Photo: Sean Hayes/Shutterstock.

Hearing loss can be debilitating and alienating. It affects not only daily interactions, but enjoyment from movies and TV shows because the focus is on reading captions and not what is being said. Fortunately, there is one newly available solution to address this – one that does not require hearing aids.

Sonic Cloud began as an app that allowed the hard of hearing to customize sounds from their phone, translating the confusing to the crystalline. The company is a labour of love for co-founder Larry Guterman – a Hollywood-based director who has dealt with hearing loss all his life – and investor Sean Hayes (Jack of Will & Grace fame), who was inspired to get involved after seeing how hearing loss affected people in his own family.

Hearing aids aren’t required to enjoy movies and TV shows through Sonic Cloud.

Launched on April 20th, the creators have extended this technology to streaming media like Netflix, YouTube and Spotify, offering users the opportunity to hear and experience content fully. This is achieved by combining digital signal processing (DSP) – technology that modifies sound to optimize listener comprehension – with advanced audiology research. The resulting algorithm adjusts for environmental and neural factors to increase clarity and adjust for common hearing problems like sensitivity to loud sounds at certain frequencies or struggling with overlapping effects.

For optimal results, Sonic Cloud needs to customize the program for each user, which it does by processing data from self-administered hearing assessments on its site. How listeners respond to a series of simple tests leads to the creation of a unique profile, which pre-populates an app installed on your computer. When visiting streaming sites, the sound is digitally optimized through the Sonic Cloud console. The app currently only runs on Macs, but will be available for Windows and other devices soon.

This is a promising breakthrough, and because it runs as an app, improvements to the algorithm can instantly be applied through updates – a major improvement over even high-tech hearing aids. Another advantage is that you can ‘try before you buy.’ The first 30 days of usage is free, after which a $9.99 US monthly subscription fee applies, providing access to both the streaming and cell phone apps. Sonic Cloud Streaming is available globally.

The potential upside is huge for a sizeable demographic. In this country alone, one in every five adults over the age of 19 has at least mild loss in one ear with 47 percent of people between the ages of 60-79 experiencing some form of impairment, according to the Canadian Health Measures Survey.