Apple has partnered with Danish audiological instrument manufacturer GN ReSound to create the first iPhone hearing aids. According to Apple Insider, the new hearing device, called LiNX, will launch in early 2014. Users will be able to stream the output of their iPhones via Bluetooth directly to LiNX, including phone calls and music, without the need for an intermediary transmitter.
How The Technology Works
The hearing aid will operate in the 2.4-gigahertz frequency band in order to make use of a low-energy Bluetooth mode that is expected to make transmissions feasible without ruining the LiNX’s battery life. The low-energy mode technology is nothing new; it is currently used in similarly sized devices, like activity trackers and Apple’s microlocation communicator iBeacons.
Before this type of efficient wireless streaming became feasible for consumer use, connectivity between two wireless devices relied on a transmitter that would boost signal strength. For an iPhone user today, this would mean wearing a small battery-powered device around their neck or in a pocket. For anyone who desires iPhone and hearing aid connectivity, they certainly don’t want to carry around an additional device just to make it work for longer stretches of time.
As Apple Insider notes, “The hearing aids can be used to stream music and as a two-way headset for receiving phone calls, and owners are able to adjust the hearing aids’ settings through a companion iOS app.”
Consider a hearing aid user who walks into a supermarket. He may hear a cacophony of voices, cash registers, footfalls, shopping carts, and any number of other noises. This person will need to adjust his or her hearing aid to compensate for the environment. Later that day, when the same person enters a concert hall for an opera, the hearing aid will again need to be adjusted manually.
But what if the aid could adjust itself automatically? Apple and GN ReSound are working toward this functionality. An environment-sensing hearing aid may be a few years down the road, but the iPhone could take over some of that technological responsibility sooner rather than later. A user’s iPhone could connect with iBeacons to get an idea of different environments’ noise levels. The phone could then adjust a hearing aid to suit the user without requiring manual intervention.
This type of technology lends itself to many possibilities for the hearing-impaired community, as well as anyone interested in wireless technology. Will you be in line to sync your hearing with your iPhone?
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