The Better-Listening Tool Hiding in Your Pocket

Janet Siroto
January 29, 2018

Not all of us are natural-born earbud fans. It’s easy to lose umpteen hours sorting out the L from the R sides. They can come tumbling out of position with any quick head movement. And they wind up looking like a mass of Silly String when not put away properly between uses.

But on balance, they’re worth those little annoyances because earbuds can free us up to enjoy cellphone calls. Without them, even with the phone’s speaker on, conversations can be frustrating – demanding that ears and brain work overtime to decode what’s being said while screening out background noise – not to mention modulating our voices which seem to automatically shift into yelling mode. (But of course you don’t want to wear earbuds all day, with the volume blasting; that can negatively impact your hearing.)”

With earbuds, you can just relax, chat and really listen to what the other person is saying. No constant wails of “Could you repeat that?” No silently hoping that you’ll figure out what was just said once a truck finishes roaring by.

Hearing-loss Must-have’s

For people with hearing loss – whether mild or significant –the benefits of earbud use during phone calls can be even more impressive. It comes down to the science around binaural hearing – or hearing involving both ears. When sound is channeled into both sides, your brain perceives a boost in volume over what you get when you have sound on just one side (that is, clutching your cell phone to one side of your head).  It increases sound by 3 to 5 dB–a noticeable uptick, especially for those with hearing loss.

Auditory input on both sides, as with earbuds, also delivers better speech understanding (the nuances of words), and both ears stay active (so there is less deterioration of hearing, which can happen when there’s diminished stimulus). One last bonus: The act of hearing becomes less tiring, so to speak, because you don’t have to work so hard at decoding.  Nice work, earbuds!

A Word About Hearing Aids

For those who wear hearing aids, the benefit of earbuds can easily offset the effort of removing their devices. With the two earbuds in place and our app SonicCloud, even people with profound hearing loss can have spontaneous, flowing phone chats – you can pick up on tone of voice, hear laughter, and listen to a child’s voice. It’s a gift for people on both sides of the call. (And Airpods – Apple’s wireless earbuds – are making it all the easier. No cords attached, so you are totally untethered, plus fantastic sound quality.)

So if you want better phone calls – ones where you can hear better, the conversation is relaxed, and there are as few “I’m sorry—Can you please repeat that?” interruptions as possible – go ahead. Buddy up to earbuds and SonicCloud, and see how good it gets.