Top-rated caption apps
Our top picks for smartphone apps that can live caption speech
If you wear hearing aids, you know they are a big help in most situations; however, there may be times you want to make talking on the phone, watching a movie, or eating at your favorite restaurant even easier. And, if you have normal hearing, you might need to communicate better with friends and family members who are deaf or have hearing loss.
A captioned phone is handy at home, but what about when you're on the go? Fortunately, if you have a smartphone, help is only a caption app away.
We've compiled some of the higher-rated captioning service apps, most of which convert phone calls and social conversations into text.
Apps for both Android and Apple iOS
InnoCaption is a free captioning service for the deaf and hard of hearing funded by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). It provides real-time captioning on your mobile device. The app was developed in conjunction with live stenographers to provide fast, easy, accurate captioning. Users must register and self-certify you have a hearing loss to use this service.
5 hours free per month, payment plans available for more usage
This app turns your smartphone’s microphone into a captioning service that captures speech and turns it into a text conversation displayed on your screen. A good wifi connection is required; the app also works with Bluetooth devices. Users can share a QR code with other individuals to add them to the conversation. Ava also has a text-to-speech feature that can be accessed by using the keyboard. The app allows you to save conversations to share or review at a later date. Ava is also available on desktop for both Macs and PCs.
CaptionMate is a free app that instantly transcribes both sides of a phone call, and can be used on a smartphone, landline, tablet or computer. This real-time captioning service is free to anyone with hearing loss, and is paid for by a fund administered by the FCC. Just as with InnoCaption, users must register and self-certify you have a hearing loss to use this service. The app can caption over 100 languages, and works in real-time. Conversations are saved and can be re-read later.
Pricing plans start at $5.99 and up.
Rogervoice can live subtitle calls in over 80 languages. After making a call, speech is displayed instantly as text on the screen. You can reply with speech or text. It can also caption incoming calls.
Olelo Captioned Calls
Olelo provides live captions of conversations and voicemail using automatic speech recognition technology. Both sides of the converations are saved in transcript form. The user interface and the captions are available in English or Spanish. Like several other apps in our list, Olelo is funded by the FCC and free for eligible users. In their testing of the app, the FCC noted that Olelo's speech recognition technology is faster than apps that use (human) transcriptionists.
Caption apps for Apple iOS only
Hearing Helper - Live Captions
iOS, 4.5 stars, $2.99
Hearing Helper uses Apple's Siri technology to translate speech to text for those wanting to communicate with the HOH, Deaf, or ESL (English as a Second Language) friends and family. Users push and hold the mic to record, and have the ability to edit incorrect words and enlarge the text.
iOS, 3.7 stars
This mobile application is free and designed for those who have trouble hearing on the telephone and want to listen to phone conversations while reading word-for-word captions of what’s being said. In addition to creating a Hamilton CapTel account, CapTel users must have a voice and data plan, and a Bluetooth or wired headset that works with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
This Apple app offers real-time captioning on your mobile phone with ClearCaptions Mobile. ClearCaptions is an FCC-certified service made possible through a federally-funded program for qualified individuals with hearing loss. They offer a free account with a personal ClearCaptions voice phone number for captioned calls. Captioned phone conversations can be saved for later review.
Apps for Android only
Live Transcribe & Sound Notification
Live Transcribe & Sound Notification is made by Google, who partnered with hearing loss experts at Gallaudet University on the development. It provides free, real-time transcriptions of conversations and also sends notifications based on surrounding sounds at home, such as a fire alarm or doorbell ringing. It is available in 80 languages and comes with several other features.
Other apps for hearing loss
We've rounded up apps in several hearing categories to help you make the most of your smartphone or tablet.
These apps can be very helpful in specific situations, but they are not a replacement for good hearing healthcare or properly fit hearing aids. If you suspect you have hearing loss and need to find a hearing healthcare practitioner in your community, please visit our directory of consumer-reviewed hearing clinics.