Smart hearables – Can you hear me?

What are smart hearables.

Smart hearables are earbuds that offer some sort of sound modification, amplification, or playback. The smart indicates that it has some sort of CPU controller and that it’s probably connected to your phone. After that, the definition doesn’t really say anything. In this article, we will focus on hearables aimed at helping people with impaired hearing.

A hearing aid today can be combined with a whole lot of functions that don’t really amplify the sound. To that comes the modern technologies that help the ear to receive the audio, and filter the significant sound non-important background noise.

Hearables today can also provide features such as health monitoring, spatial audio, and voice control. They use advanced technology such as artificial intelligence and sensors to deliver personalized and immersive listening experiences to the bearer.

What can smart hearables do?

Modern hearing aids are not at all simply an amplifier. They use high-tech solutions to create a completely modified audio experience. Here is a list of some of the improvements over the last 20 years. This is what a modern hearing aid can do:

  • Amplify sounds more precisely and selectively. Modern hearing aids use digital signal processing to analyze and adjust sounds according to the user’s hearing profile and the environment. They can also reduce background noise, feedback, and wind noise, and enhance speech clarity.
  • Connect wirelessly to other devices. Modern hearing aids can use Bluetooth technology to stream audio from smartphones, TVs, computers, music players, and other sources directly to the user’s ears. They can also be controlled by apps or voice commands, and access virtual assistants.
  • Track health and wellness. Modern hearing aids can monitor the user’s heart rate, physical activity, and brain health, and some can actually monitor the risk of falling. They can also provide alerts, and reminders through their Bluetooth connection.
  • Translate languages and transcribe speech. Some of the latest hearing aids can use artificial intelligence to translate foreign languages in real-time. It’s also possible for them to transcribe speech to text for people who have trouble understanding speech or prefer to read captions.
  • Adapt to different listening situations. Modern hearing aids can automatically adjust their settings based on the user’s location, preferences and behavior. With time, they learn from the user’s daily activities to optimize their performance.

Improve hearing

smart hearables

The use of more advanced AIs has created a whole new life for many with hearing impairment. Moderna hearing aids are very far from the old amplifiers. They create a completely personal and adapted sound environment, and they can in some cases, create a passage out of a previously silent world. Let’s dive down into the new technologies that have made this possible.

Hear things that you didn’t hear before

Modern hearing aids not only amplify the sound, but they also process it. When sound enters a hearing aid, it is divided into different sections or frequency bands and converted into digital signals. A modern hearing aid then amplifies only the specific sounds that match your hearing needs. If you have difficulty hearing high-frequency sounds, as many elderly persons do, a modern hearing aid can focus on amplifying only those specific frequencies. The old types of hearing aids amplified everything, low, mid, and high-frequency sounds. This customization of the hearing aid’s amplification is known as its frequency response.

How modern hearing aids cut out background noise

Modern hearing aids can cut out background noise through digital signal processing and directional microphones. The hearable’s CPU analyzes and detects unwanted noise and lowers its volume while enhancing speech clarity. Directional microphones can focus on sound or speech coming from a specific direction, such as in front of the user, and reduce sounds coming from other directions, such as behind or beside the user. This can be done both mechanically, but also through the device’s program.

The hearable then adjusts its settings automatically based on the user’s environment. For example, some hearing aids can switch to a different program or mode when they detect a noisy situation, such as a restaurant or a street. The earpiece is constantly modifying the audio output to provide the best results in any given situation.

A good, modern hearing aid can also have tinnitus masking features. It’s possible to program the unit to emit sounds that mask the tinnitus or ringing in your ears.

Hear what you don’t really there

For those with profound hearing impairment, there are still a few options. The most straightforward is of course apps that treanslate the pronounced words into written text… So-called Speech-to-text apps.

Then there is the possibility to get a cochlear Implant.

But the latest development in hearing technology has made the so-called super power hearing aids an alternative even for those with very little remaining hearing. Apart from being more powerful (but smaller and more discrete every year), the AI inside can do things that were impossible just a few years ago.

Imagine your hearable can detect people’s voices. When you’re in a crowded room, it knows that your friend’s or your husband’s voice is the one you most probably want to tune into. So, it amplifies that sound while keeping the rest in the background. It might understand that you usually watch TV at night. So, already when you sit down, the hearable adjusts the sound environment to help you perceive what’s coming out of the speaker… Or automatically wirelessly connects to your hearing aid.

Hearing devices can’t create sounds that are not there, but they’re getting very good at transmitting and amplifying those that are.

Translating in real-time

Leaving hearing impairment for just a minute, we’d like to talk about real-time translation.

Picture yourself in a foreign country where no one understands your native language. But then, you put on a tiny earpiece, and suddenly everyone around you is speaking English.

Real-time ear-mounted translators are usually worn as wireless earbuds that connect to a smartphone app for translation. These small and pretty smart gadgets are created to assist people in breaking through language barriers and easily accessing foreign content. Today, they can be incredibly helpful to travelers, but we can anticipate a great deal of advancements in this area in the future.

Earplugs for musicians

Musicians performing on stage suffer from a difficult dilemma. They need to hear everything that’s going on, and they need to perceive the high volume to be able to participate emotionally in the show. On the other hand, the volume can be damaging for your ears, and for a musician, hearing is fundamental if you want to continue to play.

The solution could be smart earplugs. Much like smart hearing aids, these devices can provide adjustable hearing protection without compromising sound quality or comfort. They are designed for musicians and live music lovers who want to enjoy music at safe sound levels.

These earplugs allow the user to control the sound environment, lower, and find the optimal level of attenuation for different situations: Concerts, gigs, or rehearsals. They can preserve the natural balance and fidelity of the music while cutting out damaging frequencies and sudden peaks. And they can reduce noise and distortion but still enhance speech clarity so that you don’t need to scream every time you want to say something.

With time, maybe even musicians can preserve their hearing until old age.

Last words

Hearables, much like most other wearable techs, can be combined with all kinds of sensors. There are obviously some limitations if the earpiece is very small. But still, some hearables can monitor the user’s heart rate, physical activity, brain health, etc. These functions will probably become many more as technology advances, and, more importantly, batteries, cards, and controllers become smaller.

It is also not controversial to imagine hearing aids and other hearables being more integrated with other smart devices as we proceed. After all, we live in a highly technological, and smart age.

smart hearables