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The iPhone Audiologist

July 20th, 2009 by | Tags: | 6 Comments »

Technology is incredible.  While none of these iPhone apps are a substitute for the services of a listening and spoken language professional, they are pretty fun to play around with and to use for quick, easy demonstrations about hearing loss:

  • HEAROS Noise Patrol: measures the decibel (loudness, intensity) level of noise picked up by the iPhone microphone in an environment.  The measurement reads out in dB and tells how long you can safely be exposed to that noise level in minutes/hours.  This is a great, easy way to demonstrate the high levels of ambient noise in your child’s classroom and to demonstrate the loss of signal strength over distance.  Did you know that every time you double the distance between speaker and listener, you lose about six decibels of intensity?  So, if a teacher is speaking at 50dB (conversational level) to a child three feet away, a child just six feet away from the teacher (pretty typical distance, if not a little short, of a child’s desk from the front of the room), you’ve doubled the distance and the speaker’s intensity is down to 44dB.  Six decibels may not seem like a lot, but when you add in other background noise in the classroom, it adds up quickly!
  • uHear: this is a do-it-yourself hearing test by Unitron (hearing aid manufacturer).  For a simple phone-based test, it’s surprisingly well done.  It measures a pure-tone audiogram (and accounts for insert vs. supra-aural headphones, nice touch!) as well as hearing speech in noise, and gives a very user-friendly display of results in both graph and text form.  You can use this application to “screen” people and to illustrate what you (or your child, spouse, etc.) can and cannot hear.  The speech-in-noise feature is great, too, because it shows that even if your pure tone audiogram says one thing, listening to beeps is a whole lot different than listening to speech, and listening to speech in quiet is a whole lot different than listening to speech in noise.
  • Dog Whistler: this application allows you to manipulate the frequency of a “whistle” button to frequencies (pitches) between 80 and 22,000Hz.  You can’t control the loudness of the whistle, other than the iPhone’s regular volume control (which doesn’t tell you the intensity in dB), but it’s a good way to illustrate certain pitches.  It’s a good way to show that speech sounds have “layers” (formants), so missing high pitches takes off your ability to hear some of those layers and impacts speech understanding (for example, if you can hear low but not high pitches, you might confuse some vowel sounds because the information that makes them distinct resides in the higher frequency ranges).

Again, I cannot stress enough how INFORMAL these applications are — this is for fun and quick demos only.  For any real information about your hearing, speech, and language concerns, or your concerns for someone you love, find a listening and spoken language professional for a formal assessment.

All of these apps are free.  Enjoy!

Written by

Elizabeth Rosenzweig MS CCC-SLP LSLS Cert. AVT is a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certified Auditory Verbal Therapist. She provides auditory verbal therapy, aural rehabilitation, IEP advocacy, consultation, and LSLS mentoring for clients around the world via teletherapy. You can learn more about Elizabeth's services on her Website or Facebook.

6 Comments

July 11, 2011 at 2:50 am

[...] am not a complete Luddite.  In the past, I’ve posted about hearing-related apps that are fun ways to measure sound and learn more about the process of hearing, but these apps are [...]

Grant

December 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I am hearing impaired and need to be able to communicate with someone if I am stranded and alone. What is the best iphone and service for me?

Elizabeth

December 18, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Grant, you may look into programs like CapTel, which caption what the person on the other end of the line is saying to help people who are unable to hear well enough to understand over the phone. I believe that there is an iPhone app so that the service works for smartphones as well. You can also contact local emergency preparedness agencies and ask about email or twitter alerts — many provide them to warn of storms, blizzards, etc.

Mel

June 26, 2012 at 6:37 am

If you are concerned about communication, on your iPhone YOU can type into your notepad and then download the Dragon Dictation app and this will dictate what the OTHER PERSON is saying. The dictation is okay, but lacks punctuation and makes errors.

July 3, 2012 at 2:25 am

[...] Your child’s listening, speech, and language development are critical.  You can use apps (here is a link to one such app) to provide a rough (non-calibrated) measure of noise in the home, and help families realize that [...]

Candy

March 3, 2013 at 10:30 am

Just discovered your Wednesday Words and found them fun to read. Short, simple and informative. I just downloaded uHear! Fun!

Thank you. :)