Chatable uses pioneering neuroscience-led AI to offer users an amazing hearing aid using your device and a pair of earbuds
Price: Free to download
Subscription: $13/£10 monthly
Size: 49 MB
Developer: The Hearing Aid App Company
Chatable is an app for iOS and iPadOS that can turn your device – and a pair of earbuds – into an impressive, AI-powered hearing aid. Fuelled by some of the latest developments in neuroscience, Chatable not only works incredibly well, but it could be a real game-changer for users with hearing impairments, neurological, or neurodevelopmental conditions. And best of all, it’s incredibly easy to use.
Part of the reason Chatable is so effective is down to the science it leverages. Usually, hearing aid-style apps work by labeling and filtering unwanted background noise, and amplifying noise deemed to be in the foreground – such as a conversation. This works to a degree, but the experience isn’t always great. Chatable, however, works by identifying the voice its user wants to hear, and creating a new audio signal which sounds near-identical to the original, but without the background noise. It’s called end-to-end neural speech synthesis. Fancy.
Science aside, what this essentially means for users is a far better, more accurate hearing aid that can support communication in crowded places. And Chatable doesn’t just work for one-to-one conversation; it has a separate TV-listening mode, too.
When you launch Chatable, you can choose which mode you’d like to use: conversation or TV. You get a brief how-to video with some on-screen instructions. Then, it’s time to plug-in your earbuds or headphones and begin talking (or, if you’re getting a TV fix, watching). Chatable features two sliders in the app’s main interface – one called “volume boost,” and another called “background noise.”
Volume boost amplifies the target audio within the signal (the identified conversation, or the audio from your TV), while you can reduce the background noise with the other slider. Like the app’s core neural speech synthesis, volume tweaks also happen in near-real-time and they usefully allow users to adjust the app for different environments. If you’re in a busy café, background noise might need to be turned right down. But for conversations at home, you might tweak the sliders differently.
In terms of the user experience, Chatable is great. Sure, the audio signal generated by the app doesn’t sound exactly like a genuine voice (there’s a slightly robotic tinge), but for those who struggle with aspects of hearing and communication, it’ll enhance conversation no end.
While Chatable clearly works well, it’s also a timely app – using an iPhone or iPad to capture the audio in a conversation means it’s easier for those with hearing impairments to socially distance while communicating. It works through masks and for many users will negate the need for lip-reading. And aside from those who are hard of hearing, Chatable’s developers rightly note that it might support individuals with other conditions, such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, with regards to communication and focus.
The one downside to Chatable, however, is that all this brilliance doesn’t come cheap. While a free seven-day trial is available in the app, for longer-term use, you’ll need to pay either $13/£10 per month, or $80/£60 per year. In the current release, the app’s advertised “free minutes” don’t appear to be available – but when active, this will grant users 100 minutes of free use per month.
So all you need to turn your device into a super-smart hearing aid is an iPhone or iPad, a pair of earbuds, and the crystal-clear Chatable app. Oh, and don’t forget that in-app subscription, too. What are you waiting for? Get chatting!