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Speaking of Apps

Visual Feedback for Volume

Published June 18, 2012 9:16 AM by Megan Sutton
"Do you remember what we did yesterday?" I asked the soft-spoken elderly woman as she entered the speech treatment room. 

"We scared the cat."

Oh right! I was thinking of the sequencing activities, elaborating on descriptions of common tasks, that I had cued her through in an attempt to increase her utterances from short phrases to full sentences.  She remembered the cat.  I had set an iPad up on the table with the cat face of Bla | Bla | Bla to encourage her to answer with a loud voice.  It worked.

Bla | Bla | Bla is a beautifully simple and FREE universal app for iOS.  Created in Italy from a one-day workshop for design students, the app consists of 16 black & white abstract faces that react to sound.  I'm sure they had no idea how useful this project would be for speech-language pathologists.

There are plenty of sound level meters on the App Store (search decibel, sound levels, volume meter), but while they give numeric and graphic information, none is quite as captivating as Bla | Bla | Bla.  Each character in the app reacts differently to sound, usually with eye-widening surprise that entertains, as well as gives useful visual feedback on volume.  The abstract artwork is very appropriate for adults, adding a whimsy to therapy that is neither childish nor cartoony.

This app can be used clients with stroke, brain injury, Parkinson's disease, dysphonia, and any other disorder resulting in soft (or excessively loud) speech.  It can be the focus of the therapy or a background reminder.  Unlike the Talking Tom/Gina/Ben/etc. apps that play back what someone has said, Bla | Bla | Bla gives real-time feedback, encouraging continuous voicing, ongoing attempts, and competition between group members or repeated attempts.  

The app has only 3 screens: information about the design, a menu of faces, and the face screen.  You can switch between faces easily with the forward and back arrows at the bottom.  One drawback is that it only works in portrait orientation, and many iPad stands display only in landscape.   Another caution is the ninth face on the menu: the eyes flash very quickly, which has the potential to trigger a seizure in people with epilepsy or other seizure disorders.   Even for those without such a history, it can be dizzying. 

Have you used Bla | Bla | Bla in therapy?  How did you use it? How did your client react?


App: Bla | Bla | Bla

Details: iOS Universal app, Free

Therapy Uses: increase volume, decrease volume, encourage vocalization

Features: unique and fun, visual feedback

Drawbacks: portrait only, beware face #9, no objective numerical data

Verdict:  Must Have




Please make a version for Android!

Christine February 27, 2015 1:05 PM
Mechanicsville VA

Little over two years ago my wife had a stroke and her voice volume has been so low I have trouble hearing her. She had some progress in speech therapy, however she didn't like the exercises. This seems to be doing the job.

Thank you.

Bill February 16, 2015 5:15 PM
Mountain Iron MN

Thanks so much! I have been trying to think of something more motivating to do with my student who is finally beginning to interact more, but still has the lowest volume and is so difficult to understand. I can't wait to show him this - he will get such a kick out of it!

Kymm, SLP October 15, 2013 1:01 PM
Chadron NE

Love this app! I've been using it with an EI client who is barely audible. Previously all my tricks for getting him to increase his volume were mostly ineffective or at best the results were short-lived. In addition, he seemed scared by the idea of raising his voice. With this app, the combination of the visual along with the fun reinforcement seemed to increase his confidence and in turn his volume. Thanks for sharing this review with us!

Aubrey Klingensmith July 19, 2012 2:46 PM
Rochester NY

Lynne-  There's a link at the bottom of the post to the app in iTunes. It's only on Apple devices and is called Bla | Bla | Bla. No h's and it had the vertical lines.  It's free!

Megan Sutton July 6, 2012 10:48 AM


lynne , SPEECH LANG - MSCCC/SLP July 3, 2012 1:41 PM

thanks for the review.. its an awesome app.

Carmen Neuschotz Neuschotz, Speech Pathologist July 3, 2012 4:36 AM
Brooklyn NY

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About this Blog

    Speaking of Apps
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Rehabilitation
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