If you or someone you know is hearing impaired, you probably know how frustrating it can be to go somewhere and suddenly realize you left your hearing aid at home.
Well, if this ever happens to you or a loved one, you might be able to make do in a pinch as long as you have your smartphone and a pair of earbuds on you.
Let’s take a look at how you can transform your smartphone into an emergency hearing aid with the help of some handy apps:
What Is the Best Way to Use Headphones as Hearing Aids?
Your smartphone will probably never be as effective at compensating for your hearing loss as a purpose-built hearing aid, and the options we’re looking at here are intended for temporary or emergency use.
If you’ve lost your hearing aid, left home without it, or are waiting for a new hearing aid to arrive in the mail, these apps can be a lifesaver for helping you cope with hearing loss in the meantime.
Your smartphone is already equipped with the ability to receive and transmit sound, just like a hearing aid, so all it’s missing to function as a temporary aid is the capacity to amplify and calibrate that sound to compensate for hearing loss.
Luckily for you or your hearing impaired loved one, there are applications designed to do that!
Let’s take a look at some of the options out there:
Ear Spy by Overpass Unlimited (for Apple)
This app is actually designed for eavesdropping, but it can also be used as a temporary hearing aid despite its shady intentions.
Ear Spy features fairly straightforward controls, with a volume slider that controls how much ambient sound is amplified and an equalizer to tweak the exact frequencies you hear.
This app is only rated 2.7 out of 5 stars on the Apple app store and is not actually intended for use as a hearing aid.
There are honestly probably better options out there. Nonetheless, this app gets an honorable mention as an unconventional yet effective option in a pinch.
Crisp Sound by Pleasant AI LLC (for Android and Apple)
The Crisp Sound app, unlike Ear Spy, is designed to be used as a hearing aid.
As such, it features many useful settings and options for those with hearing loss. You can use several preset settings calibrated for different types of hearing loss, change settings separately for the left and right ear, and repeat the last words someone has said, to name just a few of the options.
Rated 4.3 out of 5 stars on Google Play and 4.2 out of 5 on Apple’s store, Crisp Sound is a solid choice as a temporary hearing aid app with a wide array of useful options.
Petralex Hearing Aid App by IT4You (for Android)
Petralex is another purpose-made smartphone app for use as a temporary hearing aid.
Like Crisp Sound, it features a variety of options to customize for your specific condition and dynamic settings that let you amplify different kinds of sounds separately (for instance, being able to hear whispers without making regular sounds way too loud).
One of reviewers’ most innovative and well-liked features is the “adaptive course,” which helps you get used to the app and learn to get the most out of it over 4 weeks.
With a 4.6 out of 5 rating on Google Play and a wide variety of options, Petralex appears to be another solid pick for hearing aid apps.
Ear Booster Tool by Soft Creative (for Android)
A lightweight but powerful option, Ear Booster Tool doesn’t seem to have as many fine-grain settings as Petralex or Crisp Sound but boasts some powerful preset options and an equalizer to customize for your hearing loss without being overwhelmed by options.
It’s only rated 3.3 out of 5 on Google Play, but many people have left highly positive reviews.
It probably depends on a lot of factors whether this app will work well for you, but if you’re one of the people who can get good use out of it, it could be just what you need.
What Is the Most Popular App For This?
Since we don’t have time to look at every possible option that might be out there in one article, let’s look at the four apps we found and detailed above.
Out of this selection, Petralex has the highest review rating.
Crisp sound is only slightly behind in review score and boasts cross-platform availability, being on both Google Play and Apple’s app store. Therefore, Petralex and Crisp Sound seem to be the most popular temporary hearing aid apps we were able to find.
Of course, it should go without saying that no one app will be perfect for everyone, and if you need an app like this, we encourage you to check out a variety of options and find the one most suited to your specific needs.
Do People Actually Use Smartphones and Headphones as Hearing Aids?
Based on what people are saying in reviews of these various apps, it definitely seems that there are plenty of people using their smartphones and earbuds as hearing aids, at least temporarily.
It’s hard to say if anyone is using their smartphone as an alternative to getting conventional hearing aids at all. Still, there’s clearly a market for these apps, and people are definitely using them.
Please note we’re not doctors and can’t give you medical advice, so talk to your doctor if you’re considering using an app like this to replace the need for hearing aids!
How Do Users Report Back Around Sound Quality?
Reviews mentioning sound quality seem to vary a fair bit, both between the different apps available and individual reviews of a given app.
Notably, Petralex and Crisp Sound have a lot of reviewers claiming the sound is crystal clear and amplifies exactly what they want it to. Even these apps have their occasional one-star reviews, and lower-rated apps like Ear Booster Tool have glowing reviews, too, despite an overall lower score.
This all tells us that sound quality probably depends on several factors, from your specific form of hearing loss to the quality of the phone and headphones you’re using.
Based on the reviews, these apps can deliver high-quality, crisp, and clear sound, but you may have to shop around a bit or invest in higher-quality headphones if you don’t have much luck at first.
Do Headphones Compare to Real Hearing Aids?
The short answer is no, probably not.
Smartphones are built with audio processing software designed to make phone calls in mind, and headphones are manufactured with the intent of listening to music, podcasts, internet videos, and so on.
Hearing aids, by contrast, are purpose-built to amplify and process sound to compensate for hearing loss. With the help of the right app, your smartphone can do a pretty good job emulating this function, but even the best software can’t get around the limitations of your hardware.
The slightly more complicated answer is: “it depends.”
Some reviewers of apps like Petralex and Crisp Sound actually claim that, with the right phone and headphones, these apps do an even better job than purpose-built hearing aids.
So, it’s theoretically possible that, depending on your hardware and your specific form of hearing loss, your phone could outperform more expensive medical hearing aids.
Of course, we must once again reiterate that we can’t give you medical advice. We’re just reporting on user feedback so that you can make the most informed decision possible.
Supposing you need a temporary replacement for hearing aids, these apps are definitely worth checking out, and they might even be good enough to replace hearing aids altogether for some users.
Talk to your doctor before making a final decision.
What Are the Requirements For Your Phone and Headphones?
The bare minimum requirements to use any of these apps are a smartphone and any old pair of earbuds.
While this is all you need to start trying these apps right away, it should go without saying that the better the quality of your hardware, the more you’ll get out of the software.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any precise specifications for what phones and headphones are best for this, but there are a few common-sense guidelines that probably apply. As long as you’re not using earbuds from the dollar store, you’ll probably be able to get decent use out of any of these apps.
If the sound isn’t as clear as you’d like, an upgrade to any headphones well-reviewed for their sound clarity and high fidelity will probably help a fair deal.
Not too long ago, using your smartphone as a replacement hearing aid might have seemed like a pretty silly idea, but the technology’s come a long way in a relatively short time.
Now, with the help of an app like the ones discussed above, transforming your phone and earbuds into a hearing aid is not only possible, it’s only a few taps away on any Android or Apple device!
These apps can make life easier while you’re waiting to get your hands back on your regular hearing aids, or if you believe some of the reviews, they might even have the potential to replace them entirely.
So if you or a loved one suffers from hearing loss and is having trouble getting a regular hearing aid, or tends to forget theirs when they leave home in a hurry, give one of these apps a try today!