From 2013 to 2016, the number of headphones and headsets sold worldwide increased from 236 million to 334 million. But while it’s clear that there’s an increased demand for earbuds and noise-cancelling headphones to listen to music, enjoy podcasts, and generally drown out noises of the outside world, knowing which brand to choose isn’t always so obvious. While leading brands like Bose, Sony, AKG, Shure, JBL, and Beats Electronics might win out in terms of name recognition, an Australian company called Audeara is hoping to make a different kind of impact — and they could potentially change the entire game.
After the company’s 2017 Kickstarter campaign reached its target goal in only 15 hours, the company created the world’s first headphones to contain a built-in hearing test. After a user takes the test, this information is used to make a unique hearing profile that adjusts volume levels for an optimal hearing experience. The left headphone is even calibrated differently from the right to ensure the sound signal reaches an individual’s brain so they hear it in the exact way it was intended.
Not only do these headphones provide a more pitch-perfect listening experience, but they can also help preserve a user’s hearing by eliminating the need to turn up the volume (and subsequently cause hearing damage in the long run). According to a TechAeris feature, every person has hearing loss to some degree, and more young people are experiencing it than ever. Evidently, many 30-year-olds have hearing loss that would normally be associated with that of 60-year-olds. But Audeara wants to help customers preserve what they have for a longer period.
Advancements in printed circuit board technology have largely made this possible. The headphones work with a smartphone app’s software interface that sends Bluetooth commands to PCBs housed within the headphones. When a user performs an audigram test, modulations are later applied to ensure an improved experience. This test does not have to be performed more than once, unless the user wants to recalibrate. And because many PCBs can now be assembled in five days or less (which is 75% faster than the industry average), these high-tech headphones — while not exactly affordable for the masses — can be produced and sold in larger quantities.
“The response from people who use the headphones for the first time is amazing,” said Audeara CEO Dr. James Fielding in a statement. “They’re usually overwhelmed at the difference in what they hear — and they wonder why they’ve been using off-the-shelf headphones for so long.”
The price of these headphones might give you sticker shock, but it’s worth noting that many higher-end headphones with less impressive abilities will cost you more. And while they aren’t technically sold in the U.S. as of yet, Americans can purchase them for a cool $500 off the company’s website. Ultimately, it might be a small price to pay for hearing preservation. Otherwise, you could just remind yourself to turn down the volume.