Sound Discovery: Birding in the Digital Age for the Hearing Impaired

AI’s role in safeguarding avian species

Birding has become more accessible to people, thanks to the bird sound identification apps. One such person who has benefited from this technology is Erin Rollins-Pletsch, a teacher who lost 80 percent of her hearing due to a rare disease about five years ago. Initially struggling to adjust to the quieter world around her, Rollins-Pletsch found solace in birding.

Living east of San Francisco, Rollins-Pletsch has found that focusing on birds helps her let go of other distractions. Although she is unable to hear most bird calls, she uses the Merlin app on her smartphone to identify bird species by recording their songs. This technology allows her to track and appreciate various birds as they sing, providing her with a unique and enriching birding experience that she loves.

Bird sound identification apps have opened up new possibilities for individuals like Rollins-Pletsch, making birding a more inclusive and enjoyable activity for everyone. The app reads out bird songs to her, allowing her to identify and appreciate different bird species even without being able to hear their calls. By using the Merlin app, Rollins-Pletsch is able to enjoy the beauty of birds in her backyard as she tends to her garden and bird feeders. Overall, this innovative tool helps her connect with nature and enhances her birding experience despite her hearing impairment.

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