(520) 881-8740

What happens when a hearing aid and a smartphone meet, fall in love and have babies? You get hearables. Hearables can be considered the hearing aids of the future. Part headphone, part hearing aid, part activity tracker and more, hearables are like smart watches for your ears.

What Are Hearables?

Because it is so new, the term hearable is not yet standardized. It is a take on “wearables” like smart watches and activity trackers, but the term can refer to:

  • Bluetooth- and smartphone-integrated hearing aids
  • Personal sound amplifiers
  • Smart headphones or earbuds

It is important to note that right now, calling a device a “hearing aid” requires FDA approval, which could be one reason for the broad nature of the word “hearable.” With a bipartisan bill allowing the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids signed into law in August 2017, hearing aid and hearable technology will soon become more accessible.

Let’s take a look at the possibilities for hearables, and what some hearing aid manufacturers and others are currently doing with the available technology.

Hearables and Hearing Aids

Hearing aids by definition are made for the hearing impaired. The latest generation of smart hearing aids allow users to connect their hearing aids to their smartphones via Bluetooth for extra control. Users can use an app to tweak their hearing aid settings based on their environment (e.g. a noisy restaurant, a loud movie, etc.), as well as take calls and stream music and media right from their devices.

Hearables are not a substitute for hearing aids. A licensed audiologist will always provide the best, high-quality care for your hearing loss.

Personal Sound Amplifiers

Personal sound amplifiers (PSAPs) are made for people without hearing impairment, but many hearing-impaired people try them due to their accessibility and lower price. Personal sound amplifiers have not been classified by the FDA as a hearing aids (a type of medical device), but rather as electronic wearable devices.

This means they are not subject to the rigorous standards of medical devices. In a head-to-head study of PSAPs and hearing aids, lower-end PSAPs frequently performed worse than hearing aids and even more expensive PSAPs.

That said, smart PSAPs can do many of the same things smart hearing aids can do, such as:

  • Amplify sound
  • Offer controls and adjustment via smartphone app
  • Stream music

Headphones and Earbuds

The functionality of these devices departs a bit from hearing aids and PSAPs. That’s not surprising; many times, headphones and earbuds are made for shutting sound out, not letting it in.

Connected headphones and earbuds, rather than give users more control over their device settings, rather aim to add in the functions of activity trackers. It’s a smart move, as many gymgoers consider headphones to be an essential part of their workout regimen.

Some of these hearable headphones can:

  • Monitor heart rate
  • Count steps
  • Determine speed and running cadence
  • Measure oxygen levels (called VO2 Max)
  • Calculate calories burned

Where Hearables May Be Going

In the near future, the biggest change in hearables will likely be the combination of features. Consumers will probably see more PSAPs and even hearing aids with more activity tracking features, as well as headphones that can amplify sound and offer greater setting control via an app.

One exciting possibility for hearables is in-ear translation. Utilizing artificial intelligence, machine learning and the vast informational stores of the internet, future hearing aids will may be able to tell when a speaker is speaking a foreign language and translate it into the user’s own.

Whether you’re looking for the tried-and-true or the latest-and-greatest in hearing enhancement devices, Sonora Hearing Care can help. We have been in operation since 1989 and we have multiple doctors of audiology available to see patients. At Sonora Hearing Care, we take our time to figure out your issues and provide the best, longest-lasting solution. Contact us today.