App resolves hearing-impaired mask issues


A new transcription app is set to make life easier for the hearing impaired in mask-wearing settings.

Created by Hearing Australia’s research division, NALscribe is designed to continuously transcribe speech in real time into large, easy-to-read iPad text.

The service has also been made free for healthcare clinics, organisations and people with hearing loss who have difficulty understanding speech worldwide.

The app has already been trialled in hearing facilities across Australia and at service counters, with feedback so far positive.

Hearing Australia client Michelle Farina used NALscribe at a recent appointment and says she was excited to see the technology on offer.

“I found the live captioning … very beneficial,” she said. “Any words I missed hearing were captured on the tablet.”

By way of contrast, a recent hospital visit for the 59-year-old involved staff unable to remove masks and no similar option available.

“As a result, they had to painstakingly write down all the questions they needed to ask me,” she said.

“It’s a very useful tool in breaking through communication barriers for people with hearing disability.”

While the app is designed for hearing care clinics, its makers hope it might prove useful in other businesses that service people with hearing loss, such as 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, particularly for those not yet wearing hearing aids.

“Through the app, they found reassurance by being able to confirm what they think they heard and it reduced any miscommunication,” she said.

“The captioning improved the flow of conversations and, as a result, the overall appointment experience was better for clients.”

Features of the app include customisable text size and privacy options, choice of 11 languages, offline speech recognition mode and guidelines to improve usability for the elderly and those with disabilities.

Transcriptions can also be saved, edited and easily shared on other platforms.

National Acoustic Laboratories Director Dr Brent Edwards says NALscribe is the latest in a series of practical innovations.

“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,” he said.


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