▲ ▼ Enabling hearing aid features on TWS earphones
Hearing aid technology have come up a long way, they are tiny that it's unnoticeable on a person wearing one, highly efficient, customisable from app and can give super human hearing abilities but at a premium price. Luckily TWS (True Wireless Stereo) bluetooth earphone technology has grown exponentially as well and many of its features are synonymous with premium hearing aids but at lower cost.
Ever since Apple removed 3.5 mm audio jack in its iPhones, other manufacturers have been following the suit and fuelled by the demand there's no dearth of TWS earphones at different price range. Though the primary function of TWS earphones are to output what is available to the phone speaker via bluetooth to the in-ear earphones, some of the available tech can be used to enable hearing aid features.
Hearing aid features such as audio amplification can be enabled via the combination of mic in the earphones and audio processing in the app. Ambient noise cancellation can be enabled in the same way, giving us a quiet ambience on demand when we need to focus. All these without any prejudice which comes from wearing hearing aids.
Google's Sound Amplifier app - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.accessibility.soundamplifier now supports Bluetooth earphones, so it solves this need gap partially i.e. it can TWS earbuds can now be used as hearing aids(with some delay) but since noise cancellation is part of the amplification feature it couldn't be used separately.
Olive Smart Ear (https://www.olive.store/en/product/) solves this problem, it received good feedback in the CES 2020. I'm sure more TWS earphones manufactures would enable hearing aid features this year fulfilling this need gap.
UPDATE: Android is now supporting hearing aid pairing with Android - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5ZmqEoOheQ&t=0s , this doesn't relate to the need gap directly i.e. enabling hearing aid features via SW processing for TWS earphones.
Does the new Surface Earbuds offer any of these features? i.e. noise cancellation and sound amplification?
Android has a Sound Amplifier app which enhances audio from the smartphone microphone - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.accessibility.soundamplifier .
Correct! But ironically it doesn't work for wireless TWS earphones due to the latency issues, even though Google's flagships itself currently don't have a headphone jack.
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), which reduces background noise is now available on high end TWS earphones, Apple is rumoured to introduce ANC in its next version of AirPods and Huawei has already released one - https://youtu.be/VIxcNDFA02Y?t=193 . The ned gap I posted is for this feature along with sound amplification to be made available to an entry level TWS earphones.
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