North Texas Daily

UNT researches smartphone app to help with hearing deficiency

UNT researches smartphone app to help with hearing deficiency

UNT researches smartphone app to help with hearing deficiency
February 10
19:45 2014

Kaylen Howard / Intern Writer

The qualities of a traditional hearing aid have been transformed into a common smartphone app, helping citizens with hearing loss access a low-cost hearing program through research in the UNT Department of Speech and Hearing Science.

Associate professor of audiology Amyn Amlani looks to his hearing-disabled daughter as motivation. The fact that his daughter uses both the app and hearing aid is one primary source of the overall EARs app.

“EARs is not primary for disabled-hearing student, but for anyone who is having a hard time hearing their professor in a large class,” he said. “The fact that a person can just stick ear phones in your ears and adjust the frequency on an iPod makes the program blend in the advancing world.”

The app, called EARs, was created to help people with hearing problems adjust the volume frequency for each ear, making it easier to hear from different ranges.

“There are some individuals who cannot afford a hearing aid or are not ready to purchase one,” audiology graduate student Rachel Robbins said. “However, the app is an alternative option for hearing assistance until the patients are ready to purchase a higher functioning device.”

In 2011, Amlani and his colleagues came together and tested 18 participants ranking from the age of 50 to 90 years old with mild to moderate severe hearing loss. They assisted in research done by Ear Machine – a team of hearing scientists committed to creating and distributing hearing tools.

Each participant was tested with a traditional hearing aid and two smartphone-based applications installed on an Apple iPod Touch.

“The patients each wore the device for two weeks and reported on how well they felt the device helped them to reduce their handicap,” audiology graduate Charla Levy said. “At each appointment, we also tested the effectiveness of each device in noise.”

At those meetings, test participants were evaluated with a speech intelligibility performance test.

“During the testing, hearing aids were programmed,” Amlani said.

Amlani made it clear that the app was not a replacement for the traditional hearing aid, but just a starter to help patients function at a more efficient level.

But with most hearing aids costing several thousand dollars, the $4 app has some audiologists questioning the future of hearing aids.

“This type of study has not been heard of and is really starting to get at the forefront of debate in our profession,” Levy said. “I was really motivated to better include smart phones with hearing devices and provide a more modern product that offered all the connectivity.”

Feature photo: Associate professor for the department of speech and hearing sciences Amyn M. Amlani  gives a speech on the Academy of Doctors of Audiology 2013 Convention. He provided a wide-ranging look at what his and his colleagues’ research means for dispensing professionals and hearing healthcare in general. Photo courtesy of Amyn M. Amlani

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