The device, a polished curved piece of black plastic that fits snugly into one ear, looks indistinguishable from a Bluetooth headset. “Hearing aids are these flesh-tone things that have a stigma to them,” Perkins says. “Part of the idea is to make this attractive from a cosmetic standpoint and not make it look like there’s an old piece of bubble gum in your ear.” There’s also more technology packed into a Soundhawk than a typical Bluetooth gadget, including chips that can run advanced audio algorithms and a wireless radio.
With Soundhawk’s smartphone app, a wearer can adjust sound frequencies on an intuitive 2D grid, emphasizing short-range conversational speech and de-emphasizing background noise. There are millions of possible auditory profiles. The system also includes a wireless microphone that pipes sound into the earpiece. A user can place the mic next to the person he’s chatting with to narrow Soundhawk’s range further.