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.