Hearing aids, captioning apps + other solutions

Carolyn Stern, manager of Hearing Health Days for NYC seniors

Carolyn Stern, Manager, Center for Hearing and Communication

Are you or someone you know saying “what?” too often or finding it difficult to keep up with a group conversation? It’s possible you may be experiencing a gradual decline in hearing, just like a third of all older adults. It happens slowly but eventually declines to a point where the hearing loss interferes with everyday interactions and favorite pastimes such as socializing with family, phoning old friends, playing with grandchildren or watching live theater or a great TV show.

But don’t worry. We have good news! With today’s many advancements in technology for assisting people with hearing loss, it really is possible to live more fully, connect better with loved ones and return to activities once enjoyed.

Read below for a comprehensive look at the latest tech solutions for people with hearing loss. But for a quick demonstration of three excellent captioning apps, click the play button below to view my new video.

3 Apps for Better Communication with Hearing Loss

Now, back to my list of recommended ways to hear and communicate better using the latest hearing technology.

#1 – Benefit from innovations in hearing aid technology

Utilizing a current digital hearing aid fitted by a trained audiologist is the most common and recommended way to manage hearing loss. Newer advanced models are now equipped with sophisticated software designed to reduce background noise and enhance speech sounds in less than ideal listening settings. Hearing aids with Bluetooth technology can now pair or connect wirelessly to a smartphone, tablet or TV, greatly improving the sound quality of a phone call, video or movie. Plus, some hearing aids are now rechargeable. This eliminates the need to remember to change the battery, and for people with limited dexterity, that’s a big benefit. All of these advancements have significantly increased satisfaction with hearing aid users in recent years.

Audiologists Ellen Lafargue demonstrates hearing aid technology

Dr. Ellen Lafargue demonstrates hearing aid technology

If you’re curious about hearing aids or have held out because you’ve heard they don’t work, it really is worth giving them a try. But, the key is to give your brain several weeks to adjust to the new auditory input and stimulation.

It is equally important to find an audiologist that you click with and who is highly recommended from your network of family and friends or a trusted health care provider. To learn more about what to expect when you visit a top-notch audiologist, click here.

If you have hearing aids already, kudos for taking action by addressing your hearing needs. But, if your technology is more than four years old, now is a good time to consider trying a newer model with significantly improved features. Even those with a mild hearing loss are getting a benefit from the new hearing aid technology, CHC’s Director of Audiology, Dr. Ellen Lafargue, tells us: “We’re fitting more and more people with mild losses because the newer, more advanced devices are showing a discernible difference in sound quality and functioning and are keeping people more engaged and with less fatigue.”

#2 – Tech solutions for enjoying entertainment media

Hearing the television or tablet well at a regular volume is difficult for individuals with hearing loss (whether a hearing aid user or not), but utilizing closed captions, which by the way is free, is an invaluable way to assist comprehending entertainment media visually while listening. Captioning, which transcribes spoken language into written text displayed on a digital screen simultaneously, is available on all televisions and flat screens made for the U.S. market since 1993.

Consider giving closed captions a try by activating this feature in the menu settings of the television. Captions are also available for most shows or movies on tablets and smartphones. To activate the captions on most devices and streaming services such as Netflix, start the video or show, tap on the screen and a status bar will pop up.  Then, select “cc” for closed captions to turn it on.

If you find you do not like captions, have difficulty reading them or would like to hear better while using captions, you can always consider using an assistive listening device or a wireless headset with volume adjustments that can amplify the sounds from the television or tablet. Many solutions work with or without hearing aids. Two devices we recommend for listening to your television without Bluetooth technology are are Serene Innovations TV SoundBox Wirless TV Speaker and Sennheiser Wireless Headphone Systems. Here’s an excellent Bluetooth headphone that will work with  a tablet or Bluetooth-equipped television: Matrix Cinema Wireless Bluetooth Headphone with Audio Enhancement. If you’d like to learn more about these and other assistive listening devices, take part in a group devices demonstration at CHC-NY every Thursday at 2:00 p.m. Learn more.

#3 – App that captions your smartphone calls

Innocaption app captions smartphone conversationsAnother common challenge for people who are hard of hearing is the inability to fully understand smartphone calls with clarity and confidence. An innovative app, InnoCaption, captions for free smartphone calls made anywhere at any time in the U.S. This means the person utilizing this service can both listen to the spoken language on the call and read it displayed on the digital screen of the smartphone in real-time, wherever you are, at home or on-the-go.

So, the next time you’re in a difficult spot while conducting a call, for example on a noisy street corner while trying to get directions, give this app a try. To register for the service, which is available only to individuals with hearing loss, and to give it a try, visit www.InnoCaption.com.

#4 – Apps for keeping up with conversations

Following all kinds of conversations with ease is a hardship for people with hearing loss, but new apps that caption communication by leveraging automated speech recognition capability is transformative. Google’s solution, Live Transcribe, transcribes speech in real-time into text on an Android smartphone or tablet’s screen for free!  Two other apps that can be used with iPhones and Android phones, Ava and Microsoft Translator, are helpful too. People with hearing loss can now instantly read along while listening to the conversation at the same time. It can be used at any time of day and at any location, provided there is cell service or Wi-Fi access.

So, when facing difficult communication situation such as participating in a meeting or talking with a grandchild with a soft voice, we recommend giving one of these speech-to-text apps a try. Click to learn more and download these terrific captioning apps:  Google Live Transcribe (for Android devices only), Ava and Microsoft Translator.

We’re here to help you connect to life

Getting your hearing checked annually and addressing any issues is important. Now, with so many advancements in hearing aids and smartphone apps, a person with hearing loss no longer has to feel isolated and frustrated. Learning about and adapting to new technology can dramatically improve your quality of life, assist you as you return to doing the things you’ve always enjoyed, and help you connect better with family and friends.

3 Apps for Better Communication with Hearing Loss

Participate in CHC’s free group devices demo »

Learn more about assistive listening technology »

Schedule an appointment with a CHC audiologist »

Carolyn Stern, Manager at Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC), is passionate about helping adults address hearing loss and learn about various ways to live more fully with the condition. Since 1910, CHC is NYC’s most trusted nonprofit hearing rehabilitative clinic located at 50 Broadway, 6th Floor, Manhattan. For any questions about technology and hearing loss concerns, please contact Carolyn at cgstern@chchearing.org.