The game to check your child's hearing

Created in collaboration with the National Acoustic Laboratories

Download on the App Store Get it on Google Play

What is Sound Scouts?

Sound Scouts is a game designed to test the hearing of children especially around the time they start school. With hearing issues a common cause of speech and learning problems it is important for all children to have their hearing checked to ensure they are able to learn and socialise. If children struggle to hear, they’ll also struggle to learn.

Sound Scouts follows the story of Patch a bionic-eared dog, who works in the National park. One day one of the rangers goes missing and Patch has to help find her by using her ears to solve a series of challenges.

Developed in collaboration with the National Acoustic Laboratories, Sounds Scouts looks and feels like a game however it incorporates advanced scientific principles that enable it to detect a range of hearing problems. While Sound Scouts is based on science it’s the game play that encourages and enables a valid hearing check for children (aged 4yrs 9months and older).

What is The National Acoustic Laboratories?

NAL is a world leader in research into hearing assessment, hearing loss prevention and hearing rehabilitation. The research that NAL conducts is critical to helping people lead more fulfilling and productive lives.

NAL is the research division of Australian Hearing, a Statutory Authority under the Commonwealth Department of Human Services.

NAL's mission is to lead the world in research and development that improves the way hearing is assessed, hearing loss is prevented, and hearing loss is rehabilitated.
With the vision that the world will have the knowledge it needs to assess hearing, to prevent hearing loss and to optimally treat unavoidable hearing loss

Supported by NSW Health

NSW Health has thrown its support behind Sound Scouts. In 2015 Sound Scouts received funding from NSW Health as part of the Medical Devices Fund (MDF) Program. This program provides critical support for the development of devices and related technologies into the health system and market.

Get it now on iOS (iPad only) and Android Tablets

Download on the App Store Get it on Google Play

"All 3 kids done. The kids loved it. The youngest wants to play it again. "

Dirk, father of 3 children aged 5 to 9 years

"An amazing game, making the testing process fun"

Jules, mother of boys aged 6 and 8 years

"Both my boys thought it was too short. Which is their way of saying they were very engrossed in the story."

Sam, mother of boys 5 and 7 years

Why use Sound Scouts

1. Why is it important to test?

One in six Australians suffer from hearing loss. If you think your child is having difficulty hearing clearly, you are not alone!

Children use their hearing to learn about the world around them and develop communication skills. This in turn affects their relationships with family and friends, their education and their later employment. The impact of hearing loss on a developing child can be significant, so the sooner issues are detected, and treatment or management is provided, the better chance a child has of living a normal life.

What are some signs of hearing loss?

  • You can hear, but don’t understand
  • You find it hard to hear in noisy places
  • You have difficulty understanding people unless they are facing you
  • You think people mumble
  • You don't always hear the doorbell or the phone
  • You need to turn the TV up louder than other people

2. Why use Sound Scouts

Testing children's hearing by traditional methods can be challenging. Pure tone audiometry is the standard test for children who are school ready. In this test the child listens to a range of beeps and whistles called ‘pure tones’ and indicates when they can hear them. Testing by this method is dependent on a skilled audiologist providing one-on-one interaction to make a diagnosis.

Sound Scouts can be used in the home, and tests for hearing loss and hearing issues. The game has been designed to detect conductive loss, sensorineural loss and central auditory processing disorder, which is said to affect about two percent of children. Once detected, CAPD may be treated or managed (depending on the type of CAPD). Refer to NAL for more information regarding CAPD.

The advantage of testing hearing using a game is that the child remains engaged throughout the testing process. Parents can oversee the test and receive an early indication of their child's hearing health.

The dialogue and key action words used in the game have been carefully selected to ensure they fit within the comprehension range of a five-year-old child.

Most importantly the test is fun and children don't even know they are being tested!

3. How does Sound Scouts work?

There are five simple steps in the testing process. Step 3 should be completed with the assistance of an adult with known good hearing, but the test does more than just compare the child's hearing to the adult's hearing. (Adults can check their hearing over the phone through Telescreen Freecall 1800 826 500)

Step 1. Prepare your child for the test by ensuring they have eaten and been to the bathroom. Ensure the room where the game will be played is quiet and free from distractions.

Step 2. Plug a set of headphones into your iPad or Android tablet. Choose the best quality pair of headphones available.

Step 3. Complete the in-game set-up process by completing the ‘Your Profile’ and ‘Child’s Information’ sections. It is important to include your child’s age, as this will be taken into account in calculating the final results. An email address is also required so the test results can be automatically sent to the parents or caregivers. Results can also be viewed on the device at the end of the test.

Once the set-up process has been completed an adult is required to complete a short activity to assist with testing. When done, invite your child to sit at the iPad or Android tablet with headphones at the ready.

Explain to your child that they are going to play a game where they will need to follow instructions and click on the screen where necessary. Encourage them to listen carefully.

With your child now wearing the headphones, you should observe game-play to ensure they are playing the game correctly. Prompts to listen carefully may be necessary.

Step 4. Your child now plays the game. The game takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. An Internet connection is required to process and email the results on completion of the test.

Step 5. Parents should review the report sent to them via email. If testing indicates a problem, parents should seek advise from their doctor. Some conditions, such as ear infections, can be treated. If the hearing loss is not due to infection your doctor will refer you to an audiologist or ear specialist for expert help and advice.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have more than one child who you would like to test, it is important that the second child does not watch the testing process. Familiarity with the game may alter the results.

FINALLY adults should ideally play the complete game prior to their children so they understand how it works.

4. What do I need to play Sound Scouts?
  • Sound Scouts should be played with a good quality pair of headphones or earbuds.

