According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss, of which 32 million are children. WHO further states that 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes. A child’s hearing typically is checked at birth, but seldom after that. In Australia, where one in six people has hearing loss, the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) is working to check hearing at early ages so children who have loss will not be otherwise stigmatized.
Australian startup Sound Scouts developed a game of the same name in collaboration with the NAL. Kids play the Sounds Scouts game on iOS or Android tablets. The game tests children’s hearing in an unintrusive, relaxed, enjoyable manner. According to the NAL, Sound Scouts tests for conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss and auditory processing disorder. The game takes about 15 minutes to play. An adult with known good hearing has to calibrate the game before each game session. Sound Scouts reports that the game results are clinically validated and can be shared with audiologists.
This year Sound Scouts won the Health and Wearable Technology Award at the 2017 SXSW Accelerator competition in Austin, Texas. Gamified health testing is gaining acceptance and early research reports generally positive results, especially for health-related behaviors.