Australia’s national hearing research body has developed a free app that instantly transcribes conversations to make communication easier for people struggling to hear including due to mask and physical distance requirements.

The multilingual NALscribe app has been developed by the National Acoustic Laboratories, which is the research division of government-funded national body and service provider Hearing Australia.

The Apple app quickly and continuously translates speech into large, easy-to-read text on iPads and iPhones in real-time.

NALscribe, which adheres to accessibility guidelines, features an inclusive design with customisable settings, such as text size, screen clearing privacy options, and dark and light appearance.

The app is available in 11 languages including English, French, Spanish, Arabic, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, Portuguese and Russian.

NAL director Dr Brent Edwards said the app was developed to support deaf and hearing-impaired people to better understand the speech of people wearing masks.

“Our research over the past two years has identified the unique problems facing people with hearing loss during the pandemic and our innovation program continues to develop solutions to solve those problems,” Dr Edwards said in a statement.

“Our latest innovation, the NALscribe app, is designed to help improve communication for people with hearing loss, particularly when there are additional barriers such as when masks are worn.”

NALscribe on an iPhone

The app also has an offline speech recognition mode and users can easily save, edit and share transcripts.

NALscribe has been trialled in hearing clinics across Australia, at service counters and in appointments.

Hearing Australia client Michelle Farina, who used the app at an appointment, said it was a useful tool for overcoming communication barriers for people with hearing disability.

“I found the live captioning on the tablet very beneficial, any words I missed hearing were captured on the tablet,” Ms Farina said in a statement.

Hearing Australia audiologist Emma Church said the app has helped her clients confirm what they thought they heard and reduced miscommunication.

“The captioning improved the flow of conversations and, as a result, the overall appointment experience was better for clients,” Ms Church said in a statement.

It is available to download on the App Store.

Main image: Emma Church and Michelle Farina using NALscribe

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