Apps for Kids (and Adults) with Hearing Loss

As an educational audiologist, late deafened adult with bilateral cochlear implants, gadget lover and hoarder-of-apps, I felt compelled to try and find as many apps as I could in the iTunes store relating to working with individuals with hearing loss. With all of the hundreds of thousands of apps out there, this was a somewhat daunting task and I’m sure I missed some.   [I hope to compile a similar list for Android apps in the near future…]

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For the comprehensive list, “Apps for Kids (and Adults) with Hearing Loss ” with ALL of the apps that I have found, go to http://bit.ly/Apps4HL-iOS or http://bit.ly/Apps4HL-Android, depending on your platform.

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Since I will be updating this spreadsheet frequently, the most recently-added apps are towards the top.     The “Master List” tab has all of the apps and the others tabs are grouped by category.   If you would like to subscribe to an RSS feed and be alerted when an app is added, please CLICK HERE.

I had the pleasure and honor to pick out my favorite apps and share them with subscribers to the facebook page Technology in Education – the listing of these apps can be found by CLICKING HERE.   There are TONS of apps located within these pages so be sure to look around and also to sign up for their frequent and amazing app sharing events by “liking” their page.

When working with students with hearing loss, one of the many IEP goals that they have often includes doing some form of auditory training or listening therapy. Auditory training can be as simple as discriminating whether a sound is present or not, being able to discriminate between two or more different stimuli (e.g., environmental and/or speech stimuli), being able to listen to a short series of directions and act accordingly (e.g., put the hat on the little girl) or listening to a longer passage and be able to answer questions. I used the following search terms (“deaf”, “hard of hearing”, “hearing impaired”, “listening”, “sign language”, “ASL”, “audiology”, “hearing test”, “sound level meter”, “decibel meter”, “hearing aid”) as I scoured iTunes looking for apps to use. I grouped the apps that I found into the categories below and had some additional thoughts:

Accessibility
Universal caption capabilities for streamed video content is still being developed, and has been mandated in some instances. Unfortunately, finding captions for streamed content is still an exception rather than a norm. Currently, the only apps that I know of that allows for captions/subtitles for the iPad (2)/iPhone/iPod Touch are:

  • certain videos in the iTunes store and Netflix (be sure to go to http://www.phlixie.com to utilize their searchable database of captioned videos)
  • TEDiSUB: TED Talks with Subtitles
  • Qwiki
  • dotSUB
  • CaptionfishTrailers (be sure to check out http://www.captionfish.com for a complete listing of captioned/subtitled movies in local theaters near you
  • TWCable TV (see link in my comments section on how to turn this on)

Hearing Test
Beware that some of these are rather gimmicky and are not very accurate. If you have ANY concerns about your hearing, please contact your local audiologist for a diagnostic hearing evaluation (www.howsyourhearing.org)

Personal amplifiers
This is what I call the plethora of apps touted as being “spying devices” or “hearing enhancers”. While they may help temporarily or be fun to use, the sound quality is not ideal and these should not be your primary mode of access to auditory information. Once again, please be sure to consult an audiologist with any hearing concerns.

Sign language
When searching, I realized that many of the sign language apps out there are not really “sign language” but rather just the manual alphabet. I have indicated this in my comments for the apps. Also, some of the apps use static pictures/diagrams, while others use computer-generated avatars but my favorite apps use actual video clips of a person doing the particular sign.

As stated here, there is also a need to develop an app using sign language not only for the sake of teaching specific signs but for use in teaching concepts! Hmmm….maybe my next project???

Sound level meters (SLM)
Many of the SLM apps are crude and not entirely accurate unless you upgrade to a paid version and you have the ability to calibrate the app to your particular device. That being said, there are some that are more non-tech-friendly that you can use to broadly say whether a certain listening environment (e.g., cafeteria or concert) is too loud and either the sound level needs to be brought down or hearing protection is warranted, and there are some that are built for people like sound engineers.

Ok, not being app-specific, here are some other thoughts rolling around in my head:

Books
In addition to apps that are specifically designed for auditory training, you can use any of the book applications available in the iTunes store like nook and Kindle. There are also thousands of kid-friendly books that the student can use with or without audio. Some of them are pretty static and there are some that are very interactive and can engage your students with its many features. When I was first learning to hear again with my cochlear implant, I used <gasp> books on tape because there was no such thing as iTunes yet. Nowadays, there are apps like http://www.audible.com that allow you to download entire books (unabridged and abridged) for hours of enjoyment (and auditory training!) on road trips.

English as a Second Language Resources
Some of these materials may be more geared towards your older or more advanced listening students, but there are exercises that can definitely be applied towards listening goals. I did not include these in my list. If there are any that you feel are exceptionally good, please let me know!

Music training
If you are working on something advanced such as pitch training, be sure to check out the hundreds of pitch training, pitch perception apps that are available in the iTunes store. While geared towards musicians, you can also use these apps for your students. I did not include these in my list. If there are any that you feel are exceptionally good, please let me know!

Role playing
This is the name I have given to apps where children get to manipulate parts in a virtual environment. My favorite developer is Toca Boca with their various whimsical apps appropriate for boys and girls. These are excellent apps to use for auditory training goals like following multi-step directions.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I need to mention that it is also important to make sure the student (or adult) can HEAR through the device if used for auditory training. If they cannot hear through the device internal speakers, other options include:

  • external speakers (e.g., docking station)
  • good quality headphones that fit over their hearing aid(s) or cochlear implant(s)
  • connecting the device to their personal FM system via the transmitter auxiliary cable
  • connecting the device directly to their cochlear implant(s) via the auxiliary cable

Happy listening!

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