For Christmas just after my fifth birthday, I got a radio. This radio was a bit unique, in that it was round and had a telephone rotary dial on the front, though it didn’t move. Shortly after that my youngest sister Andrea gave me an earplug and showed me how to plug it into the radio and listen to it. Five minutes later I couldn’t begin to understand why everyone else couldn’t hear what I was listening to. Since then, ear plugs and eventually headphones were a common piece of technology in my toolbox.
The walkman was an amazing invention for me, I’d never had anything that played in stereo until I got one, again as a Christmas present, it was a huge game changer, though I didn’t like the flimsy headphones they came with, and then during the summer after my second year in college, my dad introduced me to Sennheiser; Still my favorite headphone brand today.
In 2011 I was wanting a good pair of headphones to use with the iPhone. I had a pair of the Sennheiser PX 100-II, foldable and kind of like the walkman headphones of old including the very thin layer of foam, no they weren’t ever comfortable either. My pair of HD490 were finally wearing out of many years of service. I wanted a pair with a built-in mic and 3 button control. I found the Sennheiser HD 238I, still my favorite pair to use with my iOS devices while at home. They were discontinued years ago, I bought several pair, and have had a friend solder on new plugs when the original ones wear out.
I’ve looked at newer Sennheiser models but they’re all closed back, and so are all the other brands. I guess the sighted majority only like closed back so they can ignore their environment, but already totally blind I want to hear what’s going on around me.
I was very excited when Apple came out with their AirPods pro last fall and grabbed a pair. I’ve never really liked anything in my ears, but found their transparency mode more than just interesting. I know many find transparency mode useless, but I think it’s a game changer. I still don’t like things in my ears, but am really hoping the rumored AirPods studio have transparency mode also. I think that could even replace my Sennheiser HD238I pair.
With transparency mode, future headphones could give you the best between noise canceling, closed back, and open back, and even more. With iOS 14 trying to detect specific noises, marketed as an accessibility feature for those hard of hearing, eventually your headphones could just change from noise canceling to transparency stop your audio and let you hear what it thinks may be important. Maybe eventually you might even be able to program specific sounds important to you, like voices of your spouse, kids, or coworkers.
Hearing aids have cost thousands of dollars for years, but maybe a future pair of smart headphones might help those with slight to moderate hearing loss. They won’t replace the super expensive devices for those with severe hearing loss, but may make more affordable improvements for others.
Many think augmented reality is all visual and cool looking, but this is just as cool and is definitely augmented reality as well.