Posted on Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What Are Hearables?

woman with interested look

If something is able to be heard by a person, it can be defined as hearable. Simple enough. But there is another definition of hearable that is emerging from the new trend toward wearable technology.

For many years, hearing aid technology has continued to advance, making hearing aids some of the world's most sophisticated tech devices on the market today. And they've achieved this status without a lot of hoopla. True people who have hearing loss are well aware of these advances, and how much hearing aids have improved, but up until a short time ago the use of hearing aid technologies for the person with average hearing wasn't considered.

Today the idea that hearing aid technology might be used by the average consumer is becoming popular thanks to the trend for wearable technologies. Wearable technologies include things like Fitbit and iWatch. Hearables, according to HearingHealthMatters.org, are defined as, "a variety of ear-level wearables of varying sophistication and application, collectively dubbed Hearables."

Hearing aid manufacturer, Widex points out on their blog that hearing aids are in fact the very first "wearable" technology. True enough. And hearing aid manufacturers have spent millions of dollars and decades on research that makes this technology what it is today. Although there are new names like Bragi jumping into this wearable technology, hearing aid manufacturers already have a leg up on the competition. And as some of these hearing aid manufacturers recognize the overwhelming opportunity to get their products and their decades of research into the hands of every day consumers, hearables could foreseeably outpace all other wearable technologies. The conflux of innovation, years of research, and small chip size increase the likelihood of a wider consumer jackpot for the hearing technology industry.

Many people with hearing loss already know the benefits for mind and emotional health of using hearing aids. Now imagine hearing aids or hearable technologies that allow people with average hearing to use the same directional technologies that allow people with hearing loss to zoom in on a speaker in a noisy environment, speak with someone at a restaurant, converse with a business partner while on a noisy train or plane. This technology is available today. But that is only part of what hearable technology could conceivably offer the person with average hearing.

Hearable technology that can assist and protect the hearing of the average hearing consumer is one thing, but this technology--thanks to years of research by hearing aid manufacturers--is capable of so much more. It's not a stretch to imagine hearing aids for the average person that offer assistance in getting a better night's sleep. Not a stretch since hearing aids have programs already that allow people with tinnitus to distract and dilute their condition. This feature could possibly be added with others that keep track of vitals signs, record workouts, and as those with hearing loss already experience, these hearing technologies can connect to a person's smartphones and the GPS and many apps in their smartphones.

The possibilities of hearing aids morphing into hearables and becoming available to a wider market are just beginning to take shape. As is the role of audiologist in this trend. Because as people begin to recognize the benefits of their hearing, focusing on its importance through these listening technologies, they will begin to take this sense more seriously. Perhaps, they will also begin the important task of regular visits to the audiologists. Of course, where exactly this new hearables trend will take hearing technologies and how many manufacturers will see the opportunity in this trend remains to be seen. But the results may also benefit those with hearing loss as the technology costs could possibly decrease with increases in production. As for where hearables are today, the video below shows a few of the latest hearables on the market.


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