hearablesWearable devices have grown into a substantial consumer market.

Yet their usefulness has not lived up to their hype. Most people give them up after about six months. No one has come up with functionality that is compelling enough to foster continued use of wearable devices. Once their novelty wears off, their use is abandoned.

Most wearable devices to date have been ones that are worn on the wrist. Now, more companies seem to be focusing on the ear as a more suitable place for wearable technology than the wrist. Signals are easier to capture from the ear than they are from the wrist, and the signal fidelity is better.

Other factors that could make wearables for the ear more successful than those for the wrist are 1) the widespread use of ear buds, and 2) hearing degradation in a rapidly growing aging population.

Hearing aids have a stigma attached to them. But ear buds are common and have even become stylish. In addition to the physiological sensing technology that can be packed into an ear-worn device, sound amplification and hearing augmentation could be incorporated as well. Such devices could aid hearing loss as well as serve as a fitness tracker and health monitor. Their stylish design would make them very attractive to consumers, and the hearing supplementation they could offer to an aging population might just be the functionality that makes the compelling case for their everyday use.