Android Sound Amplifier Version 2.0 is starting to roll out today

For the 466 million people in the world who have hearing loss, the inability to hear a conversation or the sounds around you can be isolating. Without clear sound, it’s challenging to connect to the people around you and fully experience the world. And simply asking others to speak louder (or turn up the TV volume) isn’t a helpful solution because people hear more clearly at different audio frequencies.

Sound Amplifier is an Android Accessibility app that helps people hear more clearly, and now it’s available on Android devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and above. Using machine learning, we sorted through thousands of publicly available hearing studies and data to understand how people hear in different environments and created a few simple controls.

Here’s how it works: When you plug in your headphones and use Sound Amplifier, you can customize frequencies to augment important sound, like the voices of the people you are with, and filter out background noise. It can help you hear conversations in noisy restaurants more clearly, amplify the sound coming from TV at personalized frequency levels without bothering others, or boost the voices of presenters at a lecture.

For some people, it may be hard to know when Sound Amplifier is detecting or enhancing sound. So we added an audio visualization feature that shows when sound is detected, helping you visualize the changes you’re making to it. Like a volume number on your TV, you know how much the sound is boosted even if you can’t hear it yet. There are a couple of new visual updates, too. You can launch the app directly from your phone’s home screen instead of tapping into Accessibility settings, and with the reorganized the control settings, you can easily tap between boosting your sound or filtering out the background noise.

Caption: Sound Amplifier has a new look and feel with an audio visualization feature.

Sound Amplifier is the latest step in our commitment to make audio clear and accessible for everyone. And we’ll continue to improve the app through new features that enhance sound for all types of hearing.

Download the Sound Amplifier app on Google Play today on your Android device to enhance the sound around you.

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I don’t get it. It says using headphones. Is it a remote mic? Does it work via bluetooth?

Your phone is the mic.

Well sure I get that it uses the phone. So is it implied that it sends the audio out via bluetooth? A remote mic like that would be good for those with an Android phone and Marvels/B-Directs/Brio 3’s/KS9’s.

It says “plug in your headphones” so I’m not even sure it works with Bluetooth / wireless headphones. Also, it might not be desirable to drastically alter the amplification profile of your hearing aids.

If it outputs to bluetooth then just leave the adjustments alone and use it as a remote mic. But that part is still not clear to me.

I just checked in with the Ricardo Garcia, an engineer at Google and “Technical Lead of the Sound Amplifier project” and he says for now it’s wired only due to Bluetooth latency issue …

I also asked him why Phonak was able to achieve acceptable latency with Roger and he said it’s possible with proprietary codecs…


It wouldn’t install on my LG V20 running Oreo. Edit: Version number on the app store is 1.something, so maybe it’s not quite rolled out yet (he says hopefully).

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FYI, I just installed it on my Galaxy Note 9. When I tried to start the audio in it (while connected by BT to my Marvel M70R’s) it pops up a message that says you MUST use a wired headphone, either by 3.5mm jack or USB.

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In seeking to see if there was an app in the Google Play Store equivalent to Andrew Sabin’s EarMachine app, which was the precursor of the Bose HearPhone technology (and can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store), I couldn’t find the Android equivalent but noticed that the Google app Sound Amplifier is actually very similar to the EarMachine app, at least in terms of offering the user a very simple interface for controlling sound quality and noise suppression and turning your phone into a remote microphone for wired or, now, BT headphones (or HA’s, in certain circumstances).

The main problem with BT is there’s a lot of latency. But I could use Sound Amplifier to turn my phone into a remote microphone for my MS Surface BT wireless noise-cancelling headphones or my ReSound Quattro’s using the Phone Clip+ streamer as my “classic” BT connection to my phone.

I found that if I turned on my Multi Mic that I could now effectively have two remote microphones (but both not operational at the same time) connected to my Quattro’s and easily and quickly switch back and forth. The Multi Mic, since it is connected directly to my HA’s through ReSound’s proprietary BLE protocol, is NOT controlled by the Sound Amplifier. If Sound Amplifier is turned off via its PLAY |> button, the Multi Mic will be the input my HA’s prefer, even if the PC+ streamer is turned on. If I turn on Sound Amplifier by hitting its PLAY button, then my HA’s switch to receiving sound input from my phone microphone. And I can go back and forth this way as much as I want. I presume that if I wanted, I could use my TV Streamer 2 in addition or in place of the Multi Mic in the interaction with or without my phone microphone using Google’s Sound Amplifier. Sound Amplifier only controls the phone microphone sound parameters. The sophisticated sound and noise controls in the ReSound Smart 3D app control the sound parameters of the Multi Mic or the TV Streamer 2 when in use. IMHO, the sound quality from my Multi Mic is far superior to that from my Galaxy Note 8 phone microphone.

