If you've got an iPhone (or iPhone, or iPad) and are looking to either improve your hearing or prevent hearing loss, you're in luck. A free new app called TSC Music can help.
Here's how it works: First, you put in your headphones—ideally the ones that came with your phone—and go somewhere quiet. Then, take a hearing test for each ear on five key frequency ranges, changing the faders in each one until you can just barely hear it. Then you can either play music already on your phone, stream it from YouTube, SoundCloud, or Spotify, or use TSC Music's (albeit limited) music library to play music, which the app will optimize for your personal hearing condition. (Additionally, Earlogic plans to add Apple Music, and other streaming services in the near future.)
After a few weeks or a month of daily use (for an hour or two a day) with these customized sound signals with your volume at 50-55 percent, your hearing capacity should improve. But don't take our word for it: you can do a "calibration" test again and see if the minimum audible sound on each frequency has improved.
The science behind the app is simple: sound causes the hair cells in the cochlea (the spiral-shaped cavity in the inner ear) to vibrate and send nerve signals to the brain, but the hair cells lose sensitivity over time. Earlogic says TSC technology actually detects the damaged hair cells, which can be stimulated and strengthened.
The technology used on the app has been tested by more than 100,000 users on the desktop application. A Stanford University study published in the American Academy of Neurology appeared to show positive results based on the abstract. However, the company said it would not make the study available until after completing a funding round and it did not come up in a full search of the journal.
"TSC outputs an algorithmic acoustic signal with a preset intensity to the frequency band of the damaged hair cell. Previously published human data and this prospective clinical study demonstrate a statistically significant improvement in a narrow band frequency threshold. These data have important clinical implications as a potential long-term therapy for this widespread and growing disability," the study conclusion in the abstract states. (One of the four researchers involved in the study received research support from Earlogic.)
"The Stanford study is important because it supports the positive feedback that we have received from thousands of users with the TSC desktop technology in Brazil," Ji H. Won, Earlogic Managing Director, wrote in a press statement. "The potential for hearing capacity recovery enhancement through an app is profound. With portable devices, users can listen to music with TSC Music anywhere."
Cheryl Hammer, a spokesperson for Earlogic, compares the app to physiotherapy. She says some improvement can occur in around two weeks, but some people need about 30 days of disciplined listening—twice a day for at least a half hour each time.
The app lets you see progress over time, and also tracks usage time. It also has a "sleep mode" which will play music for an hour and then turn off, for those of us who can somehow fall asleep with earphones on.
Correction: This article has been updated to make it clear that TSC Music didn't make the full study available to the author.