Apple patent is for ‘remotely controlling’ a hearing aid

Apple has been granted a patent (number 10,206,024) for “remotely controlling a hearing device.” The goal is to be able to apply settings on a hearing aid device before placing it on your ear.

Apple notes that modern hearing devices are high tech computing devices equipped with multiple speakers and types of speakers and are capable of receiving sound data from multiple audio data sources such as microphones attached to the hearing device as well as being able to stream audio data directly to the hearing device. With this advancement in technology comes an increase in the control and flexibility of hearing devices. For example, hearing devices can be adjusted to perform optimally in multiple environments. 

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In addition, modern hearing devices can be very small and placed discreetly inside the ear, almost unnoticeable to others. While creating smaller, more powerful and more flexible hearing devices has plenty of benefits over older styles, one problem that has arisen is the ability to easily and quickly changing settings on the hearing device. 

For example, smaller hearing devices leave less room for buttons to change settings and are inconvenient to reach when placed within the ear. Further, with the highly specialized functionality that can optimize performance based on different environments, the settings need to be constantly changed to receive the full benefit of the hearing device. Apple says that there’s a need to be able to quickly and easily change the settings on a hearing device. 

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “Systems, methods, and non-transitory computer-readable storage media are provided for remotely controlling a hearing device. A hearing device configured to communicate with a control device transmits status data, including settings, to the control device. The control device displays the status data in an interface configured to receive input specifying new settings, upon which a command is sent to the hearing device to change the current setting. 

“The control device can automatically change the settings based on a determined current environment to be a stored program optimized to the current environment. The current environment can be determined based on the location of the hearing device or another device connected to the control device. Quick mode allows settings to be viewed and changed quickly by displaying multiple related settings as one and overriding interface buttons. Remote listen mode receives audio data from a microphone and transmit it to the hearing device.”

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.