Hearing loss, commonly associated with seniors, is now increasingly turning out to be a problem among people aged between 12-35 years. According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), three out of 40 people in India suffer from hearing loss. However, most of them cannot afford hearing aids due to high cost of diagnosis and equipment. This is where Listen AS and Norwegian research organization SINTEF is trying to help with an app based solution for people suffering from hearing loss problems.
With its Mobile Ears app, the company wants to help millions of Indians who suffer from mild to moderate hearing impairment. And why not, looking at the increasing smartphone penetration, what better option than using an app. The Mobile Ears app uses a unique speech amplification technology to ensure the users can hear things clearly, even with background noise or when there are many people in the room.
“Exclusion from communication can have a significant impact on everyday life, causing a feeling of loneliness, isolation and frustration. Our mission is to enable quality hearing under any environment, for everyone. Mobile Ears is easy to use, requires no special devices, beneficial for people of all ages and suitable for indoor as well as outdoor sound environments. I am confident that this one-click solution can be of assistance to millions of Indians who are unable to use traditional medical hearing aids,” said Snorre Vevstad, CEO, Listen AS.
A look at the current scenario
We are exposed to at least 80 decibels of sound, be it due to traffic when traveling or exposure to loud music in bars, sporting events and nightclubs to name a few. Even if you look around the street, look at your office colleagues or your fellow commuters when traveling, you’d commonly find most of them hooked on to their earphones, listening to music. In fact, a lot of them would mostly have the volume turned up to maximum.
While one may not realize, listening to music in loud volume will eventually lead to some hearing loss. Statistics also reveal that over one billion young people from across the globe are at risk of hearing loss, mostly due to unsafe listening practices. ALSO READ: Facebook Live adds closed captioning support for deaf and hard of hearing
Sure, there are a lot of people, who don’t want to admit that they are suffering from hearing loss. Some are concerned about embarrassment of wearing the hearing aids in public, for others, it’s a concern about the high costs involved with equipment, which costs anywhere between Rs 20,000 and go all the way up to Rs 200,000. And then, if you look at the available solutions, they are same as they were two decades ago. The Mobile Ears app aims to solve these issues and offer a free, simple and convenient solution to all these problems.
Mobile Ears – app compatibility, how it works and more
The Mobile Ears app is designed for iOS, and it is compatible with iPhones, iPad and iPod touch devices. To be able to run the app, your device should at least have iOS 9.3. It is a free app and about 30MB in size. The company is also working to bring the app on Android platform, but due to the device fragmentation and required optimizations, it may take a while until we see the app running on Android devices.
Talking about the app’s working, it uses the smartphone’s microphone to capture voices from the surrounding, amplifies it, and offers users with enhanced listening experience. The app algorithms are designed to filter out unwanted background noise while offering good speech quality. The best part is, the app doesn’t require you to be connected to the internet to be able to use it. ALSO READ: Apple enhances iOS accessibility features for users with hearing impairments
I did give the app a try, and it is surely an interesting concept. It is simple plug and play app, which does not require any annoying and lengthy setup. Simply open the app, enter your age and gender and you’re good to go. The app has presets configured based on the statistics.
On the app home page, you have slider that lets you personalize the sound for maximum amplification and speech clarity. The amplification works well and I could nearly hear what the person sitting four feet away was murmuring. You can even configure the app to use the earphone’s mic for enhanced clarity, which can be very helpful when in meetings, conferences, sitting with a group of people or when watching TV.
However, the setup takes around three minutes to complete. Sadly, the app does not support Bluetooth yet, due to quality and issues related to delayed amplification. Support for the same can be expected in the upcoming versions. This being the very first version, there could be stability issues, but we can hope for improvements in the coming versions.