As much as we may enjoy denying it, our hearing is slowly but surely leaving us. In fact, considering how often we pump loud, popping tunes through headphones, we’re probably headed for hearing aids sooner than any previous generation (that goes doubly for you, Skrillex fans: “Yes, Oh My God!”).
But now, for those of us with already-diminished aural capacity, there’s the Soundhawk, which provides superhuman hearing power when you want it, without the stigma of rocking a hearing aid.
Founded by doctor-slash-serial entrepreneur Rodney Perkins (who also started the world’s largest hearing aid provider, ReSound), the Soundhawk system has been in development for the past two years by a team of innovators plucked from the likes of no-name upstarts Apple and Amazon, and consists of two main Bluetooth-enabled components: a slickly styled earpiece (the Scoop), and a wireless microphone.
On its own, the Scoop is designed to elevate what you want to hear while reducing unwanted background noise, thanks to a pair of built-in microphones. It’s done by calibrating the acoustics of a particular listening environment—Indoors, Outdoors, Dining, or Driving—which you select via the Soundhawk app. For instance, as CEO and President Mike Kitsch explained to us yesterday, when the Driving condition is selected, its algorithm will account for added environmental and wind noise, while a Dining selection beams the microphones’ attention toward the direction of your dining partners, elevating their voices above the din of clinking plates, glasses, and too-loud ambient music enveloping you.
Meanwhile, the wireless mic is designed to work in tandem with the Scoop to deliver clear sound to your ear from afar by placing it near a sound source. Kitsch says that during testing trials, users remarked how the voices of their conversation partners in environments registering at 95 decibels (think the roar of a lawn mower from five feet away) sounded like a whisper when picked up with the mic. Imagine the eavesdropping possibilities!
While it’s ostensibly designed to assist “people who have gotten used to hearing less,” as Kitsch puts it, he points out that it’s not a medical device like a hearing aid. In fact, there are plenty of other inventive ways to make use of it, whether it’s keeping the mic near the speaker of your television at night to watch shows without disturbing your partner, or clipping the mic in the back of the car to better hear your kids.
And since it’s 2014, dammit, the Scoop can also answer phone calls and command Siri at the press of a button.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor. You’ll need to speak up, he can’t hear you.