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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.

Photo: AARP

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