Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Ahead of the curve on AirPods

The talk of the week on sites discussing technology is that Apple released its AirPods, the $150 wireless earphones, for sale. Now I'm not one of the people who queue before Apple Stores to always have the latest and greatest in technology. But on AirPods I am way ahead of the curve, as I have been wearing $4000 wireless earphones that work with iPads and iPhones for half a year now. Only they aren't called AirPods, they are called hearing aids, and are more usually associated with senior citizens than with technology geeks.

I am over 50 years old and while I am neither blind nor deaf, I do see better with glasses and I hear better with hearing aids. That is just a fact of life that your body peaks around age 35 and then various functions decrease over the rest of your life. Technology can help you to stem that decrease of abilities. Unlike glasses, where new technology is mostly in the area of high-refraction polymer materials, hearing aids are electronic devices and benefit from the general progress in miniaturization of electronics. And as good hearing aids are already rather expensive, you can add additional technology like Bluetooth data transfer to it without that affecting the price too much.

iOS (unlike Android) has built in support for Bluetooth hearing aids. So the hearing aids I am wearing work perfectly well as wireless earphones. The main difference to AirPods is that my hearing aids are "receiver in ear", which means that they don't block outside sound. In some situations that is better, because you can watch a movie in an airport lounge without risking to miss an announcement about your flight. But if there is a lot of noise around that can be a disadvantage too.

Overall the iOS integration has turned my hearing aids from a crutch against a handicap into a useful device that allows me to do more. And I can ignore the heated discussion about AirPods.

I wonder how newer technologies interact with older systems like induction loops. If there is an announcement in a train station/airport, does the induction signal drown out any personal signals you have going on?
I'm not a fan of the movement to cut out headphone jacks and switch over to USB-C. Hopefully if this trend does continue, which it probably will with Samsung now rumored to follow Apple's lead, the transition from standard headphone jacks to USB-C will be a quick one.

Most standard headphones that come packaged in with phones don't fit my ears well and end up being really uncomfortable. So until third party makers start shipping stuff in USB-C I'll be stuck carrying around an extra dongle or will be forced to shift over to Bluetooth and have another device that I need to carry around a charger for. I use head phones a lot yet don't own expensive ones precisely because I tend to lose/break them. Cheap bluetooth ones tend to suck so I'm kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Guess I'll be getting a Pixel or LG next March instead of an Iphone or Samsung.
No no man, you're selling it wrong. They are not 'hearing aids', you are a cyborg with augmented hearing. Seriously though, connecting your aids with a tablet through wireless connections seems like something out of Deus Ex.
Do you find any lag between picture and sound when watching movies? I assume there is some time delay involved in deciding the signals but I have looked for information on Bluetooth lag but no one seems to give information about it.
Tobold you really are quite a hip fellow.
@mbp: No, no noticeable lag. I assume there must be some lag, but it is in the order of milliseconds, and so the brain doesn't notice.
Tobold, did you see the Bose announcement of their hearing aids? I hesitate spending $4000 for good aids, so I wait for tech to catch up, specifically solving the problem of listening to conversations in loud places. Bose seems to have solved that one.
I can see how the device is useful for you but be aware they're not repairable yourself (not sure about Apple) leading to more e-waste
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