Move over Angry Birds and Words with Friends… make room for hearing apps!

March 20, 2015 Brenna Carroll

Smartphone technology has led to an explosion of cell phone apps.  Originally created as games and entertaining diversions, hearing assistance technology is climbing on the app bandwagon with the creation of helpful apps to assist those with hearing loss. 

Many hearing assistance apps exist, ranging from traditional amplifiers and tinnitus maskers to devices designed to control hearing aids. 

At their most basic, apps can be utilized to work as general, non-customized amplifiers to assist in one on one conversation.  Examples of these apps include i-Hear Free and HearYouNow.  These apps are designed to turn a user’s iphone into a microphone, similar to the traditional PockeTalker.  Utilizing this app, a headset is plugged into a user’s smartphone.  Opening the app reveals a volume control that the user can adjust to maximize optimal listening.  This design works best when a speaker talks directly into the microphone of the smartphone.  Caution should be utilized with these apps as the volume capability at maximum settings could present potentially hazardous noise levels.  It should be noted that these apps provide overall volume, and the settings are not customized to specific losses.  These apps are very helpful for those that need some additional assistance in one on one conversation.  This feature can be a helpful volume increase when speaking with unfamiliar speakers while running errands and for medical appointments. 

Other apps are designed to assist those living with tinnitus develop coping skills.  While many tinnitus coping apps exist, several examples include Tinnitus Pro: Music Therapy and ReSound Relief.  These apps are designed to assist with tinnitus management through the use of masking tones and sounds and attention redirection.  Some redirection activities include simple games. 

Some hearing aid manufacturers have created apps designed for use with specific hearing aids.  Several manufacturers providing these options include Resound, Oticon and Starkey.  These apps vary in function, with some providing wireless volume adjustment only while others provide a range of acoustic adjustments to bass and treble sounds.  Some manufacturer apps provide the opportunity to wirelessly track a lost hearing aid based on the last location with an active battery. Others allow the opportunity to utilize the geographic location features to create customized settings for a specific location.  It is important to remember that the technology that enables wireless smartphone technology requires additional physical space inside of a hearing aid, and the smallest devices may not be large enough to accommodate these features. 

As smartphone apps continue to develop, it is likely that future holds innovative developments and technologies not yet available. You may benefit from periodically browsing the app store to see if there is something that meets your needs.

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