UNT study explores effectiveness of smartphone hearing aid applications

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 20:40

DENTON (UNT), Texas — Research conducted by University of North Texas speech and hearing sciences professor Amyn Amlani and colleagues suggests that smartphone-based hearing aid applications can be used as effective, short-term solutions for listeners with hearing loss. The study investigates the efficacy and perceived advantages of using smartphone applications as an alternative treatment option to traditional hearing aids.

Many Americans are diagnosed as having impaired hearing conditions that require amplified sound, yet a high percentage of these individuals will wait an average of five to seven years before using hearing aids — a delay that contributes to cognitive as well as auditory decline, Amlani said. A primary reason for the delay in using traditional hearing devices is the stigma associated with disability or old age, whereas the use of ear buds or headphones connected to a smartphone is universally accepted.

The availability of smartphone-based hearing technology is important for impaired listeners to “get help sooner,” Amlani said. To this end, “the smartphone-based applications reduce stress and encourage use, which serves as an important stepping stone toward promoting hearing health awareness.”

Study participants were tested using Ears and Microphone, two smartphone-based applications downloadable from iTunes that delivered amplified sound by means of an Apple iPod hardwired with an in-ear headphone and inline microphone, and Unitron Shine + Moda II 312, a traditional, behind-the-ear hearing instrument.

Participants found the smartphone applications easy to operate and expressed satisfaction for features that let them customize the degree of amplification, such as flexible volume controls and the ability to change the tonal quality of the amplified sound. Speech-in-noise performance measurements, which assessed the percentage of speech that is understood in noisy situations, revealed similar results among traditional and smartphone applications, but the smartphone apps were found to deliver greater audibility and overall benefit compared to the Unitron device. The study appears in the December 2013 issue of The Hearing Review.

Smartphone apps bring the added advantage of being low-cost and readily available without the need of medical referrals or insurance forms. Participants said that makes them a no-hassle choice, especially for people who have limited access or limited financial resources.

 Amlani emphasized that the smartphone-based apps are not intended to be a permanent substitution for traditional hearing aid devices or the counseling services that hearing healthcare providers offer. Rather, they can provide immediate benefit as an effective interim or supplementary solution to traditional hearing aids.


About UNT’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service

The College of Public Affairs and Community Service blends academic programs, applied research and collaborative external partnerships to provide innovative education and strengthen metropolitan communities. The college offers programs that were established as the first of their kind — including emergency administration and an academic certificate in volunteer and community resource management. Two programs, rehabilitation counseling and city management and urban policy, are ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the Top 20 nationally (13th and 8th respectively) and both are first in Texas. The college also offers the first accredited master’s program in applied behavior analysis in the world and the first online anthropology master’s program in the nation. Other academic programs include alternative dispute resolution, applied gerontology, criminal justice, disability and addiction rehabilitation, public administration, social work, and speech and hearing sciences.  

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