Plug In and Tune In: New Hearing Aid App for the iPhone

Photo: Plug in and Tune in: New Hearing Aid App for the iPhone: SoundAmp Offers Users of All Ages Improved Hearing

People don't normally equate the iPhone with medical innovation, but with the June release of an application that doubles as a hearing aid, they may have to reconsider.

The application, which is called soundAMP, is made by Ginger Labs, a California-based software applications developer, and is available in the iTunes store for $9.99.

Though it's not an actual hearing aid, soundAMP achieves a similar effect. Users just launch the application and then plug in a pair of earphones. The application takes in sound from a microphone (be it built-in, in a headset or from elsewhere) and then amplifies and filters it.

Then you can adjust the volume to your liking with a slider on the touchscreen. You also can replay five or 30 seconds by tapping the appropriate button on the screen.

Hearing aids often may be associated with the more mature, but soundAMP's developers insist their product is age neutral -- of equal value to the octogenarian hard of hearing and the college student stuck in the back of a large lecture class.

(As a caveat, if you really are losing your hearing, you should probably visit a doctor -- soundAMP may be novel, but medically certified it is not.)

And there are myriad other programs (apps for short) taking advantage of the growth of wireless handheld devices.

Have a need? Someone out there is trying to fill it now, quickly, with almost no effort (and little or no upfront cost) on your part.

But as the market grows, so do the possibilities. Here's a small sampling:

RunPee Helps Moviegoers With Bathroom Breaks

Soda. Coffee. Water. Next time to you go to the movies, chug 'em all down.

As long as you have a new iPhone app by your side, you'll know when you can escape to the bathroom without missing the best parts.

Approved by Apple's App store earlier this week, RunPee (yes, really) promises to be the small-bladdered moviegoer's best friend.

The application features all the movies currently playing in theaters and tells users approximately how far into the movie each "pee time" begins, the cue line to listen for and even what they've missed. (When you're on your way back to your seat, you can hit a button to unscramble text that provides a short synopsis.)

"The idea came from watching King Kong the re-make in 2005," said Dan Florio, RunPee's creator, referring to Peter Jackson's marathon three-hour blockbuster. Throughout much of the movie, he said, he was desperate to relieve himself.

"I kept thinking, I wish they would just kill this ape so that I could get to the men's room," he said.

Like a good fan, he waited until the end, but not without noting a good three-minute sequence he could have done without.

"I just could have gone to the men's room during the scene and I could have enjoyed the end of the movie and the movie would have been better," the Orlando, Fla. developer said.

When he walked out of the theater and saw the lines of people waiting to get into the theater, he wanted to share his secret. But being a bit bashful, he kept it to himself.

The idea stayed in remission until August 2008, when he launched RunPee.com.

He said he's watched about 80 percent of the movies to scout out the best "pee times," but added his family has helped. And anyone who's interested can submit ideas to the site.

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