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Kevin Franck, PhD, director of Audiology at Mass. Eye and Ear, shares smartphone apps that can help people hear and communicate better.
SonicCloud is a smartphone app (available on both iOS and Android platforms) and computer app (available on MacOS and Windows) that allows users to import hearing test results (such as those that patients have had measured at Mass. Eye and Ear) or perform a hearing test within the app. It will then apply the same signal processing of modern hearing aids and play personalized sounds through headphones. Headphones often have a wider bandwidth than hearing aids, which result in better sound quality when it comes to listening to music, radio, podcasts and phone calls, according to users. Dr. Franck advises users to operate their hearing aids during conversations with people, and SonicCloud while listening through the phone.
Also a smartphone app, Ava turns spoken words into text, also known as live transcription. If someone is talking, the app turns the voice that the microphone picks up into text on the screen. The app can even translate that text from or to another language, and save the transcript of the conversation. This app is similar to real-time captioning, or CART. According to Dr. Franck, what’s special about Ava is that it was designed by people with hearing loss specifically for people with hearing loss.
This class of apps enables conveniences that the smartphone platform uniquely provides. For example, apps with big screen buttons make volume adjustment easier and less obvious than pushing tiny buttons on the hearing devices themselves. Apps can provide options that would otherwise have to be enabled or disabled by an audiologist, like a telecoil, which is a small copper wire coil located within some hearing aids. They may also change how streamed content is mixed with live sounds from the microphone.
Mass. Eye and Ear supports many device manufacturers who supply smartphone apps to expand the functionality of their hardware, including implanted hearing device company Cochlear Ltd, hearing aid companies Oticon, Phonak and ReSound, and hearable companies Bose and Sound World Solutions.