Australians are being urged to check their children’s hearing using a homegrown app as part of the upcoming Hearing Awareness Week.
Sound Scouts offer a scientifically-proven app which enables the hearing of individuals to be checked, requiring only a quiet place and some headphones.
The gamified content is targeted specifically at children aged between 4 and 17, but adults of any age can also use it to check their hearing.
Sound Scouts tests for hearing and auditory issues, and delivers an instant report with next steps if hearing loss is detected.
The app incorporates scientific hearing tests in an interactive game to keep youngsters engaged enough to finish it.
As part of the upcoming World Hearing Day on 3 March and Hearing Awareness Week from 1 to 7 March, the World Health Organisation’s ‘Hearing Care for All! Screen, Rehabilitate and Communicate’ campaign is aiming to check as many children’s hearing as possible using Sound Scout.
The app is free to use for anyone, and more than 45 percent of tests conducted are in regional Australia, with the tech solution offering an easier method for parents to test the hearing of their children if they live remotely.
Sound Scouts received $4 million in federal government funding in 2018, allowing the startup to test up to 600,000 Australians aged 4 to 17 over the next five years.
The company was founded by Carolyn Mee in collaboration with the National Acoustics Laboratories and funding from the New South Wales government.
With the funding from the NSW Digital Media initiative, Mee embarked on creating the app in 2011, before being awarded a further Medical Devices Fund Grant from NSW Health worth $1.1 million.
Recently, Mee was awarded innovator of the year at the 2020 Women in Digital Awards.
Judges at the awards raved about the Sound Scouts innovation.
“This was a strong submission and demonstrated the important COVID pivot,” the judges said. “Positive social impact, well-articulated entry and truly innovative - incredible submission.”
As part of the campaign, the screening component will involve a push for more people to use the hearing test app, with hashtags to include #ScreenWithSoundScouts, #HearingAwarenessWeek2021 and #Hearathon2021.
Hearing loss can occur at any time, so it’s important children be tested after the newborn test.
An estimated one in 10 children and one in three adults suffer from hearing loss, which can have a significant impact on education and socialising.
The Sound Scouts app requires a good set of headphones or earbuds and a tablet or smartphone. A parent, guardian or teacher then has to complete a supervisor setup and player setup section, with children shown instructions to tap or drag items on the screen, and only interact when they hear sounds, which will get continually quieter.
The test, which has been verified and published in the International Journal of Audiology, takes up to 10 minutes to complete, and tests speech in quiet, speech in noise, and tones in noise.
In 2019, Sounds Scouts was a finalist in the ACS RiverPitch competition to discover the next big thing in tech and innovation.