Bose can tell when earwax is blocking your beats

Bose has patented a way to alert users when earwax builds up in hearables
Wareable Bose can tell when earwax is blocking your beats photo 3
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Build-ups of earwax prevent the best audio quality from reaching your ears, but the brainiacs at Bose are working on technology to fix it.

In chasing the best sonic experience, we spend hundreds of pounds on the best wireless earbuds. But how often do we maintain the best possible quality by cleaning wax and grime from the nozzles and speaker gauze properly? Not as often needed. 

The American audio giant has developed an ‘acoustic earwax detection’ system, which will recognize when earwax is impacting the performance of an in-ear audio device and notify the user of when it needs to be cleaned.

In a new filing with the United States Patent Office, Bose explains how the magnitude and frequency of audio emerging from the speaker driver, and thus detected by the device’s microphone, will be measured against an expected base level from a clean nozzle to alert wearers to potential blockages.

The tech is primarily designed for hearing aids. However, Bose mentions it could be applied to headphones with either one or two earpieces, audio eyeglass frames, and plenty more. Considering many true wireless buds now feature advanced microphones to detect and adapt to ambient noise to tailor sound to the wearer’s environment, there’s no reason the tech explained couldn’t be applied to future versions of Bose earbuds.

In the filing spotted by Wareable, Bose explains: “Aspects of the present disclosure relate to determining when there is, at least, a partial blockage of a nozzle portion of a wearable audio output device. In some aspects, the blockage is caused by the presence of earwax buildup over time on the nozzle. 

“As described in more detail herein, nozzle blockage negatively impacts a user's audio experience. In aspects, the user is alerted when the nozzle is, at least, partially blocked. The user may then take corrective action to clean the nozzle. As a result of removing the blockage, the user may resume experiencing the benefits offered by the wearable audio output device.”

BoseBose can tell when earwax is blocking your beats photo 1

Diagrams accompanying the filing show the decibel level (db) and the frequency (Hz) levels are below the expected levels detected by the microphone when the nozzle is 90% blocked. Using motion sensors within the device, it would be possible for the patented tech to establish this whether the device is in the ear or out of the ear, so it’ll be possible to run this test while the device is charging, for instance.

This discrepancy would be established by the CPU and reported back to the user, presumably through a connected mobile device, or a visual indicator communicated via the in-ear device itself.. 

Or, as the patent points it: “Output by the device, an indication the nozzle is at least partially blocked.”

Naturally, this would be most effective for hearing aid users who depend, in some cases entirely, on their devices for communication. Bose says that a complete blockage of the nozzle means no sound will reach the user at all.

It’s by no means certain that Bose will seek to add this technology to consumer earphones or medical-grade hearing aids. Companies regularly patent this sort of exploratory technology without being able to manifest it within a consumer product. However, it’s about time someone began to tackle the scourge that is earwax.

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Chris Smith


Chris has more than decade of experience writing for the UK's foremost technology publications including TechRadar, T3 and more.

 A freelance journalist based near Miami, Florida, Chris has written for Wareable since its inception in 2014. From reviews of the latest fitness devices, and in-depth features on bleeding-edge wearable devices, to future-gazing interviews with some of the industry's brightest minds, Chris covers the lot. He also writes about sport for The Guardian and is the author of many technology guide books, while also dabbling in film, music, beer, travel and political commentary.

When he's isn't smashing away at the keys of his MacBook, Chris can be found at his favourite craft breweries, dangling his rod in the warm waters of the Florida Keys, or exploring the Shropshire countryside.

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