Goodbye Hearing Aids, Hello “Hearables”

I’m pretty lucky to do what I do and be where I am. Actually let’s rephrase that. I am insanely lucky. One of the biggest perks to my job is that I am privy to some of the most incredible changes currently happening in the hearing industry, or as we should probably rename it–the hearable industry. And for somebody who has a severe hearing loss, and who depends on hearing aids for everything from succeeding at work to having a date with her boyfriend, being part of the hearing revolution is simply magic.

The term “hearing aid” will soon be a thing of the past, replaced by its cooler moniker “hearable.” Why? Because hearables are the on-ear equivalent of the popular term “wearable” and because hearable products are basically going to be FitBits+Beats+iPod Touch for your ears.

The first proof of this revolution is the incredible success of German-based kick-starter Bragi. Bragi has created the world’s first wireless smart earphones, and let me just tell you, they are one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. And friends who’ve tried them, well there’s no room to list all the “these are so cool” statements. Let’s just let this video speak for them:

Getting the hearable into the market:

But how do you get a “hearable” to have the same success as a wearable such as FitBit? This January, Bragi and Starkey Hearing Technologies announced a partnership to come together the transform wearable and hearable technology. And the partnership according to Silicon Valley-Pioneer Satjiv S. Chahil, promises to be incredible. “The potential for Starkey and Bragi to transform the way customers enjoy music and entertainment, understand and manage their health, and communicate with the world is inspiring,” Chahil said in the release. “The next generation of wearables and hearables has the potential to become ubiquitous.”

“Starkey and Bragi have a shared vision that hearing aids and hearables can empower people to communicate and enhance their abilities,” Bragi founder Nicolaj Hviid said in the January release from Starkey Hearing Technologies. “The partnership between the two companies creates immense value for our respective customers. Bragi’s advanced integration of sensorics provides tremendous value to hearing aid consumers, while Starkey’s invaluable knowledge of advanced audio processing and psychoacoustics expands Bragi’s potential to enable people to utilize contextual computing audible interfaces.”


Image via

How can a hearable take the lead over traditional wrist-wearables in the market?

While wearables have been around for a while now, hearables are something new. And  Wareable‘s February 24 article, raises the notion that wearables popularity as a health-device could be overshadowed and even replaced by hearables in the near future.

“While traditional wrist-adorned wearables started with the promise of bringing us closer to our quantified selves, in recent years, the wrist has, instead, served as an advertising billboard for fashion labels trying to break into the technology space.” Wareable, “Bragi on what the ear means for the future of wearables”

The technology behind The Dash is unbelievable, and Starkey’s technology is even more revolutionary. By working together, the next year alone will hold some incredible transformations for the world of wearables and hearables.

Excerpt from Wareable article:
“The value that connectivity brings to the hearing aid makes Bragi’s partnership with Starkey a disruptive force. ‘Bragi’s advanced integration of sensorics provides tremendous value to hearing aid consumers, while Starkey’s invaluable knowledge of advanced audio processing and psychoacoustics expands Bragi’s potential to enable people to utilize contextual computing audible interfaces,’ Hviid said in a statement.”

Here’s three reasons why right now the for-ear hearables are better than on-wrist wearables:

  1. Music & Waterproof
    It’s no surprise either that hearables could gain popularity fast. The Dash currently can hold 1,000 songs which can be played sans-smartphone, it can track distance, time, speed, heart rate, and a multitude of other things. Oh, and you can swim with it. Yep, swim. Can’t do that with a FitBit or Apple Watch. Can’t play music to your ears directly either last time I checked.
  2. It Stands Alone
    But people are tiring of wearables too. According to Wareable, they are tired of having to use them with their smartphones: “A number of theories exist about the cause of wearable fatigue, including the fact that people don’t want to charge another device that’s used in conjunction with, instead of in lieu of, a smartphone.”The Dash can play music without the phone, can actually store up to 1,000 songs.
  3. The Ear is the New Wrist
    2016 is here and with it, the “Year of the Ear.” The third reason hearables could replace wearables is that they are designed specifically for the ear, where according to Bragi founder Nikolaj Hviid, it’s “a more natural place to extract health and fitness data.”Additionally, the ear presents another benefit over the wrist. Heareables can be designed not only as a “want” device but as a “need” device. Part of the endeavor behind the Bragi and Starkey partnership is developing a hearable device that people not only would want but could need. Hearing aids are needed to help with hearing loss, and what’s so promising about this partnership for those of us with hearing loss is a hearing aid that doesn’t just provide better hearing.


What could the future hearable look like?

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I don’t call my Halos hearing aids anymore; though that’s technically what they are. The reason I use the term “hearable” is while they do provide me with improved hearing, they also provide me with wireless media and musical entertainment in a multitude of environments.

At the gym, I wear my Halos, open up Hulu and can watch Grey’s Anatomy  at the volume I prefer without bothering anybody, all without the annoying hassle of wires. At work I sit at my desk and listen to country music with my Halos. Again, no wires, and without anyone knowing. I can take hands-free phone calls in my car, FaceTime without headphones and the list goes on and on. In short though, my Starkey Halos could be considered the first generation of truly needed hearables.

Social Benefits of Hearables:

While there are obvious health and entertainment benefits to hearables coming in the future, there are others as well, especially for those with hearing loss:

  • Changing the conversation around hearing aids & hearables from “need” to “want”
  • Encourage positive and enthusiastic responses to hearable technology
  • Remove all remnants of the negative stigma surrounding hearing loss and hearing aids
  • Open up the world of movies, TV and media for those who need hearing aids
  • Encourage attention on the overall health of a person and not just the physical

So say goodbye to the term “hearing aids” and say hello to “hearables.” The future is here.


5 thoughts on “Goodbye Hearing Aids, Hello “Hearables”

Add yours

  1. I share your attitude of ditching the archaic phrase “hearing aids” for something more positive, however I’m a little hesitant to adopt the term “hearables.” Certainly the Starkey HAs can be considered Hearables as they have a wealth of multimedia applications, but many manufacturers and HA users haven’t adopted these same technologies. Personally I wear Oticon HAs and don’t use the streaming features because I find them cumbersome and awkward to use. I don’t use my HAs as “hearables,” only as HAs. I’d like to say goodbye to “hearing aids” too, but I don’t think “hearables” is a full replacement to the term or the product. Instead, I still believe that they will be distinct entities for the foreseeable future.


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