Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
If you wear hearing aids, you know they are a big help in most any situation, but there may be times you want to make talking on the phone, watching a movie, or eating at your favorite restaurant even easier. And, if you have normal hearing, you might wish you could communicate better with friends and family members who are deaf or have hearing loss. Fortunately, if you have a smartphone, help is only an app away. Below, we’ve compiled some of the higher-rated apps that offer captioning services; for example, converting phone calls or other conversations into text.
Apps for both Android and Apple iOS
Android, 3.4 stars, free (known as SpeechNotes)
iOS, 3.7 stars, free, version 10.0 or later
InnoCaption+ is a free captioning service for the deaf and hard of hearing funded by the FCC. It provides real-time captioning on your mobile device. The app was developed in conjunction with live stenographers to provide fast, easy, accurate captioning. Users must register and self-certify you have a hearing loss to use this service.
Text Hear Personal Hearing Aid
Android, 4.1 stars, free
iOS, 1 star, free, with in-app purchases, version 9.2 or later
You can use the Text Hear app in everyday conversations to help you convert natural speech to text in large, easy-to-read letters displayed on your mobile device. Features include automatic punctuation and spacing, font size and color choices, and support for more than 100 languages and accents.
Caption apps for Apple iOS only
4.6 stars, free
iOS models 5S and greater
This Apple app offers real-time captioning on your mobile phone with ClearCaptions Mobile. ClearCaptions is an FCC-certified service made possible through a federally-funded program for qualified individuals with hearing loss. They offer a free account with a personal ClearCaptions voice phone number for captioned calls. Captioned phone conversations can be saved for later review.
3.2 stars, free, unlimited version is $2.99/month
iOS 10.0 or later
Need help understanding the waitress at your favorite restaurant? When you download this app, they can speak directly into your phone and Live Caption transcribes in real time. To begin captioning, simply press the microphone button on the keyboard, speak normally and text results will appear. It also works with most Bluetooth devices such as headsets and in-ear microphones. This app does not work with incoming phone calls or store and save captured text. In addition to English, language options include Spanish, French, Japanese and Sanskrit.
Sub: Subtitles Viewer
3.9 stars, free
iOS 9.1 or later
Need subtitles for your favorite television show or movie? They’re as close as your smartphone when you download this app, which synchronizes with what you’re watching. The Sub app is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Bengali, Chines, Danish, French, German, Greek, Javanese, Hebrew, Italian, Malay, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Sweden, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese.
4.6 stars, free
iOS 11.1 or greater
This app uses Siri’s speech recognition to provide captioning to users. Press and hold the iPhone screen to caption what you or others are saying in large, easy-to-read text. Includes a keyboard interface to accommodate those without speech.
Apps for Android only
5 hours free per month, payment plans available for more usage
This app turns your smartphone’s microphone into a captioning service that captures speech and turns it into a text conversation displayed on your screen. A good wifi connection is required; the app also works with Bluetooth devices. Users can share a QR code with other individuals to add them to the conversation. Ava also has a text-to-speech feature that can be accessed by using the keyboard. The app allows you to save conversations to share or review at a later date.
Android, 3 stars, free
This mobile application is free and designed for those who have trouble hearing on the telephone and want to listen to phone conversations while reading word-for-word captions of what’s being said. In addition to creating a Hamilton CapTel account, CapTel users must have a voice and data plan, and a Bluetooth or wired headset that works with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Other apps for hearing loss
If you’d rather learn how to communicate using American Sign Language, there are also a variety of sign language apps for both iOS and Android devices. We’ve also compiled apps for children with hearing loss, as well as apps that measure noise levels.
These apps can be very helpful in specific situations, but they are not a replacement for good hearing healthcare or properly fit hearing aids. If you suspect you have hearing loss and need to find a hearing healthcare practitioner in your community, please visit our directory of consumer-reviewed hearing clinics.