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User Review of the HeardThat App and Remote Mic Kit: Here’s What I Liked and Didn’t Like

The HeardThat App and Remote Mic Kit promise to turn your smartphone into a sophisticated assistive hearing device that delivers clear speech in noisy environments. But does it deliver on that promise?
Photo of app on smartphone and the remote mic kit components

HeardThat App (left) and what you get with the Remote Mic Kit (right).

Turn your smartphone into a sophisticated assistive hearing device that delivers clear speech in noisy environments. That’s the promise of the HeardThat app, which can also be combined with the company’s Remote Mic Kit. But does it deliver on that promise?

I am a journalist who has severe hearing loss and am an experienced hearing aid user. I am also a frequent contributor to Hearing Tracker and was asked to independently review the HeardThat app and its companion Remote Mic Kit.

The HeardThat app is designed for use in noisy environments, such as restaurants or parties, similar to a hearable or personal sound amplification product (PSAP). It harnesses the computing power of a smartphone to separate speech from noisy backgrounds using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning software. The AI was trained on thousands of hours of recorded speech in noise to “learn” how to differentiate between the two.

The app streams the speech-enhanced audio to headphones, earbuds, hearing aids, or cochlear implants. It also uses the smartphone’s multiple microphones to provide directional capability.

Both the app and microphone kit are compatible with iOS or Android smartphones. The HeardThat website does not provide much information about device compatibility, but it does have a helpful FAQ page that points out you can experiment with the app for 30 days free. They also state, "If you can hear phone calls with your hearing device, you should be able to use HeardThat."

What I love about the HeardThat App and Remote Mic Kit

Delivers what it promises and offers great noise reduction
Simple and easy to use controls
Directional setting
Good for one-on-one conversations or in a group
Remote Mic Kit provides two mics, giving you several options for use
Both the app and Remote Mic Kit are affordable, and the remote mics are some of the least inexpensive you'll find on the market

Limitations

Echo effect can be distracting particularly when using the mics
Sometimes your own voice can seem too loud
HeardThat app on a smartphone

Photo of the HeardThat app on my smartphone. On this screen, you can use the slider control to maximize or minimize the noise.

My experience with the HeardThat app

I found the app very easy to set up and use. Its clean and simple design means there’s only a start/stop button, another that lets you choose between a “directional” or “all around” setting, and a slider to increase or decrease noise removal.

I field-tested it in a very noisy restaurant—the type of place I would normally avoid due to my hearing loss. I placed my phone on the table between me and my companion, then hit the “start” button to begin the audio streaming into my hearing aids. As I moved the app's slider control toward maximum noise removal, the cacophony of clatter and chatter around us dramatically decreased. In fact, it virtually disappeared, leaving me hearing nothing but her voice coming through clean and clear.

The “all around” setting can be helpful when several people are sitting around the table as it picks up and, as the name implies, processes voices from 360 degrees.

The app also has the benefit of being discreet. After all, putting your phone on a counter or a table is what most of us do anyway.

The Remote Mic Kit

The Remote Mic Kit works in tandem with the HeardThat smartphone app. It comes with two small microphones that connect to the phone via Bluetooth. They can be clipped onto a lapel or placed nearby the person.

Photo of a remote mic clipped to a dress shirt

A HeardThat Remote Mic clipped onto a shirt.

You can use them individually or, for example, clip one on one person and the other on another. Even if they go into another room and are out of sight, you will still be able to hear their conversation (which may or may not be a good thing!).

They can also be placed in front of a TV’s speaker or, for example, at the far end of a dinner table. Students or anyone attending a lecture or presentation can clip one on the speaker or simply place it on the podium.

Along with the two microphones, the kit comes with an attachment that plugs into your phone to receive the mic’s Bluetooth signals. They all fit into a compact, well-designed recharging/storage case.

Split photo of Remote Mic Carrying Case and a remote mic in fingers

On the left is the HeardThat Remote Mic storage case, and on the right is one of the two supplied Bluetooth remote mics.

I did find that, in some situations, there can be a distracting echo effect, particularly with the sound of my own voice. It’s less noticeable in noisy rooms or when listening to a speaker who is some distance away. The echo may be due to the lag created by the Bluetooth relay from the mic to the phone and then onto the hearing aids (or headphones/earbuds); it might also be due to the difference between the remote mic and my hearing aid mics. The company website offers several tips on how to reduce the echo effect, and I did find it useful to turn down the microphones on my hearing aids.

A HeardThat-produced demonstration of the system.

Cost of HeardThat app and Remote Mic Kit

The company offers three pricing plans for the HeardThat app. A free version includes a 30-day trial period followed by 30 free minutes a week. The monthly plan is $9.99, which includes a 30-day free trial period and unlimited use after the trial period ends. The annual plan costs $99.99 a year. It also includes 30 days of free and unlimited usage after it expires.

The HeardThat Microphone kit costs $34.99 with a one-year subscription to the app ($99.99), or $69.99 if you buy it separately.

Who makes the HeardThat app?

HeardThat is made by the Canadian company Singular Hearing, headquartered in Surrey, British Columbia (unrelated to Singular Publishing, which publishes research in hearing healthcare). The company was founded by CEO Bruce Sharpe, PhD, an entrepreneur and software executive who has worked on deep learning for audio/speech enhancement, audio/video production tools, smart home technologies, and connected cars. The HeardThat app was initially launched at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2020).

Sharpe contends that the tiny designs and power restrictions of hearing aids confine their processing power. He says that by employing advanced machine learning algorithms within a smartphone, the HeardThat app can do much more when listening in noise. Additionally, because it’s an agile and flexible software solution, Sharpe says it can be continually improved.

Final verdict

Overall, the HeardThat app offers a great speech-in-noise solution. In fact, it offers better speech/noise separation and clearer voices than most hearing aids I have tried. I think that’s largely because smartphones have more processing power and can run more complex algorithms. The Remote Mic Kit works seamlessly with the app and provides a versatile option for many challenging situations.

Together, they represent one of the most affordable options on the market and are a bargain for anyone like me who would like to once again enjoy a restaurant meal, a dinner party, or a lecture.

Digby Cook

Contributor

Digby Cook is a veteran journalist with a wide range of experience in television news, documentaries and newspapers. His interest in the science of hearing is both professional and personal.