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How Birding Apps are Bringing Nature Accessibility for Everyone, Including Those with Hearing Loss: The Story of Teacher Erin Rollins-Pletsch

The use of bird sound identification apps has made birding more accessible to a wider range of people, including those with hearing loss. Erin Rollins-Pletsch, a teacher living near San Francisco, lost 80 percent of her hearing about five years ago due to a rare disease. Initially struggling to adjust to the quieter world around her, she eventually found solace in birding.

Rollins-Pletsch found that focusing on birds outside helped her escape from the challenges of her hearing loss. However, she was unable to hear many of the high-frequency bird sounds that helped other birders identify species. To overcome this obstacle, she turned to technology for help.

Using the Merlin app on her smartphone, Rollins-Pletsch was able to record bird songs in her backyard and identify them through the app’s sound recognition feature. When she is gardening or tending to her bird feeders, she uses the app to identify the birds she hears around her. The app helps her connect with nature and enjoy birdwatching in a way that caters specifically to her needs.

The use of technology has enhanced outdoor experiences for individuals with varying abilities. Bird sound identification apps have made it easier for people like Rollins-Pletsch to enjoy the beauty of nature and connect with wildlife in new and exciting ways.

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