October 1, 2013 Columns

App-titude: App Up the Volume

A growing number of mobile tools can help people with hearing loss better understand the world—and help the world better understand them.

App-titude

There's an app for everything, right? But are there any out there to make the hearing world an easier place to live for those with hearing loss?

As an audiologist with hearing loss, I sought answers to this question as part of my constant quest for hearing-related technology advances. And I found that, indeed, there are apps available to help expand people's hearing and communication-related capabilities.

Advocacy in preschool

We want our kids with hearing loss to start advocating for their needs at a young age, and tablet apps can help. Why not have your preschooler "star" in his or her own book, using Book Creator for iPad by Red Jumper Studio? This app allows you to creatively work on goals related to ensuring that the child with hearing loss receives appropriate support. Take pictures of the child wearing hearing aids or using a frequency modulation system, and involve friends in the classroom. You can easily import the pictures, add sound and record the child's voice. Save it in a book-browsing app such as iBooks or as a pdf.

A tool for teens

Music is a central theme in the lives of teens and their friends, and not understanding or hearing the lyrics correctly can be embarrassing for teens with hearing loss. Enter TuneWiki Lyrics, Inc. (downloadable at iTunes; Google Play), a free app that allows users to access song lyrics at the touch of their fingertips. No more embarrassing mondegreens or misheard and misunderstood lyrics! One example of a common mondegreen is mishearing the McCoys' "Hang on, Sloopy" as "Hang on, stupid." Knowing words to songs is a social networking opportunity for teens, and it can also serve as a protective tool for their parents with hearing loss. The app can help parents identify appropriate and inappropriate music immediately.

Independence for adults

As a professional with hearing impairment, I may miss many portions of a telephone conversation, especially if the conversation occurs in a compromised listening situation, such as at a roadside or airport. One free app that helps "fill in the blanks" is ClearCaptions by Purple Communications, Inc., available for Apple iOS products and Android products. This app performs a similar service to closed captioning on your television, allowing you to read what is being said on your smartphone or tablet screen. You can also scroll up and read something you might have missed.

Performance for professionals

The Smart Voice Recorder app allows you to record and save sound clips and is available for free via iTunes and Google Play. It serves as a useful tool for educating school staff about the effects of classroom acoustics on children's performance. For example, you can use a sound clip of a teacher giving an oral spelling test in a noisy classroom to show how this can be unfair to students with hearing difficulties.

If you need to perform a functional listening evaluation, you can use the app to record a sound bite on the Web demonstrating classroom noise. You can also record clips of what hearing loss sounds like, so that you can easily demonstrate this when a teachable moment comes up. I recommend attaching a portable mini-speaker to your phone to ensure that your audience can clearly hear the clips you play.

Carrie Spangler, AuD, CCC-A, is an educational audiology clinician with the University of Akron in Ohio. She brings a personal perspective to her work, as she lives with bilateral hearing loss and hearing aids. cls132@uakron.edu

cite as: Spangler, C. (2013, October 01). App-titude: App Up the Volume. The ASHA Leader.

  

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