Hearing aids today don’t just help provide better hearing. With the incredible advances in today’s mobile technology, hearing aids are able to work with our mobile phones, smartwatches and tablets. Apart from our hearing aids, we have mobile apps that can help us manage our tinnitus, tell us when to wear hearing protection and more!
We caught up with Chris Howes, Senior Strategic Software Product Manager, and Penny Tyson, Product Manager, to talk about some of Starkey’s most popular mobile apps and how they can provide healthy hearing benefits. Below are summaries of the apps and some questions we asked Chris and Penny.
Starkey Relax – Tinnitus Relief
An estimated 50 million Americans are affected by tinnitus, an annoying sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. These phantom sounds, which may take the form of "ringing," "buzzing," "roaring," "clicking" or "hissing," can vary in pitch and be heard in one or both ears. For some people, the noise can be so loud that it interferes with their ability to concentrate or hear actual sound.
While many patients with tinnitus have found relief from the Multiflex Tinnitus technology found in Starkey’s Muse, Halo 2, Z Series and SoundLens Synergy hearing aids, others may also desire an option with multiple relief sounds for the changing state of their tinnitus.
The Relax app is a free mobile app designed to help provide personalized tinnitus relief and comprehensive tinnitus education. The app features 12 unique relief sounds coupled with soothing images, which can be adjusted, customized, and streamed: 1) to Bluetooth audio devices (headphones/speakers), 2) directly from an iOS device to the Halo or Halo 2 Made for iPhone hearing aids, or 3) to any 900sync hearing aids via the SurfLink Mobile device.
The app also provides a variety of tinnitus education materials about symptoms, causes, and solutions.
For what purpose was this app developed? The app provides the tinnitus sufferers with a comprehensive tinnitus education and self-management tool.
What are the benefits of using the app? The Relax app enables the users to create and customize highly-personalized relief sounds when standard sounds don’t meet the specific needs of their tinnitus. The app is also an informational resource. Users have many unanswered questions about the ringing, buzzing, hissing, roaring, or whooshing noise they are experiencing. Many answers are provided in the nine informational sections within the “Learn” screen, including symptoms, causes and dietary considerations.
What’s the coolest part of the app? The Create feature is really cool, because it enables a user, via a smartphone, to fine-tune the selected relief sound in order to best suit the user’s unique tinnitus at the current moment. For example, the user can create a new, customized relief sound to specifically meet his needs in the evening, when tinnitus tends to roar. A soothing image may then be selected from the Starkey Relax stock-image gallery or from the user’s personal camera roll for full customization of the personalized relief sound.
TruLink Hearing Control – Hearing Aid Personalization and Control
Designed to work specifically with Halo and Halo 2 hearing aids, the TruLink Hearing Control app enables users to remotely control their hearing aids, adjust volume levels, change memories, adjust the Multiflex Tinnitus stimulus (Halo 2), create personalized memories, set up automatic memories based on location or type of streaming audio, help find misplaced hearing aids, and more.
For users with an iPhone, TruLink enables direct streaming of phone calls, music, media, and with Halo 2, the ability to enable an audible indicator for email, text and social notifications directly in the hearing aids.
What was the purpose behind the development? The purpose was to create an app that complemented the Halo hearing aids and their connectivity with smartphones, and to enable the hearing aid user to completely personalize their listening experience.
What are the benefits of the app for users? The biggest benefit is the ability to completely personalize the listening experience for virtually any lifestyle.
What’s the coolest part of the app to you? TruLink has too many cool parts to pick just one, so the coolest is probably the overall integration of the smartphone experience into hearing aids. Having the power of a smartphone included as part of the hearing aid system allows users to have more control than they’ve ever had. With the speed at which mobile computing is evolving and hearing aid processing is becoming more intelligent, I can see a whole variety of even more cool things becoming possible in both the near and not-so-near future. It’s an exciting time to be working in this area!
SoundCheck – Hearing Protection and Hearing Loss Identification
How loud is that concert, really? What is your hearing ability? With SoundCheck, you can answer both of these questions. As a sound level meter and a hearing screener app, SoundCheck enables you to measure environmental noise levels or quickly evaluate your own hearing. With the first, you can quickly determine if you are in noise that’s at an unsafe level and should be wearing hearing protection in. With the second, you can easily screen and understand your own hearing ability to identify any potential hearing loss. Results can be saved to track your hearing levels overtime.
What was purpose behind the development? Initially, SoundCheck was created to provide a simple tool that allowed a smartphone user to perform a quick hearing screening on themselves, a friend or family member. We expanded SoundCheck to also include a method to measure the sound level in any environment. The app is of course limited to the performance of individual phone hardware and is not meant to be used for a medical diagnosis.
What are the benefits of the app for users? It’s a great tool for getting a quick glimpse at a persons’ hearing thresholds, and it’s an easy way to monitor noisy environments so you can determine if hearing protection is necessary.
What’s the coolest part of the app to you? The noise check feature is cool. We’ve done some customizations of that feature in partnership with the Minnesota Vikings and with the Senior Games when they were held in Minneapolis. This added a fun element to the monitoring of noise at the Vikings games where the app directed fans where to go for free hearing protection and to help raise awareness of hearing loss.
Note from Chris: I’ve had fun with the noise check feature by playing a guessing game with my family on how loud it was in various situations. We then check the level via SoundCheck, and the person with the closest guess to actual decibel level wins.
Hear Coach – Listening Games for Auditory Rehabilitation
As anyone with hearing aids will tell you, rediscovering how to understand certain speech and environmental sounds can be a challenge at first. Hearing loss interrupts your ear’s ability to communicate clearly with your brain, so when hearing aids are introduced, the ear and brain have to learn to work together again. Hear Coach helps by offering a suite of listening games to help challenge your cognitive and auditory sharpness for improved listening performance.
What was purpose behind the development? To provide an easy to use tool that could offer some challenging listening exercises to people interested in working on their listening skills.
What are the benefits of the app for users? It’s an easy-to-use way to help exercise your listening skills. It also continues to challenge you with harder levels and allows you to track your progress.
What’s the coolest part of the app to you? The increased challenges and variety of exercises and levels.
Visit our Mobile Apps page to learn more about each app and to find download options for the App Store and Google Play!