More and more of us are interested in living healthier, fuller lives — and hearing heath is no exception. A recent Akoio survey found that 63% of people without hearing loss are concerned about their hearing health. 1 in 4 said their own awareness about hearing wellness increased during the past year.
Hearing app growth
The proliferation of hearing apps, apps designed specifically to improve and safeguard hearing, reflect this growing awareness. According to Statista.com, Apple offers nearly 2 million apps for its devices, and Google Play about 2.5 million. About 5% of all apps — some 235,000 of them — focus on health.
This is good news for the hearing wellness community. Now, apps are helping those with hearing loss, or anyone who wants to hear safely, “conquer life.”
The best hearing app may already be on your phone
Akoio founder, Bill Schiffmiller, spent many years working at Apple as an accessibility advocate. And, while he appreciates the growing hearing app portfolio available in the App Store, he reminds us that some of the best hearing app features are already available in our phone settings. “Perhaps Apple’s been too quiet about it,” says Schiffmiller, “but the iPhone and other Apple devices are regularly improved with native features for health and accessibility. Yes, ‘there’s an app for that,’ and they’re often already available on your device.”
iPhone users can click the Settings app and navigate to Accessibility to find several mini-apps organized by category. So, it’s easy to manage settings for vision, physical and motor skills, and hearing. With these controls, you can connect hearing devices and control balance and noise cancellation. You can even engage RTT (real-time text) or TTY (text telephony) services.
Apple’s Health app (available on every iPhone since 2014) includes its own hearing app. “Hearing” provides education about hearing loss and why hearing health matters. It also guides you through connecting hearing health data, like audiogram information, environmental sound levels, and headphone audio levels, directly to your phone.
Android phones don’t always offer such features natively. However, a growing number of hearing apps available on Google Play provide similar functionality.
A hearing app short list
Hearing apps span a wide range of categories. Some apps test your hearing, some amplify sounds, a few claim to help with tinnitus, and still others detect harmful noise levels. And, of course, there are special apps designed by hearing aid manufacturers for their specific devices. So, to help you navigate the hearing app world, our staff completed some quick research. Below, find some of the most widely used apps with the highest customer satisfaction from the Apple and Google Play app stores.
Hearing apps for hearing aids
Of course, hearing aid manufacturers now create customized apps tailored to their devices. FDA-cleared technology even allows apps to pair new cochlear implants via Bluetooth to your smartphone.
When selecting an app for your hearing aid, it’s usually best to use the app created by the manufacturer, rather than an independent app designer. And don’t select hearing aids based on the app. Get the hearing aids best suited for your individual hearing needs and trust that the manufacturer will improve the app as you go.
Hearing tests, audiologists, and hearing apps
Plenty of apps test your hearing, but without an audiologist to interpret and follow up, it’s almost impossible to determine next steps. If you’re concerned about your hearing, we strongly recommend making an appointment with an audiologist.
An audiologist can not only test your hearing, but also talk with you about lifestyle choices to make appropriate recommendations for your unique hearing health.
However, if you need some motivation to make that appointment, or if you’re just curious about your hearing levels, check out MiMi Test (available on both Apple> and Google Play). This app is free, easy to use, and gives results. All you’ll need is a set of headphones and a quiet space. It will “test” each of your ears by playing sounds in different frequencies. The results are immediate and indicate how well you can hear high and low frequency sounds. The app also compares your hearing ability to others your same age.
Turn it down! Hearing apps for noise levels
If you’re concerned about protecting your hearing (and we hope you are!), monitor the noise level around you. iPhone and Apple Watch users can rely on their “Health” app to track “Environmental Noise.” If you have an older Apple device or use an Android phone, consider downloading a decibel meter app. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) created an app for iOS devices transfers data to the “Health” app. The CDC produced a video that explains how the app works. Or, check out Sound Meter – Decibel and Noise for an Android-friendly alternative.
Turn it up! Hearing apps for better volume control
With sophisticated controls built-in, your phone already acts as a sort of sound amplifier. As mentioned earlier, basic sound controls, like volume, balance, and noise cancellation, can be handled with your phone’s settings (or accessibility settings). For more options, we found Super Volume Booster -Sound Booster for Android. This app has an easy to adjust dial perfect for those who are nostalgic about the analog days. iPhone users can find similar features with Volume Booster: Bass Volume+ for iOS.
A hearing app for tinnitus?
Are you one of the many people that suffer from Tinnitus? You may be relieved to know there’s a hearing app for you, too. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) produced an infographic with recommended apps, many of which focus on sound and sleep to help alleviate symptoms. And a few of the major hearing aid manufacturers, including ReSound, Beltone and Starkey, offer apps to help with tinnitus relief.
A sign of the times
Okay, so this one isn’t about hearing as much as it is about communicating. But we felt signing apps deserved an honorable mention. Are you interested in learning sign language? Try the ASL app. It’s been teaching conversational ASL since 2015 and houses over 2,000 instructional videos. Or, if you prefer learning by playing games, check out Hands On ASL.
In 2009, Apple encouraged us to think differently about our smartphones with its trademarked phrase, “there’s an app for that.” And, while the ads (and parodies) quickly became exhausted, the message changed the world. Thankfully, that change increasingly includes hearing wellness and greater accessibility for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Tell us your thoughts
If you liked what you read today, please consider becoming a member of the Akoio family (it’s free). We’d love to learn more about you and what apps you use regularly to address your hearing health. Share your hearing story and rate your audiologist. Your participation may help someone beginning their journey to conquer life! Find us on Facebook, too!