Where would we be without smartphones and tablets? These days, they enhance pretty much every aspect of our lives. They make everything easier - from hailing a lift to getting a date. So it makes sense that they can help us hear better, too.
Whether you're experiencing a bit of hearing loss, or even if you're just keen to optimise your hearing health for the future, here are the downloads your ears would ask for, if only they could talk.
Are you hearing slightly less well than you used to? The best thing to do is to book a free hearing test. But if you want an answer right now, Mimi is a 6-minute hearing test that uses your headphones or speakers to explore your hearing ability across a wide range of frequencies. Of course, accuracy will depend on the level of noise in the room, plus the quality of your hardware. But if you want to be prepared for that audiologist appointment, this hearing loss test app is a good first step. Free, for iOS only.
You probably already know that being in an excessively noisy environment can damage your hearing. But how loud is too loud? Hard-to-have-a-conversation loud, or ouch-wow-that-hurts loud? Decibel X is here to help. A live graph provides real-time analysis of the ambient noise level, so you can see at a glance if that concert, workplace or building site blare is getting into dangerous territory. Free, for iOS or Android.
Brain training games have proliferated in recent years, but here's one that's designed specifically for your listening abilities. Developed by the University of California, Listen challenges you to navigate through a 3D-style maze by responding to specific sound cues. The sounds start off as clear and easy to discriminate but then become progressively harder and subtler based on your progress through the maze. Free, for iOS only.
AudioNote may be designed for students, but it works just as well for anybody who likes to take notes in meetings, interviews, or even just the odd TED talk. Record an audio track while jotting down notes on your phone or tablet. Later on, you can play it back, enjoying enhanced audio quality, pitch correction, noise reduction and amplification, while seeing your notes appear automatically at the correct time. Clever. Free trial, then paid subscription, for iOS or Android.
If you're experiencing hearing loss, your TV volume is probably turned way up. Your family and neighbours are probably suffering, especially if they don't share your passion for the entire Game of Thrones series. Do them, and yourself, a favour and download Mobile Ears. It runs on your smartphone while you watch TV, amplifying the audio through your headphones while you sit back and grab the popcorn. Free, for iOS only.
If you've ever tried a new hearing aid or cochlear implant, you'll know that there's a learning curve involved. Sometimes, your ears need time to adapt and distinguish between vowels and consonants, especially in a crowded room. Here is the app to help. AB CLIX is an iPad-based training game that helps you practice distinguishing words in various noisy environments. Choose short, medium or long practice sessions, save your results and track your progress over time. Free, for iPad only.
Since 2009, the app Captionfish has directed viewers to find subtitled sessions of movies playing at nearby cinemas across North America. While it doesn't work for Australian cinemas - at least for now - what it does do is provide captioned trailers for all major release films that you can stream to your phone. So you can make sure you're up to date on that movie everyone keeps talking about. Free, for iOS only.
If you're experiencing hearing loss, you'll know that you miss more than mere words. You might not hear the doorbell ring. You might miss the waiter coming to ask for your order in a noisy cafe. Enter TapTap. It's an app that uses strategic flashes and vibrations to alert you that there's a loud sound that could mean something or someone needs your attention. Set it running, and dial-up or down the sensitivity to suit the environment you're in. Easy. $4.49, for iOS only.
If you have good hearing, it's hard to imagine exactly what it's like to experience hearing loss. All the frustrations of asking everybody to speak up, slow down and repeat themselves - it's difficult to convey unless you've actually been there yourself. Enter the Hearing Loss Simulator app.
This app takes various sounds - some pre-recorded, some you can record yourself - and demonstrates how they come across to a person with mild or severe hearing loss. The results are eye-opening. Or should that be ear-opening? $1.99, for this hearing app on iOS only.
A smartphone is a powerful ear-enhancer on its own, but combine it with a smart hearing aid and the possibilities are endless. Next-gen hearing aids like Oticon's Opn connect via Bluetooth to seamlessly interface with objects around your home and environment - think appliances, lighting, email and more.
Using the intelligent IFTTT (If This, Then That) service, Opn automates your daily life, giving you in-ear notifications when your doorbell rings or an email needs attention, responding to voice commands, even automatically detecting your GPS location to choose the most appropriate hearing settings. It's all pretty futuristic and it's available in your ears, right now. This hearing aid app is available for iOS, Android and more.