The utility of having two remote microphones via the Google Sound Amplifier app being turned on or off on my phone is obviously limited by having to have access to my phone to perform the switch. So the basic noisy restaurant scenario where I could see this being useful is to give my phone to someone sitting next to me on a round table or across from me on the end of a long table and give the Multi Mic to someone across a big round table or down at the other end of a long table. Then my phone would be nearby to me to use to switch between hearing a conversation near me with one “remote” microphone (the one on my phone via Sound Amplifier) versus the conversation farther away from me (the one on the Multi Mic, controlled by the ReSound Smart 3D app).

Relative to any similarities between Google’s Sound Amplifier app and the Andrew Sabin EarMachine app, which became the basis for Bose’s HearPhone app, as documented in David Owen’s book Volume Control (Hearing Loss in History and Book recommendation: Volume Control), I can see that Sound Amplifier’s Boost control corresponds to the EarMachine’s World Volume control but I’m at a loss as to exactly what the Fine Tuning control in Sound Amplifier does*** versus the Fine Tuning control for the EarMachine, which seems to control the relative balance of bass and treble, providing a primitive equalizer function not as sophisticated as that in hearing aids where individual frequency ranges can be specifically adjusted. From the way the “surround” circle deforms in the Google Sound Amplifier app, one might (erroneously?) presume that it is performing a carotid (directionality) function???

BTW, the Help instructions for Google Assistant indicate Sound Amplifier will work directly with hearing aids and phones supporting the ASHA BT protocol. I would be very interested to know from anyone who’s tried this whether the ASHA protocol greatly reduces the latency effect with classic BT when used with Google Sound Amplifier.

*** Edit_Update: See next post. The “Fine Tuning” slider for the Google Sound Amplifier app appears to be a Bass/Treble slider, same as the Fine Tuner for the EarMachine. So even though Google claims to have invented Sound Amplifier from scratch, it appears to be a copy of most EarMachine functionality (I guess neither is very original). Don’t have an iPhone, can’t try EarMachine but the Noise Control tab in Sound Amplifier works pretty well to filter out droning white noise - don’t know if the EarMachine app has similar.

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To find out what the graphic in the Google Sound Amplifier app depicts, I generated some white noise across the frequency spectrum using the Android app Tone Generator Pro:

I played the white noise to my ReSound Quattro’s through the Sound Amplifier app, which redirected the Tone Generator output to the BT connection of my phone (Phone Clip+ streamer to ReSound Quattro HA’s).

When I lowered the Fine Tuning slider as much as possible, the bass that I heard increased, the treble decreased and paradoxically the graphic around the Sound Amplifier PLAY button bulged at a 45 deg angle to the upper right (average frequency output decreasing but Google decides to show bulge increasing up at a 45 deg angle??!!! Brilliant!). Raise Fine Tuning slider all the way up, treble increases to max but bulge in upper right decrease to a minimum at a 45 deg angle down?!).

The Boost (volume control) on the left side of the Google Sound Amplifier app is simpler. Slider all the way down, minimum volume, minimum bulge of graphic all around the PLAY button. Boost slider all the way up, max volume, max bulge of graphic all the way around the PLAY button.

It’s possible that the exact shape of the graphic around the PLAY button will somehow change shape relative to the shape (relative amplitudes) in the frequency spectrum fed to the Sound Amplifier app but I didn’t bother investigating that. Other than the pretty good all-around droning noise control, the Sound Amplifier app just seems to be a Personal Sound Amplifier, not in the hearing aid ballpark, and not much different in general interface than Andrew Sabin’s EarMachine, which was launched as an app back in 2013 Bring EarMachine home for Thanksgiving! — EarMachine

Edit_Update: If I redirected the Sound Amplifier output to a Bluetooth speaker, I might be able to take the analysis a bit further. Or alternatively, if I had Android 10 or higher, I might have been able to redirect the BT output from my BT streamer to my phone audio speakers (developer option in Android 10 or higher). With the output from the Sound Amplifier played to the room rather than to my HA’s, I could use the spectrum analyzer app receiving input from my phone microphone listening to the room output to see what’s happening to amplitudes across the frequency spectrum as the Boost and Fine Tuning Sliders are moved in combination and by screen-capturing the shape of the frequency spectrum curves along with the shape of the Sound Amplifier graphics around the PLAY button at different slider settings, it might be possible to figure out if the Sound Amplifier green graphics are trying to convey any more sophisticated frequency spectrum information other than “Ooooh! You gotta a lot of bass!, etc.”

The EarMachine app for iPhone tuning graphic would appear to be far more informative, actually giving you an idea of how you are bending frequency response in more detail as you tune. The AutoPilot will apparently listen to your sound environment and make settings recommendations based on a database of sound environment studies, according to the description in the Apple App Store.