In 2014, Apple technicians developed a way to stream audio over the low energy Bluetooth format used by wearables such as FitBits. Now, tiny devices like hearing aids – and Apple’s Airpods — can stream audio signals for up to a week on a battery the size of an aspirin.
There is a small cost – the audio signal is highly compressed, and can sound much flatter than sounds from typical Bluetooth headsets. That’s unlikely to be a problem for cochlear implant users, as these devices can only stimulate a limited number of frequencies in the ear anyway — because of this low sound quality, cochlear implants are reserved for those with profound hearing loss.
However, the technology behind the new audio streaming models is likely to be adopted by consumer audio devices. Technology giants are betting heavily on audio interfaces becoming the norm in the future, all the better to further integrate voice-activated assistants such as Siri, OK Google, Cortana and Alexa into our daily routines.
It’s likely that in the future most of us will wear discreet, “transparent” ear buds that allow us to hear the world around us while also allowing us to field calls, texts, emails, and hear updates and directions directly from our phone