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Griffith Uni graduate develops app for those with hearing aids

A graduate from Australia’s Griffith University combined his games design degree with his experience living with profound deafness to create an app set to improve the lives of those with hearing aids.

While studying a Bachelor of Games Design at Griffith, the scholar, Elliot Miller, became interested in interactive design and developed his own ‘serious game’ in the form of an app named Hearoes, which assists cochlear implant and hearing aid recipients learn new sounds in an engaging, self-paced environment.

So-called ‘serious games’ are considered games beyond entertainment and in Elliot’s case, one that can create learning experience outcomes.

“Receiving a bionic ear, also known as a cochlear implant, although an incredible milestone, is like trying to drive a sports car when you don’t have a licence or have never driven a car before,” he said. “I ended up using the learnings from the Griffith University course to create some gamified auditory training exercises to help myself with earning to identify new sounds, which I personally found challenging.”

From there, he ended up showing it to his clinician and releasing it on the app store to help others with their new hearing journey.

Miller was born with sensorineural hearing loss – with mild to severe hearing loss in his right ear, and profound hearing loss in the left side- and was fitted with hearing aids as a child, before receiving a cochlear implant at 25. He noted that it has been a very life-changing experience, especially being able to hear the higher pitches in sounds that I’ve never heard before.

“I’ll always remember the time I was jogging down the street shortly after receiving my bionic ear, and I noticed a sound that I couldn’t identify. I stopped to try and identify this new sound, but the sound stopped as well, and it wasn’t until I got home later that day, I realised it was the coins in my pocket.”

According to Hearing Care Industry Association in 2020, an estimated 3.95 million Australians have hearing loss.

Almost everything around us makes a sound, from the wind howling, to the car indicators, to even leaving the fridge door open for long periods of time and they are not things that you think about, especially if there aren’t any visual references or other feedback associated with it, the engineer stated.

It became a big learning curve for him because although he could hear new sounds, it was very challenging being able to identify them. Hearoes aims to help others on their hearing journey, he noted.

Hearoes is Australia’s first auditory training tool of its kind and has had more than 25,000 sessions, with the activities played more than 80,000 times in the last 12 months alone.

It is described as a user-centric auditory training app and contains more than 50 gamified activities focusing on key and proven modules in auditory training such as environmental sounds, vowels, consonants, sentences and narratives in different accents including Australian and American male and female voices.

The team has some amazing feedback and stories, not only from the recipients but also others involved in the training process, including clinicians, teachers and even parents.

“It’s very motivating being able to help others who are experiencing similar challenges, especially as I’ve faced similar daily challenges myself,” he said.

Hearoes was recently recognised with an Early Innovation Award at the recent Bionics Queensland Challenge and has collaborated with different organisations such as eHealth Queensland, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, as well as Deaf Services.

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