Mask wearing and plexiglass screens can make communication challenging, especially for people with hearing loss. NAL has tackled this problem by developing the NALscribe iPad app that hearing clinics can use to make communication easier for clients who often struggle to hear. The app has been made free for hearing healthcare clinics around the world to download and use.
Mask wearing and physical distancing in a COVID-19 world can make communication challenging, particularly for people with hearing loss who have difficulty understanding speech.
The National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) has tackled this problem by developing the NALscribe iPad app that clinics can use to make communication easier for people struggling to hear. The app has been made free for hearing healthcare clinics around the world to download and use.
“My father-in-law is profoundly deaf now for many years and we have been searching for any way we can use technology to assist us in communicating, especially with family get togethers… even around his home. It has been a largely frustrating journey of trying all sorts of things… We just came across your app yesterday and just want to say a huge Thank You… it will transform his life and give us all more interaction and access to our father and grandfather”— R.W, NALscribe user
“I have resorted to pen and paper many times when verbal communication has been impossible. This app facilitates easier communication in so many settings …where accurate communication is important”— K Symes, NALscribe user
The NALscribe app created by NAL, the research division of Hearing Australia, quickly and continuously transcribes speech into large, easy-to-read text on an iPad screen in real-time. It was developed through NAL’s design thinking process, with both clinic and patient needs explored and the technology tested in functioning hearing healthcare clinics.
Dr Brent Edwards, Director of NAL, says the NALscribe app follows NAL’s earlier innovative solutions that help hearing aid users better understand the speech of people wearing masks.
“NAL has a history of producing practical solutions that can be used by clinicians and people with hearing loss.
“Our research over the past two years has identified the unique problems facing people with hearing loss during the pandemic, and our innovation program continues to develop solutions to solve those problems.
“Our latest innovation, the NALscribe app, is designed to help improve communication for people with hearing loss, particularly when there are additional barriers such as when masks are worn. It’s free and available worldwide so that people across the globe who are living with hearing loss can benefit from this solution,” adds Dr Edwards.
The app has been trialled in hearing clinics across Australia, at service counters and during appointments, and the feedback from clients has been positive.
Hearing Australia client, Michelle Farina, aged 59 years, used the app at her recent appointment and says she was excited to see this technology offered in the clinic and found it valuable for confirming the information communicated by the clinical staff.
“I found the live captioning on the tablet very beneficial, any words I missed hearing were captured on the tablet.
“This would also be useful during appointments where a professional person is unable to remove their mask (due to COVID-19) to enable a person with hearing disability to lip read. I went to the hospital recently and the medical staff were not able to remove their masks and live captioning on a tablet was not available. As a result, they had to painstakingly write down all the questions they needed to ask me.
“It’s a very useful tool in breaking through communication barriers for people with hearing disability,” says Michelle.
While the app is designed for and was tested in hearing care clinics, it may prove to be a useful communication tool in other businesses that service a significant number of people with hearing loss, such as in medical centres and aged care facilities.
Hearing Australia Audiologist, Emma Church, has used the app with multiple clients and says it has made conversations during appointments much easier for clients, particularly those who are not yet wearing hearing aids.
“The NALscribe app has been beneficial for a lot of our clients, especially those with profound hearing loss. Masks make conversations even more challenging, but with the use of the app, we’ve been able to break down the communication barrier whilst still being safe.
“Through the app, they found reassurance by being able to confirm what they think they heard, and it eliminated any miscommunication. The captioning improved the flow of conversations and, as a result, the overall appointment experience was better for clients.
“For those who may not speak English as their first language, the app has been useful in helping them to better understand what we’re asking them,” says Emma.
Features of the new NALscribe app include:
The NALscribe app is available and free to download now via the App Store.