  • An internet connection is required to download the game, and process and email results. An internet connection is not required to play the game, but results will not be available until a connection is established.

  • An adult with known good hearing is required to calibrate Sound Scouts. This must be done at the beginning of each new session.

  • The activities involved in Sound Scouts require your child to identify colours and shapes. If they have trouble doing this it will affect their results.
5. What happens if a test is interrupted?

Sound Scouts must be completed with as few distractions as possible. If your child is distracted or interrupted during the test this can affect their result. In these circumstances, we recommend the test be abandoned and replayed at another time (preferably after a few days). You will not be charged for abandoned sessions.

6. What happens after the test?

After the test, a results report will be emailed to the address provided. If a hearing issue has been detected and reported, you can use the Sound Scouts report as a referral for Australian Hearing services.

Regardless of the results, if you think your child has a hearing issue the first step is to see your doctor. Some conditions, such as ear infections, can be treated. If the hearing loss is permanent your doctor will refer your child to an audiologist or ear specialist for expert help and advice.

Australian Hearing is funded by the Australian Government to look after the hearing needs of children who have a permanent or long-term hearing loss.

The audiologists work closely with families and other professionals involved in the care of the child so that together they can help the child reach their potential.

Australian Hearing services include:

  • fitting and updating of the latest technology devices.
  • evaluation of each child's performance with hearing devices.
  • regular monitoring of each child's hearing and hearing device benefit
  • providing batteries, replacement parts and upgrade processors for young children and young people using cochlear implants.
  • providing on-the-spot repairs for the majority of devices. A postal service is also available for batteries and repairs.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Team


Professor Harvey Dillon

Professor Dillon is Director of the National Acoustic Laboratories in Sydney. He is best known for research into hearing aids and in recent years has been active in researching auditory processing disorders in children and electrophysiological assessment techniques for infants. Amongst his over 200 publications is a comprehensive text on hearing aids that is used widely throughout the world.
Learn more about professor Harvey Dillon

About Professor Harvey Dillon

Dr Dillon has an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and a Ph.D. for research into psychoacoustics. In 1979 he joined the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) and until 1986, he performed research into speech discrimination testing, audiological testing in sound fields, speech processing for hearing aids, hearing aid fitting methods, and the acoustics of hearing aid coupling systems.

From 1986 to 1990 he held various positions (including Chief Engineer and Development Manager) in the operational area of NAL. From 1990 he headed the Hearing Aid Research Section of NAL and in 2000 became the Director of Research at NAL. Dr Dillon was also a Deputy Director of the Co-operative Research Centre for Cochlear Implant and Hearing Aid Innovations from 1991 to 2007.

His current research interests centre on signal processing for hearing aids, procedures for fitting hearing aids, electrophysiological assessment, auditory processing disorders, methods for preventing hearing loss, and methods for evaluating the success of hearing rehabilitation.

Dr Dillon has lectured extensively in the areas of acoustics, psychoacoustics, and hearing aids in the audiology program at Macquarie University, at which institution he is an adjunct professor. He is the author or co-author of over 200 scientific articles, eight book chapters, and the author of a text book on hearing aids that is used throughout the world. He frequently presents invited and keynote addresses in the area of hearing at overseas conferences.

Carolyn Mee

cmee4 Productions

Carolyn Mee has been working in media production since 1986 when she won the role of presenter on the popular daily children’s television show “Simon Townsend’s Wonder World”.
In 2011 Carolyn secured funding from the NSW Digital Media Initiative to develop a serious game designed to detect hearing loss in pre-school children. Collaborating with the National Acoustic Laboratories the game Sound Scouts was created.

“What has been missing in the hearing health-care system is a low-cost, easily administered, reliable test of hearing that can be widely applied to children around school entry so that no child has to go through years of school at a disadvantage to others because of unmanaged hearing loss.” Professor Dillon Director, National Acoustic Laboratories.

cmee4 productions recognised that mobile game technology could hold the key to creating an accessible hearing test solution for preschool children. Partnering with NAL they’ve created an app that provides parents with direct access to a hearing check for their children.

Find a hearing specialist

Australian Hearing Services

Press, Sponsors and Awards

"I congratulate the recipients of the Medical Devices Fund 2015 whose innovative and inspiring work will have a lasting and meaningful impact on both the health system and the wider community." - Chief Scientist Mary O'Kane
"The ACS – the professional association for Australia’s ICT sector – has announced Sound Scouts as a finalist in the 2016 Digital Disruptor Awards in the Service Transformation for the digital consumer category."

"A world-first Australian invention will let you check their (child's) hearing"

"The startup Sounds Scouts hopes to make hearing tests more accessible through an interactive tablet game kids can play at home, ensuring that hearing problems are diagnosed and addressed."

"We know that newborns are tested for hearing loss, but there is no general regular testing afterwards. Hearing loss often not detected until they get to school"

"The Sound Scouts app hopes to change those stats so that no child has to suffer with undiagnosed hearing loss."

"The Australian Video Game That Could Save Your Child's Hearing"

Carolyn Mee, of cmee4 Productions, of Sydney, has made the finals with Sound Scouts, a mobile game to test children’s hearing before or during their first year of school.
"The beauty of the game is that it not only identifies hearing loss and hearing issues, but also distinguishes between conductive hearing loss, sensorineural loss and central auditory processing disorders."

"What could be better than a quick and easy hearing test that could help detect hearing problems in young children? What about one that tests using an entertaining computer game?"

Available on iOS (iPad only) and Android Tablets

Download on the App Store Get it on Google Play