Smartphone Apps Could Help Those With Hearing Loss

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A University of North Texas researcher believes smartphone applications could be the future in healthcare for hearing loss patients. (Published Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014)

    A University of North Texas researcher believes smartphone applications could be the future in healthcare for hearing loss patients.

    Dr. Amyn Amlani, an associate professor of audiology, says research into applications that amplify sounds around a person have proven useful as short-term hearing aids for many patients.

    Amlani used the apps “Ears” and “Microphone,” both available in smartphone app stores, during this research. He found that in patients with mild to moderate hearing loss the apps worked as well as an actual hearing aid.

    “We found that objectively there’s no difference in performance between what we tested with the apps and what we got with the hearing aids,” said Amlani.

    He said subjectively, however, the apps were more cumbersome for users as they required a hard wired setup.

    Both apps use the microphone attached to ear-bud style headphones to take in sound and send it directly into the ear via the headphones. The user can adjust the volume, gain and on certain applications the pitch of the sound to their comfort.

    The applications have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but Amlani said as long as users are reasonable with the volume the applications proved to be helpful in his studies.

    The biggest draw to the applications though is early detection of hearing problems, he said.

    Many of Amlani’s test subjects expressed apprehension about getting a hearing aid due to price, personal image, or in several cases they simply didn’t feel their hearing was bad enough to need help.

    The apps eliminate those concerns, Amlani said. People experiencing hearing loss can research for themselves if they would benefit from hearing assistance via smartphone application.

    Amlani said it is essential for individuals to detect hearing issues early to avoid it getting worse and continue stimulating the nerves in the ear. He feels the apps could be a big step towards that early detection.

    "By using something from the start we're keeping that nerve alive to a certain point and it's allowing you then to be resensitized to sounds,” Amlani said.

    Amlani said slow hearing loss has also shown helpful in slowing the progress of dementia in new studies.

    Amlani said these development apps could eventually aid individuals with hearing loss and possibly evolve into a permanent solution. At the moment, he said the apps are only temporary fixes and an introduction for individuals in the early to mid-stages of hearing problems.

    He said the apps had no effect on patients with severe problems.