What's new in 2017 hearable technology

by Nancy Salim

Most people these days are used to wearing earphones and earbuds. Given how popular these technologies are, advancements in this area is a natural evolution in the listening industry. And with the adoption of the wearables market for various fitness trackers, the ear is the next frontier.

Welcome hearables…

Wireless hearable technology can give individuals entertainment and health benefits while easily fitting into their everyday routine. Benefits include the ability to measure vitals like heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, ECG, electro-encephalogram signals and more, as well as activity tracking, biometric personal identification and improved sound quality for those with normal/mild hearing loss. Another benefit, similar in many of today’s hearing aids is the ability to seamlessly sync your hearables to your iPhone, or your smart home devices. Sounds interesting, right? Read on for YourHearing’s top 2016/2017 hearable technology.

iPhone 7 isn’t just the latest water resistant Apple phone, it’s also the newest hearable on the market. Sporting a sleeker design—the iPhone 7 is now using AirPods, a pair of wireless earbuds that connect to the phone over Bluetooth. Listen to music, talk on the phone, use GPS and more. If you prefer, the iPhone 7 comes with an adapter that will allow you to plug in your wired headphones. Available at the Apple store and other retailers, starting at $649.

IQbuds by Nuheara use Bluetooth to wirelessly connect to a smartphone. Users can listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks, make hands-free phone calls and use Siri and other voice-enabled apps. With a simple tap of the earbuds, you can answer phone calls and start or stop audio. The noise-cancellation technology in the device neutralizes background noise and the microphones in each IQbud make it easier to focus on what you want to hear. The technology allows individuals to choose and save settings for certain environments like a noisy restaurant or a quiet evening at home. IQbuds are $299 and available for pre-order.

Dash earbuds by Bragi are $299 earbuds that are completely wireless, allow storage for up to 1,000 music tracks and include sensors for activity tracking, heart rate monitoring and an ear bone mic for making and answering phone calls. They’re currently available to order and ship in 2-4 days.

Moto hint by Motorola is their second edition earbud with an upgraded battery life of 17 hours—up from 10 hours—and is reported to have improved audio quality, including CrystalTalk noise and wind-cancelling technology, Bluetooth 3.0 and better in-ear fit. Available at Best Buy and online retailers for around $129.99 (sale $99), the first generation Bluetooth earbud is now selling for $79.99.

Gear IconX by Samsung are wireless fitness tracker and music player earbuds. They feature touch controls and come with a dust and water resistant design, including 4GB of storage to save music and a charging case for on the go. Available for $199 on Samsung’s website and other online retailers like Amazo.com and Jet.com.

Jabra Sport Elite bluetooth wireless earbuds have a sports tracker, heart rate sensor and are sweat and waterproof. Both earbuds communicate with one another wirelessly connecting to your smartphone through Bluetooth. Known for their comfort, these earbuds come with silicon foam tips and wingtips for a secure fit. Available for $199.99 at Best Buy and other online retailers.

Oakley Radar Pace smart sunglasses give users real time coaching/feedback during their workouts through audio cues over embedded Bluetooth headphones. Users can also listen to music and answer calls. Users can choose to use the glasses without the headphones. There’s no GPS built-in, so users need to pair it with their smartphone to work. Available for $449 on Oakley’s website, as well as Macy’s and other online retailers.

Coming soon

“N concept” neckband and earbuds from the Future Lab Program by Sony use open speakers, have a built-in camera, respond to voice commands and have motion sensors and GPS. The device uses four microphones, which it says reduces noise and increases the accuracy of speech recognition. The voice assistant features include weather reports, news tailored to the user’s interests and information on restaurants and events nearby. A press release in September of this year (2016) was recruiting program participants to test the product and provide feedback.

The Aware buetooth custom fit headphones sport brain and biometric sensing (measure brain waves through EEG, heart rate), noise cancelling and activity and sleep tracking (steps, calories burned and real time feedback about stress and sleep patterns). These headphones are crowdfunded on Kickstarter and have raised more than 150k to date.

Vi is dubbed as the first true artificial intelligence personal trainer, and offers real time coaching based on your physiology. This neckband allows you to listen to music, take phone calls and offers all day activity tracking, even providing insights on personal weight loss goals. $1.7 million has been raised on Kickstarter to date. Available for preorder on getvi.com for $279.

Here One by Doppler labs are wireless earbuds that boost hearing, play music and more. Designed to cut out or amplify the noise around you, users will be able to listen in a certain direction (to the side, front or back) to minimize background noise. Even more, the earbuds feature something called speaker detection, which trains the earbuds to identify and boost a specific person’s voice. Available for $299 at hereplus.me.


What’s the difference between hearables and hearing aids?

Hearables and personal listening devices’ (PSAPs) entry level price and over the counter convenience can be a selling point for some. But, it’s important to remember that hearables are specifically designed to allow individuals to wirelessly listen to music, answer phone calls and track their health, fitness and more.

They don’t have the same kind of technology or processing that goes into a hearing aid. Hearing aids can be programmed to an individual’s unique level of loss making them customizable, and also come loaded with technology and features designed to mimic natural hearing. Hearables and PSAPs may be able to help people with normal hearing or with a mild hearing loss who need help hearing in certain settings, like listening to the TV, but are not recommended for those with moderate to severe loss.

That sounds good right?  It is, as long as it doesn’t make treating hearing loss more confusing.

Not seeing a professional at the beginning, and instead treating hearing loss with DIY solutions like a hearable or PSAP could end up undermining your hearing, costing you more money and ultimately not give you the results you’re looking for. A pair of hearing aids programmed to your specific loss can make a huge difference.

If you have signs of hearing loss, a hearing care professional will be able to tell you if what you’re experiencing is hearing loss or another condition like an ear infection or excess wax. If it turns out you do have a loss, the hearing professional will use the results of your exam to recommend treatment.

If you’re tempted to go the amplification route with a PSAP or a hearable make sure you discuss it with your provider. They’ll be able to tell you if PSAPs or hearing aids are appropriate for your type of loss before you spend money on the wrong solution.

Hearing aid technology has come a long way. Today’s hearing devices are impressive—they can scan the room around you a hundred times in one second categorizing sounds, then delivering them to your ears with spot-on accuracy. Bonus—they can even connect to the Internet and to all your favorite apps, including your everyday devices in your home, car or office.

Interested in demoing a hearing aid programmed to your level of loss? Call 888.902.9310 or click here to get connected with a clinic near you.

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