Smartphones, and Tablets, and Apps Oh My!

November 1, 2011

Mobile devices are in the hands of children and their parents everywhere you look, but what about older adults? If older adults are not yet using mobile devices for making phone calls or texting, there is another reason these devices may have an appeal. Smart phones and tablet computers are now offering a variety of software and applications that can serve as Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT).

Mobile devices are every-user friendly these days, providing icon buttons on the device itself or on each screen that allow users to navigate with ease, if nothing else, back to the “home” screen. Many devices are lightweight and have options to enlarge the screen for easier viewing of pictures or text.

Mobile devices can now be used as portable listening devices with several available apps (and more likely in the making). Apps range in use from amplifying sound or selective frequencies to adjustable frequency response and recorded buffers, which allow conversations to be replayed. Unfortunately, at this time, there is no regulation or warning of maximum output. This puts the user at risk of causing further hearing damage if the device and application are not used appropriately. Ideally, apps should be recommended and monitored by an Audiologist who would be able to make the most appropriate selection and could assist in monitoring the output and safety of the device.

Available apps: EARs, EarTrumpet, Hear, HearingAid, iHearClear, SoundAMP Lite, and UListen-Sound Amplifier.

Other options include visual and telecommunication apps. Visual Apps can convert speech samples to text for when amplification is not enough. Other visual supports on devices, like Skype or Apple’s “Face Time,” provide video of the person talking so the viewer gets visual cues of facial expressions and lip/mouth movements to aid in understanding the auditory message.

It is important to remember that mobile devices being used for the purpose of Hearing Assistive Technology do not replace well-fit hearing aids, but is a possible solution for problems not solved by hearing aids.

For more information on this topic and more detailed information about the listed apps, go to the source: Lesner, S. A.  & Klingler, M. (2011, October 11). Apps With Amps: Mobile Devices, Hearing Assistive Technology, and Older Adults. The ASHA Leader.

 

Lauren Gabrys, MA, CCC-SLP