is becoming a more common issue than most people may realize. Did you know that around 15% of American adults aged 18 and over have reported having some form of a hearing issue?
Unfortunately, having some degree of hearing loss is becoming increasingly prevalent among people of all ages. While some people may experience a slow and gradual hearing loss as they age, others can be impacted by sudden hearing loss because of traumatic events. Nevertheless, a high number of people live with some degree of hearing loss. Fortunately, there are ways for people to prevent and manage their hearing loss to some degree. Technology has advanced in ways that have made it possible for those at risk of hearing loss to navigate through life. Smartphone apps have made it possible for people to download apps that can help them optimize their hearing health from the convenience of their own homes.
The Hearing Review published a study that approaches the issue of whether a smartphone app is capable of being a sufficient substitute for a hearing aid. In this study, each participant was between the ages of 50 to 90 years old. Each of them had a mild to moderately severe sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. They were also using hearing aids for less than three months.
The benefits provided by using a smartphone app against using a hearing aid include:
- Costs less
- Offers the user immediate help
- Real-time volume adjustments
- Does not have to deal with the stigma associated with hearing aids
The survey conducted at the end revealed that participants were satisfied with the smartphone-based hearing aid apps and the study showed that they could provide valuable assistance to listeners with hearing deficits.
The lead author for this study also suggests that hearing aid adoption rates could actually be supplemented by the use of these types of smartphone apps. These apps that include additional features and controls will give traditional hearing aids technological features that improve the overall experience for the user. Smartphone apps related to hearing are still in their infancy and some may still need some validation for managing hearing loss. With that established, there are still some very useful apps out there that can be helpful for people experiencing hearing loss. Let’s go through the apps that can help you better manage your hearing.
AudioCardio is a data-driven and evidence-based sound therapy application designed to maintain and strengthen the user’s hearing by stimulating the tiny hair cells inside the ears. The app’s clinically proven Threshold Sound Conditioning (TSC) technology creates a personalized sound therapy that helps stimulate and sharpen the hair cells. The TSC therapy technology can detect the key frequencies that have lost sensitivity and exercise them at the threshold level (just below audible) for that user.
To start your sound therapy, you will need to download the AudioCardio app and connect it with a pair of headphones or earbuds. In the initial assessment, the mobile application measures your hearing capabilities and determines what decibel levels your ears can perceive sound for each range of frequencies that are being assessed. Your daily sound therapy session will last 60 minutes, but is inaudible and does not require active engagement while it is activated. You may listen to your favorite music, podcast, or audiobooks while receiving your sound therapy. An assessment will need to be retaken any time your sound therapy can be heard or at least once per week. Most individuals start seeing improvements after a few weeks of usage.
SoundPrint is an app that is somewhat similar to Yelp, except for noise levels. The app collects user-submitted data to help you choose the best location to dine and socialize when considering noise levels. The app has a “SoundCheck” feature that records the ambiance of the bar, restaurant, and any other public area. Once the location’s decibel level is determined, that data is submitted and stored in SoundPrint’s database. Then, when a user searches for a location through the application, they will be able to see if it is quiet, moderate, loud, or very loud based on data submitted by other users.
RogerVoice works as both a phone and video conversation subtitler and assists with captioning them in real-time in over 100 languages. During a call, the users can hold the phone in front of them to read the conversation’s transcribed text and reply by either talking or typing. However, the person contacting you has to also be a user of the app, meaning that you will need to ask your loved ones to download it for it to remain free. You can also use the paid version to use with other non-Rogervoice users.
Google created a speech-to-text accessibility application with the assistance of Gallaudet University. The application is offered free of charge and includes impressive recognition capabilities with a customizable user interface providing the option to set the display text size and background color. The ability to use external wireless microphones such as Bluetooth headsets is optional in the app settings once the device has been paired, allowing the speaker to sit at a distance from you as you read the display on your smartphone. To use this service, users will need an active internet connection for it to function correctly.
Decibel X is a dBA noise meter application that measures sound pressure levels (SPLs) from the surrounding environment, helping to determine when the noise levels are too high in the hopes of helping protect people from hearing loss. This app can accurately measure SPLs in any environment, whether it be a concert or a library. It not only helps prevent the user from exposing themselves to damaging noises, but it is also quite fun to use. The app features frequency weighting filters, a spectrum analyzer yielding visual bar graph data, and data tracking and management. It does not require you to be an expert to use and was designed to be intuitive and user-friendly.
