Problem: A person who has gradually lost his or her hearing over the years is unable to have a conversation with another person when the environment is too loud: e.g., many conversations are going on, or there is other background noise. The hard-of-hearing person is able to talk just fine; the issue is not being able to understand what the other person is saying. The hard of hearing person does not know or intend to use sign language.

Question: Given these circumstances, and assuming you have a mobile phone or tablet device with you, can you recommend the best way to communicate with this person?

Ideas: You could interact with the person by speaking into a mobile phone, and then the phone turns your speech to text, and you show the person your phone so they can read what you said. Issues that come to mind... Maybe an app already exists that does this well: i.e., that makes your speech to text verbiage large and legible - better than text messaging? I imagine the larger the screen for the hard-of-hearing person to read, the easier it is for them: tablet better than phone? Maybe there is a company that is trying to build a really "next level" interface: e.g., like one of those user interfaces you'd see out of a sci-fi movie, where digital information is projected into an otherwise empty area; that way, the hard of hearing person could read the text displayed near your head and you would not have to hand them your phone every time you say something. Maybe my assumptions are all wrong; maybe there is a better way to communicate than with a mobile device or tablet; thus, any insights with how to tackle this problem would be appreciated, especially if there is evidence for a particular approach based on the experiences of hard of hearing people.

1 Answer 1


One promising app I've come across while searching today is Google Live Transcribe (for Android, of course).

There is a video about the making of the app by folks at Google here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLCwjIaPXwA&feature=emb_title

There seem to be at least some positive comments relating to the problem scenario in my question, and a few of the negative comments seemed more about using the app as a recording tool rather than the goal I'm worried about: enabling communication with a hard-of-hearing person.

Update, 1/15/2020 Over the Christmas season, I had the opportunity to use the app one evening with a relative who is hard of hearing. Normally, this person would have been sitting off alone; while not altogether deaf, hearing aids don't help, and in larger gatherings, the background noise pretty much eliminates this person's chance of engaging in a conversation.

Anyways, this person used the Google Live Transcribe app and for the first time was able to have an extended "conversation" with another person (1-on-1).

Was the app perfect? No, and some of its mis-interpretations were a cause of humor (though I could imagine there would be mis-interpretations that might not be so benign). The major point, though, is the app seemed like it had the potential to be a game-changer for this person.

Kudos and thanks to the Google folks who put the app together. Too bad it is not available for iOS.

  • While I'm marking this is the accepted answer, still would be nice to see additional answers for any insight they might provide.
    – mg1075
    Jan 16, 2020 at 4:51

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