Tapping Into Help for Hearing Loss by Smartphone

I used to have perfect hearing, although I could select what I didn’t want to hear. But now that I’m getting older, I am becoming more concerned about my hearing. I am also a recent cancer survivor, truly thankful for every day that I wake up.

One side effect of my chemo treatment is auditory nerve damage. I can still hear well enough so I don’t need a hearing aid. But it got me thinking: How do you hold a conversation on a cellphone when you have hearing issues? The answer could be as simple as an app on your smartphone.

I work for AARP on an innovative project called TEK, which stands for Technology, Education and Knowledge. We hold workshops and seminars around the country teaching older adults how to use mobile technology to improve their lives and stay connected with family and friends.

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AARP TEK seminar

Technology Education and Knowledge (TEK) seminar in San Diego

At one of our seminars in San Diego, Chuck Owen from InnoCaption, an assistive-technology company, explained how his smartphone app can help you to read everything that is spoken to you in almost real time (there’s a two-second delay). And it’s super accurate. OK, that’s where I got skeptical. I use Siri on my iPhone and it sometimes gets it right.

After a little research I learned that the secret isn’t an audio-to-text software conversion. It’s a live stenographer typing what someone is saying to you. (Yes, someone is listening to your phone call. Get over it.)

From what I saw, the InnoCaption app does work fast and accurately converts speech to text. The sweet part: It’s free!

Here’s what you need to know about the InnoCaption:

You must have a significant hearing loss. I don’t qualify for the app. It’s free because the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services Fund pays for it.

You will need a smartphone (Android or iPhone) with both a voice plan and a data plan. You’ll talk and hear on the phone (use an earbud) as the data (what’s being said to you) is sent as text to your screen.  

You must register at InnoCaption. A link will be sent to download the mobile app to your smartphone.

Want to learn more? Check out this video:

Let me know what you think of the app in the comments below, or contact me at Lgannon@aarp.org or @larrygannon.

For more information about the about the TEK program, visit our website. And for more technology videos, visit  TEK YouTube playlist.

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2Papa 5pts

I am not sure this is thel answer, but it is nice that a lot of effort is being expended to alleviate this serious problem.

katherinebouton 5pts

Innocaptions has great potential but it's not there yet. As a person with severe hearing loss, I qualify for Innocaptions and have it installed on my cell phone. Innocaptions support has been very helpful.

The captions are good, when they work. But much of the time when I dial out, the Innocaptions pulldown menu, which allows me to access the captions, fails to appear. 

To receive a call, the caller must call your special Innocaption number, not your regular cell number. Unless you happen to know exactly who you've given that number to, you have to put a message on your voice mail telling callers to call the Innocaption number to reach you. Even if they do call that number, however, the pulldown menu to access the captions often doesn't appear. 

For people with even mild to moderate hearing loss, a hearing aid (or a PSAP) with a telecoil is a better option. If you can't hear on the phone, you would benefit from hearing aids in any case and should not delay getting them, or the less expensive alternative of a PSAP. Make sure it has a telecoil.

I will be writing about telephone use on my AARP blog Healthy Hearing -- http://blog.aarp.org/author/aarpkbouton -- in the next few weeks. 

I join Janice Schacter Lintz in urging you to write to your representative about HR3150. 

lgannon 5pts

I agree @2Papa . The most people and companies trying to assist  the hearing impaired the better!

lgannon 5pts

I'm glad this subject is now on the radar of people developing technology solutions @2Papa

lgannon 5pts

Thanks for being part of this conversation @ZipHearing44 . I'm looking forward to seeing how technology can assist  with the hearing impaired  in the future.

lgannon 5pts

Great insight from someone how has used this app @katherinebouton .  Thank you so much so sharing your thoughts on this subject. 

lgannon 5pts

Some Prescription drug  costs got included into Medicare a few years back.  I agree with @JaniceSchacterLintz , wouldn't it be great if hearing aids could be added to Medicare!