Sound Amplifier is an application that improves conversations and essential sounds around the user while minimizing background noise. The app was created to help people remain engaged with those closest to them while they are in a noisy environment. Sound Amplifier grants the user the ability to amplify those crucial sounds around them by filtering out the background noise at home, restaurants, or anywhere else they struggle to hear. The user only needs to plug in their headphones to their phone, activate the app, and select the frequencies. Once they complete their selections, they will be able to hear better without bothering those around them. This app is only available for Android phones.
Chatable is an app that utilizes the power of a smartphone for AI-enhanced processing sound, minimizing background noise, and boosting speech in challenging listening situations. The app works similarly to a remote microphone, in which the phone is set near the people speaking, and individuals can listen by using a pair of wired or wireless headphones connected to the device. The app is also beneficial to have during emergencies, such as when a hearing device stops working due to a drained battery. It can be used for a short while until a battery can be replaced or recharged. If connected with compatible hearing aids or cochlear implants, it can also be used to send out processed sound from Chatable into their devices.
Individuals who are interested in analyzing their hearing capabilities can do so with this app. It can be used to see if there is any hearing loss and to see how it changes over time. The hearing tests were designed to offer the user an idea of where they are on the hearing loss spectrum and to assist them with taking preventative measures to prevent any more hearing loss. The app was developed to yield results in less than a few minutes using a range of frequencies that help a user understand and track their hearing health. The data can be exported and shared with others, such as healthcare providers.
Sound Alert is an excellent app that helps users remain aware of vital sounds around their household. This application utilizes the smartphone to detect and alert the users to the sounds they do not want to miss out on. The app can be used for pre-recorded alarms, doorbells, oven and microwave timers, and other surrounding noises. The detection mode on the app is then activated and used to have the user’s phone listen for these noises. Users can select multiple alert methods, such as flashing lights, phone vibrations, and smartwatch notifications. That way, they will never miss out on another alert ever again.
Tunity offers users in public surroundings to receive audio from muted television and enjoy a clear sound even from the busiest locations, such as the gym, restaurants, doctor offices, and much more. If the user is someone who enjoys going to bars during sporting events, but has a challenging time hearing things they care about, that could cause frustration to swell up as they miss out on the commentary due to background noise. Tunity offers people the ability to scan a live video screen and align it to the program’s audio feed. That way, individuals will receive a live stream directly to their device and hear what’s being said in real-time. The app can work in many places, from airports to gyms, and any place where the sound from the television is muted.
An excellent speech-to-text app that comes with sophisticated features beyond what other apps provide, such as the group conversation feature. This mode allows everyone involved in a conversation to add Ava onto their phone, join the Ava conversation group, and talk. The text of what is being said will appear on the screens of everyone involved, along with their name. Ava can also be used in a single display mode. To use this app, users will need to pay for the services past a certain number of minutes used each month. However, only the person hosting the group conversation needs to pay, while the others can join for free.
MyNoise comes with an extensive library of ambient sounds and soundscapes, including several experimental sounds developed for people with tinnitus. Every soundscape is customizable using volume sliders that grant the user control over the volume of varying elements of the soundscape. Want to hear more rain, but fewer bird chips and no chimes? The app will allow people to modify and make these changes with a few simple taps. MyNoise provides a seamless dial-in for the perfect soundscape to help with tinnitus.
NIOSH Sound Level Meter was created by experts from the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The app provides a simple sound-measuring system that promotes hearing safety in the workplace but can be used to assess any other noisy setting such as a restaurant or social gathering. The app uses the smartphone’s built-in microphone to provide the user with highly accurate, real-time noise exposure data, which can then be stored and shared with others.
Meditation has been shown to have positive effects in reducing the severity of tinnitus and its side effects, including depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. Insight Timer is a popular meditation app that contains a massive library of content from renowned mindfulness professionals, psychologists, and neuroscientists. Every feature provided from this app, such as guided practice to relaxing music and sleeping soundtracks, is entirely free. The app also provides a free seven-day introductory meditation course for newcomers.
Otter is used for meeting transcriptions or note-taking, although it can also be used as a personal speech-to-text app. The basic plan offers 600 minutes free per month. Each chat session is limited to 40 minutes of transcriptions, but it can quickly start a new recording session once the other session has reached its limit. The recording interface is not the best for reading as someone is speaking since the text is quite small on the screen. The top right corner has an icon that allows users to set the app into a dedicated text display mode where the size of the text can be changed as desired. Conversations are saved onto the app as both transcripts and sound recordings.
Technology has come a long way, and smartphones have become one of the most valuable tools in today’s society. With the help of these apps, you can prepare yourself and better prevent the possibility of damaging your hearing in the future. As you take preventative measures for your hearing, you are far more likely to maintain your current level of hearing.