A new app is turning your old ears into a new one by turning the volume up on your smartphone.
A new app, dubbed Headroom, is taking a page from the ears of a deaf man who has to wear an app on his head that measures the volume of his hearing.
Headroom uses audio technology to determine your earbuds volume based on how much sound is coming from each ear.
“When you’re sitting down and your ears are being stimulated, it can be hard to tell if you’re hearing someone else’s conversation or not,” said Adam Gopnik, a deaf technology engineer at Apple, who has been using Headroom to help improve his sound quality for more than a year.
“The more you’re using your phone, the louder the conversation gets,” Gopnick added.
“Headroom does a great job of adjusting the volume based off the audio quality of your earphones.”
Gopnik was able to get Headroom working by first taking a device like the Amazon Echo or Apple’s HomePod to his office and installing an app that measures ambient sound, which he said was fairly straightforward.
Headroom then analyzes audio samples recorded by the earphones and the user’s ears and adjusts the volume accordingly.
“It’s essentially an earbud that measures sound from your head,” Gomnik said.
“You’re not actually listening to it, it’s just an approximation of what’s being transmitted to your ears.”
The app uses sound sensors inside your smartphone to determine the volume level of your hearing, Gopnic said.
“Your phone is like the earbuddy,” he said.
The app then uses this data to make a prediction about the volume in each ear, which in turn is used to calculate how loud the noise is coming in.
“Once we’ve made the prediction, it makes an estimate of the actual volume that we need to adjust based on what you’re doing,” Gopolik said.
The app then shows you how much louder your sound is by playing a sound sample from the app’s microphone, which can then be adjusted using the volume slider on your phone.
Gopnic is one of a handful of deaf tech developers who have used Headroom in their apps.
In addition to Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant, other app developers include Audioboom, Audible, and SoundCloud.
Gopolik says the Headroom app is not a replacement for a full earbudge.
“Headroom is still an augmented reality device,” he explained.
“It’s not just a device that sits on your head.”
Headroom has been tested in the lab by some of the most advanced hearing researchers in the world.
“We are using Headrooms head sensor for testing the accuracy of the prediction,” Gopalik said, noting that he’s already seen significant improvements in accuracy for people with good hearing.
“For the people who have a hearing loss, we’re also seeing the biggest improvement,” he added.
“In the real world, we are seeing some improvement, but in the virtual world, it is quite a bit slower than it is in real life.”
A similar app called Headroom is being developed for the deaf by a company called Vision.
Vision uses a combination of speech recognition and the ability to create a virtual environment for the user to interact with the audio that is being recorded by a device on their head.