Hey, I’m Nick and I’m designing my own pair of custom hearing-enhancing wearables in my bedroom. I’ve been taking apart earbuds and hearing aids to get some electronics to put inside my new 3D-printed shells. Which by the way, is really not easy so I’m still trying to work this one out. But what’s really interesting is that from a tech perspective, hearing aids and earbuds are pretty much the same thing. Still we think about them as completely different products.
There’s of course the design element which separates them, but it’s really the language that we use to describe them that dictates how we think about. When I was user-testing my prototypes, someone asked, “Hey, where are they?” and I said, "they just make everything sound better. Conversation sounds clearer and stuff.” And she was like, “Wow, that’s so cool. I never heard of anything like that. I want some.” I said, “Yeah, well, you know, they're hearing aids.” So she goes, “Oh well, in that case, no, thanks.”
Apple does this amazingly with the just AirPods. They popularised the term Audio Transparency. If you’re not familiar with. AirPods Pro have a setting called transparency mode. When you turn this on, AirPods let the outside sounds in while you’re wearing them so that you can hear the outside world around you. That’s literally hearing aids, but audio transparency sounds way cooler.
So I’m not making hearing aids because who wants hearing aids? I’m making wearables with personalised audio transparency. They let me hear the outside world, but the songs I hear are adapted to my personal hearing profile so that every word I hear is crisp and clear.