Better Hearing with Mobile Applications
The rapid advancements we’ve seen in hearing aid technology in recent years have been mirrored by the innovative explosion of software for handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Application software, often referred to as “apps,” have flooded the market and their wide appeal is directly related to their usefulness.
Fortunately, there’s an increasing number of apps designed to support people with hearing loss, hearing aids, or to help protect one’s hearing from harmful sounds. Below is a review of the most useful categories of mobile apps for hearing health, but you can find the full array of available apps by perusing an application store, such as the Itunes App Store or Google App Store.
Hearing screening apps
A variety of hearing screening apps are available, and can offer a quick snapshot of your current hearing ability with a simple download and a pair of earphones. It’s important to note that these types of hearing tests are not advanced enough to replace a professional hearing evaluation by your hearing provider, but they can offer a glimpse into how well you hear basic tones and pitches.
Many people use hearing screening apps to decide if they should seek further evaluation by a professional, and find that they are easy to do in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Some of the more complex apps in this category attempt to mimic a full hearing test by playing sounds for each ear individually, and will even graph your results at the end. Hearing screening apps are useful for heightening your awareness about your hearing, and if you end up with a surprising result, can help motivate you to get professional hearing help.
While not always useful in conjunction with hearing aids, amplifier apps are handy tools for people who are hesitant about purchasing hearing aids, or for wearers who find themselves in a pinch and don’t have their hearing aids with them (like when those batteries die out of nowhere!).
Basic amplifier apps work by simply using the microphone on your mobile device to collect nearby sounds, and then automatically boosts the volume on those sounds as they are emitted from a pair of earphones. More advanced versions of amplifier apps are programmed to even equalize the sounds as the volume is simultaneously increased, making for a more comfortable listening experience. Others can identify sounds that are farther away and selectively boost those, while leaving closer sounds unchanged.
Amplifier apps can be useful in a variety of situations. A quick download of the app can give you the boost in volume that you need, and help solve conversational problems or clarify a presentation that would otherwise be unheard.
Hearing aid controller apps
Perhaps the most popular type of hearing health apps, hearing aid controller apps do exactly what their name implies: they give you control of your hearing aids. These apps are designed by hearing aid manufacturers to increase the ease of adjusting various settings within your hearing aids remotely.
Hearing aid controller apps enable users to change the various settings on their hearing aids in a similar way that hearing aid remotes function. Previously, these remotes required that hearing aid wearers have a streaming device, typically worn around the neck, in order to allow for the wireless connectivity between the hearing aids and the remote. These days, advancements in hearing aid technology enable you to connect your hearing aids directly to your smartphone wirelessly. Using a phone or tablet app to adjust your settings is also less conspicuous than using a hearing aid remote, which users report as a bonus.
Decibel sensor apps
Another popular kind of hearing health apps work by helping you recognize when you’ve entered a potentially harmful hearing environment. These apps either automatically or manually detect the volume of sounds (known as the decibel level) in your immediate surroundings. It’s worth noting that there does appear to be a wide spectrum in the accuracy among these apps, warranting a review of consumer and professional comparisons before making your selection.
While these apps can’t help you identify if you have hearing loss or not, they are useful for revealing if you’re in an environment that can damage your hearing in the first place. Their sound monitoring capacities range in sophistication, from giving you basic decibel level readings to more advanced features that provide detailed reports about the sounds around you.
As mobile app technology continues to expand and develop, we can expect to see many more useful innovations for hearing well anywhere, anytime.