Avoiding phone calls isn’t just for young people who have never known a world without texting and unlimited data plans. Around 37.5 million adults in the U.S. have some sort of hearing issue, and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders says that about 28.8 million adults in the U.S. could benefit from hearing aids. Some people may simply avoid phone calls because they’re hard to hear, and there aren’t visual signals like lip-reading to help them decode the situation. A new smartphone app aims to make talking on the phone a lot easier for those people.
Hearing loss isn’t just about the ears: It’s about the brain, and everyone’s hearing loss is a little different. Unfortunately (as fans of the screaming, hard-of-hearing FBI deputy Gordon Cole from Twin Peaksknow), hearing aids don’t just bump up the volume on the sound you want to hear—they make everything around you louder. If you turn up the volume to hear someone whispering beside you, you’ll also turn up the volume on the fire engine siren blaring by. That means hearing aids aren’t terribly good for improving phone calls.
SonicCloud remixes the audio from your phone calls to optimize the voice of the person on the end of the phone, tailoring the sound of their voice to your specific hearing issues. Developed with audiologists, it provides an audio assessment to determine what your exact hearing issues are. As the name hints, the incoming calls are routed through the company’s cloud servers, where the audio is mixed for your hearing needs (as determined by the assessment) and shot back to your phone.
The app can change pitch if you can’t hear very low or very high ranges or make it easier to hear in places with a lot of ambient sound, like loud restaurants. It can adjust the sound if you perceive it as tinny or muffled, or if you feel like you’re in a place with a strong echo.
Subscription-based and priced at $10, SonicCloud is currently available for iPhone. You can sign up to get early access to the Android version here.