3 New apps / technology related to Deafness

As technology evolves within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community, it can be difficult to keep up. We’ve compiled a list of three new devices available to help determine the right fit for you.

#1. Bone Conduction Headphones

Bone conduction, a technique developed in 1923, uses bone to send sound signals directly to the inner ear. This technique is already used in bone-anchored hearing aids, or BAHAs, which are helpful for people with conductive or unilateral hearing loss. Be advised, this type of hearing aid can be invasive and expensive compared to other hearing aids.

How is this technology used in everyday life? Though the common bone-anchored hearing aid has existed since 1977, the bone conduction headphones are relatively new. These headphones are helpful for the Hard of Hearing community because they bypass the ear canal to send sound signals directly to the inner ear. This may be distracting for some because they allow you to hear the headphone sound plus any surrounding sound without the benefit of noise cancelling. If you have one-sided hearing loss or deafness, or you simply don’t want to use an in-ear headphone, these might be great to try.

#2. Government Endorsed Visor Cards

New technology doesn’t have to be electronic. Visor Cards are a simple device that have been around for several years, recently gaining popularity. The card attaches to the sun visor of the driver’s seat and shows visuals of questions and/or communications a deaf driver may have if stopped by a police officer. A D/HH driver can easily communicate their lack of hearing and in turn, the police officer can point to a problem the deaf driver is having (broken headlight, speed limit violation, or something more serious). Because of their usefulness, Visor Cards have been recognized, adopted and sanctioned by an increasing number of state governments.

Applying for the Visor Card is easy, and usually available through your local DMV or municipality website. Let us know if your state has them available! 

#3. SpeakLiz by Talov

SpeakLiz is a subscription-based app developed by Talov, a company dedicated to inclusive technology. This app is designed to translate for deaf and hearing people alike. It has three main functions: Sign Language Recognition, which translates the physical motions of ASL into English; Surrounding Sound, which identifies and alerts users to sounds like emergency vehicles and alarms; and Listening, which translates speaking voices in real-time, for up to 35 languages. SpeakLiz is currently available for download, but some features, like Sign Language Recognition, are still in development.

Similar attempts to translate sign language (such as Sign Language Gloves) have failed because they don’t take the nuances of sign or the particular needs of ASL speakers into account. But with time, research and passion, companies like Talov may be able to create devices that are genuine game changers for the D/HH community.

Do any of these apps or technologies fit into your lifestyle, or know of one we missed? Let us know in the comments.

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