April 2019 AbilityNet
There are multiple communication options used by people who are deaf or who have hearing loss. And, in the last five years, advances in automatic speech recognition (ASR) have opened up further options. Across the UK, 11 million people are currently affected by deafness or hearing loss, according to the charity Action on Hearing Loss. As the population ages, more people are expected to be affected. In this blog, we explore some of the latest tech options available for communication, leisure and education for people who have hearing loss. Sign language is a common and great option, though the limitation is that it’s not understood by most of the hearing population. Lip reading, while not always giving someone a full understanding of what’s being spoken, is also a useful skill to have. Below we look in more detail at some of the newest apps and tech in the hearing loss world.
Google Live Transcribe
Google's recent release Live Transcribe uses ASR technology to offer real-time transcription of speech into text.
The spoken text is picked up by a phone microphone and delivered to an android phone screen using wifi or another network connection. This can be useful for people who are deaf and attending conferences or lectures, for example. The words spoken will appear on the phone of the person who has the app. The tech works for 70 different languages.
Lip reading can be harder in a group of people and this is one of the main reasons AVA was created. If a person who is deaf or who has hearing loss is with a group of friends, they can get those friends to connect to the app - then the person(s) who has hearing loss will see live transcriptions of the group conversation. The speech is picked up using the phone’s microphone and on screen the name of the person talking is displayed in front of what that person says.
Rogervoice is an app which produces live transcription during phone calls in more than 100 different languages. People who are deaf and those who have hearing loss, or someone who has difficulty speaking can use the phone to have a conversation with someone, and receive a typed text (on their phone) of what the other person is saying.
Voxsci is a speech-to-text app which translates voicemail messages into texts and emails which can be saved, searched and shared. Costs start at £5 a month for 30 voicemail texts or emails.
This highly useful app won last year’s AbilityNet Tech4Good Digital Health Award. It offers a way for people who are deaf and those who have hearing loss to communicate with emergency services without needing to speak or listen. TapSOS is very visual and works by the user tapping the screen to select which options they need. While originally designed for people who are deaf, it is also useful for people with breathing difficulties or those in situations being held against their will when contacting the emergency services, such as the police. TapSOS stores the individual’s medical history and pertinent personal information on their device, delivering this directly to the selected emergency service. It also uses GPS to pinpoint the user’s exact location.
Braci Sound Alert app lets you record the sounds in your environment and then gives you visual and vibrational alerts on your smartphone when it recognises them. For example, it can alert you when an alarm goes off or when a doorbell rings.
It might be assumed that written information is the best way to communicate with people who are deaf. It’s not always understood by the general population that learning to read means connecting what a word looks like to how it sounds and so reading can be more difficult for people who are born deaf, particularly when that person is still a child.
The Signly app was set up to offer people who are deaf, or who have hearing loss another option for understanding written or visual information. The app was first used at the Roald Dahl museum in the UK. Visitors to the museum point their phone at exhibits and are offered videos on their smartphone which display sign language descriptions of the exhibitions. The app is also used by Network Rail and has had trials with Lloyds Banking Group to offer those companies’ deaf customers more information on awareness raising campaigns or leaflet content, for example.
Signly also has an audio layer which is useful for people with sight loss.
TV and cinema subtitles
Your local cinema app
A simple website and app which lets you know films at your local cinemas which are showing with subtitles and audio description options.
Subtitles Viewer! / Sub
Using your phone microphone, the Subtitles Viewer app enables you to view subtitles in various languages on your iOS device. The app synchronises with television or movies on your TV or at the cinema. There are other similar options on Android available.