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From hearing aids to smartphones

November 20, 2013
by Richard R. Rogoski
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While approximately 38 million Americans suffer from some form of hearing loss, it is estimated that nine out of 10 can be treated using technology. And the latest technology being developed to help the hearing impaired can be as close as a smartphone.

A growing number of "smart hearing apps" that leverage smartphone technology have become available in the iOS app store with prices, ranging from free to about $3.99.  Many apps also have been developed for the Android operating system, ranging from free to about $10.

These apps use the phone's processor and microphone to enhance sound quality while regulating external noise. The resulting sound is then sent back through the earphones, essentially acting as a conventional hearing aid.

The popularity of smartphones and the availability of mobile apps may drastically change the hearing aid market. Some device developers are now developing Bluetooth-enabled devices that can turn a hearing aid into a cellular hub. And some companies are even talking with wireless carriers to incorporate smart hearing apps as a way to provide a personalized voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) for the hearing impaired.