“How Apple Is Putting Voices in Users’ Heads—Literally”
“… a collaboration between Apple and Cochlear, a company that has been involved with implant technology since the treatment’s early days … announced last week that the first product based on this approach, Cochlear’s Nucleus 7 sound processor, won FDA approval in June—the first time that the agency has approved such a link between cochlear implants and phones or tablets.
Those using the system can not only get phone calls directly routed inside their skulls, but also stream music, podcasts, audio books, movie soundtracks, and even Siri—all straight to the implant.
It connects with hearing aids whose manufacturers have adopted the free Apple protocols, earning them a “Made for iPhone” approval. Apple also has developed a feature called Live Listen that lets hearing aid users employ the iPhone as a microphone—which comes in handy at meetings and restaurants.An iPhone or iPod Touch pairs with hearing aids—cochlear and conventional—the same way that it finds AirPods or nearby Bluetooth speakers.
Merging medical technology like Apple’s is a clear benefit to those needing hearing help. But I’m intrigued by some observations that Dr. Biever, the audiologist who’s worked with hearing loss patients for two decades, shared with me. She says that with this system, patients have the ability to control their sound environment in a way that those with good hearing do not—so much so that she is sometimes envious. How cool would it be to listen to a song without anyone in the room hearing it? “When I’m in the noisiest of rooms and take a call on my iPhone, I can’t hold my phone to ear and do a call,” she says. “But my recipient can do this.”
This paradox reminds me of the approach I’m seeing in the early commercial efforts to develop a brain-machine interface: an initial focus on those with cognitive challenges with a long-term goal of supercharging everyone’s brain. We’re already sort of cyborgs, working in a partnership of dependency with those palm-size slabs of glass and silicon that we carry in our pockets and purses. The next few decades may well see them integrated subcutaneously.“