Wearables are everywhere, ever heard of hearables?
There has been much information in the media recently about wearables – electronic technologies or computers that are worn on the body such as the smartwatch. Some wearables are so tiny that they are able to be worn in or around the ears. These are known as “hearables”. In short, hearables are tiny ear-worn computers designed for many purposes including entertainment, wireless transmission, communication, medical monitoring and fitness tracking. Their main aim is to supplement and enhance the user’s listening experience. They may be incorporated into a hearing aid, or even just worn on their own as an earbud.
What does the future hold for hearable devices?
Imagine a device that allows you to listen to music while exercising, all the while receiving voiced updates on your speed, time, distance and elevation. At the same time, measurements are made of your heart rate, oxygen saturation, and energy expenditure. This information can be relayed to you in real time to help you adapt your workout, or you can download it to a computer for later analysis and even share it via social media with your friends or trainers. In addition, you can access web-based information such as weather conditions, traffic alerts, and breaking news. What’s more, at night time you can pop them in your ears to monitor your sleep cycles and breathing patterns. Many of these features are already available, and some are currently being fine-tuned for future models. One such example is a real-time language translator – just insert the device for an instant understanding of speech delivered in a language foreign to you. For fans of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - that's a babel fish!
Hearables and Hearing aids
Several hearing aid companies are building in hearable technologies into their new devices. Many hearing aids nowadays have the ability to have their volume and other features adjusted by the user’s mobile phone. Danish company Oticon has recently released its “Opn” range of hearing aids. In addition to the above-mentioned features, these hearing aids can also wirelessly connect (or “stream”) directly to the user’s mobile phone, computer, music device or television, allowing high fidelity sound reception without the use of headphones or cords. In fact, Oticon Opn is the world’s first internet-connected devices and using the 'If This Then That' (IFTTT) network, users can set their hearing aids to receive messages from smart devices such as doorbells and baby monitors, or even automatically notify a relative when they are switched on in the morning. With the Opn ON app, there's even a convenient "find my hearing aid" feature. In truth, the possibilities here seem endless.
Worldwide, a large number of technology companies have already released hearables or are in the process of developing them. It is hoped that as more hearables are purchased, the social stigma associated with hearing loss and wearing hearing aids will reduce.
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