My wife has been complaining to me for a long time that my hearing is getting worse. Like a typical husband, I said she mumbled, and we were at a stalemate.
Then a press release for an iPhone app called uHear crossed my desk. Created by hearing-aid manufacturer Unitron, headquartered in Kitchener, Ontario, the free app basically replicates the primary hearing test used by audiologists. While the subject is wearing earphones, the device emits a series of tones at different frequencies and loudnesses to each ear to measure sensitivity. It also has a mechanism to measure how well you can hear speech in a noisy room. The output is a simple chart of hearing acuity versus frequency range, again similar to that generated by an audiologist.
When I took the test, it showed that I had a loss of sensitivity to high-pitched sounds in both ears -- findings that led me to finally schedule a visit to an ear specialist. When they administered their test, their results were very similar to those I obtained on the iPhone -- clearly the result of listening to years and years of rock 'n' roll.
Fortunately, the hearing loss is not severe enough yet to justify investing in a hearing aid. My wife just needs to stop talking to me from the next room. But the app will allow me to continue monitoring my hearing and go back to the doctor if it gets worse.
To date, more than 300,000 people have downloaded the app from the iTunes Music Store -- small potatoes compared to the number who have downloaded such applications as Facebook and MySpace but well above the average of 3,000 downloads for most of the 140,000 available apps. That is enough to place uHear consistently in the top 10 medical apps for the phone. Unitron Chief Executive Cameron Hay said that the company estimates that every person who downloaded it shared the test with two to four other people.
Do you need it? Consider that an estimated 36 million Americans have hearing loss and that number is projected to increase by as much as 25% by 2015. It can't hurt, and it is free, so what do you have to lose?
-- Thomas H. Maugh II
The main screen of uHear and a typical result for a sensitivity test. Credit: Unitron