Image: Jack Wallen

Android 10 has a number of handy accessibility tricks ready to serve those with various impairments. For users who are hard of hearing, there is one particular trick that could be a game changer–the Android Sound Amplifier. This application can be installed on any Android device (version 6 and later), but comes pre-installed on Android 10.

This new feature makes it possible to boost, filter, and fine tune the sounds in your environment. These sounds are picked up by the device microphone, filtered according to your needs, and then heard through a pair of wired headphones. That is the first caveat to the Sound Amplifier, it will not work with Bluetooth headphones. So you must be able to attach headphones either via a standard headphone jack or a USB-C connection.

The second caveat to the Sound Amplifier is that there is a slight delay in what you hear through the headphones. But for people that need a device to help them hear sounds within their environment, this app can be a serious boon.

I want to show you how to use the Android Sound Amplifier. I’ll be demonstrating on a Pixel 4, running Android 10, with a USB-C headphone dongle.

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What you’ll need

How to access the Sound Amplifier app

The Sound Amplifier app isn’t exactly the easiest to locate. The fastest way to access the app is to open Settings and go to Accessibility. Scroll down and tap the Sound Amplifier entry. In the resulting window (Figure A), tap the On/Off slider to enable the service.

Figure A

You will be prompted to give the app the proper permissions (Figure B).

Figure B

Tap Allow and you’re ready to start using the tool.

How to use the Sound Amplifier app

The easiest way to start using the Sound Amplifier is to swipe up with two fingers from the bottom of the display. This will start the service and you’ll see an entry for it in your notification (Figure C).

Figure C

Tap the gear icon and the Sound Amplifier app will open, where you can adjust the sound, noise, and source (Figure D).

Figure D

Before you make any adjustments, tap the Play button (if you’re not hearing anything from your headphones). Next, if you know your hearing is different from ear to ear, tap the Adjust ears separately checkbox, so you can adjust the right and left channel separately. Next, in order to filter background noise, tap the Noise tab and then select from High, Medium, or Low noise reduction (Figure E).

Figure E

Go back to the sound tab and then boost the sound for each ear so that they match from left to right. Finally, fine tune the sound for each ear by sliding the right adjuster pots up or down. Once you have that perfectly matched for your hearing, listen. Hopefully, you can now hear everything in your surrounding environment better. If you don’t hear significant improvements, go back and adjust the various settings until what you are hearing is clear.

And that’s how you can improve what you hear, with the help of your Android mobile device. When used properly, this application can improve your quality of life. It’s not a perfect, be-all-end-all solution, but when you’re in a pinch, it works quite well.