Useful apps for hearing loss
Computers, smartphones and tablets are increasingly prevalent in just about everyone’s life these days and with the use of the right websites, apps and services they can be valuable tools in helping one to live well with hearing loss.
With new services and apps popping up just about every day, we cannot hope to cover everything that’s out there on this one page however we have attempted to curate a selection of what we believe to be some of the most useful options.
Making telephone calls is often an issue for people with hearing loss. The apps presented here are options that turn the speech of the call into text that you can read.
Relay UK (previously known as NGTS) is an updated replacement for the Text Relay service from BT which has been operating in the UK for several decades. The primary difference from the older service is the ability to make calls using smartphones as well as landlines enabling use of the service when away from your household phone. The calls are captioned by relay operators who sit in the middle of the call and type up the responses of the person you are calling. Calls are typically charged as part of your standard phone contract or pay as you go service.
The service is provided via an app available on both Apple and Android devices. For more detailed information about this service, please visit our Relay UK information page.
This is another app designed to facilitate phone calls for hard of hearing individuals by captioning the content of the call in real time. Unlike the Relay UK service, the calls are captioned via a computer voice recognition system rather than a live person in the middle which may be preferable to some.
RogerVoice operates over an internet connection so an active WiFi or 3g/4g data service is required on your phone to make & receive phone calls. The service is free to use between users of the app which is great if you can get your family/contacts to install the app on their phones, however calls to standard phones (ie those not using the app) will require the purchase of a call plan. These advanced plans also give access to a “Roger Number” which can be given out in place of your normal number to ensure that all calls go through the RogerVoice app.
Speech-to-text apps and services are designed to aid communication by converting what is being said into text on your phone, tablet or laptop. The apps listed here do this with computer voice recognition software and usually require an active internet connection to function. While all the apps/services listed here will work with built in mics on your devices, we recommend looking into inexpensive external mics to maximise recognition accuracy.
A speech to text accessibility app from Google, produced in collaboration with Gallaudet University. The app is provided free of charge and boasts impressive recognition abilities with a customisable user interface giving the option to set the displayed text size and background colour. The ability to use external wireless microphones such as those found on bluetooth headsets is also provided in the app settings once the device is paired up; this would allow the speaker to sit at a distance from you while you read the display on your phone. The service requires an active internet connection in order to function.
Currently only available for Android devices at this time, you can find out more at https://www.android.com/accessibility/live-transcribe/
This is not an app that can be installed on your phone or tablet, but rather is a website that one can visit in Google Chrome web browser and immediately start using without any need for installation or set up. We have found accuracy to be very good provided that the speaker talks clearly and at a reasonable pace.
The downside to the service is that it will not currently work in mobile or tablet browsers and must be used with the desktop version of Google Chrome. However, the service does not require powerful computer hardware to function and any cheap/small laptop or Chromebook will work great. We have also had success with inexpensive Windows tablets with Google Chrome too.
Use of the website & service is completely free and is useable in a number of scenarios beyond one on one conversation – visit the website for more information.
A voice recognition app from Geemarc with versions for both Android and Apple devices. The Android version has the advantage of being completely free to use with unlimited use of the service, while the Apple version requires payment for blocks of minutes.
Available only on Apple devices, this app is completely free to use and unlike most others in this category it operates on a push to talk basis – in other words, it provides captions only while the red button on-screen is touched so may be useful for short burst of captioning at moments where it is needed rather than ongoing. Other useful features include the ability to scale the text produced up to rather large sizes for those whose eyesight may struggle with other apps.
This is a speech-to-text app with some sophisticated features beyond what most other apps provide, in particular the group conversation ability. In this mode, all those involved in a conversation can add Ava to their own phones, join the Ava conversation group and speak. The text of what they say will show up on the screens of everyone involved along with their name. Ava also works in simple single display mode too much like the apps mentioned earlier. Ava does require payment for the use of the service past a certain number of minutes used each month although only the person “hosting” the conversation needs to pay – the others can join free of charge.
While primarily intended for meeting transcription or note taking, Otter Voice will also work very well as a personal speech to text app. While an account is required to use the app, the basic plan comes with 600 minutes free per month. Each individual chat session is limited to 40 minutes of transcription but one can simply start a new recording session as one reaches the limit. By default, the recording interface is not ideal for reading as someone is speaking to you as the text size is quite small. However in the top right corner of the display is an icon with two diagonal expanding arrows – tapping this will put the app into a dedicated text display mode wherein the size of the text can be increased or decreased as desired. One should be aware that the conversations are saved in the app both as a transcription as well as a sound recording, so it may be worth remembering to delete those afterwards as needed.
Sound loudness measurement
These apps can be used to measure the loudness of sounds around you, for example in restaurants, bars or similar venues. One should note that the figures generated by these apps are not equivalent to a properly calibrated decibel meter, but can nonetheless serve to give some approximation.
Another possible use could be for practicing voice control in cases of hearing loss where one can no longer reliably judge the loudness of one’s own speaking voice. Typical methods of learning voice control involve feeling the vibration of the throat but the use of one of these apps can give objective, visual feedback too.
Android only, but free (ad supported). Displays a needle meter as well as digital number for loudness.
Available on Apple and Android devices. Free (ad supported).
The apps in this section are geared towards using your phone for sound amplification and clarity. They are not replacements for hearing aids and are designed to be used with earphones or headphones. Could be handy in a pinch if you run out of batteries in your hearing aids!
Chatable is an app for iOS(Apple) and Android devices which uses the computing power of your phone for sophisticated AI enhanced processing of sound, reducing background noise and enhancing speech in difficult listening situations. The app works much like a remote microphone, wherein the phone is placed close to the persons speaking and you listen using a pair of wired or bluetooth headphones. This app could also very useful to have installed in case of emergency situations with your usual hearing devices (lost, broken or batteries gone flat) until you can resolve the problem. Those with compatible hearing aids and cochlear implants may also be able to send the processed sound from Chatable into their devices (please note that you may require additional equipment from the manufacturer of your hearing devices in order to do this)
The app is suitable for any level of hearing loss with volume boost and background noise adjustable settings and could prove very helpful at this time, especially when talking to people wearing face masks in places such as hospitals, supermarkets, and even in pubs and restaurants. Some have even found the speech enhancement capabilities useful when watching television at home.
There is a free and a paid for version of the app, the difference being how much you can modify the volume and level of background noise. Download for Apple or Android, and check phone compatibility here.
Easy to use interface and provides a pleasant amplification and clarity.
Other useful apps
Apps and services that don’t neatly fit into any of the previous categories, but which can be helpful for managing hearing loss issues.
An online service that helps you to send feedback and resolve complaints with business and service providers. It’s a great way to avoid the usual call centre mazes and stress.
This might seem like an unusual entry on this page, but it has one very nice feature that can be useful for those with hearing loss. If you search for a business (café, restaurant etc), and click on its pin on the map further information will appear on the left. Looking down that area you will often see a section labelled “Popular Times”. This is great for judging when might be the least busy, and therefore (hopefully) the quietest time to visit that establishment.
Webpage reviewed: April 2021