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Business Insider

The future of headphones customises music to the unique biology of your ears

Australian start-up's crowdfunding campaign for headphones which 'tune' how sound travels through your ears

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2016, 8:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 12:44pm

Everyone hears differently, and that's partly due to variations in our anatomy, according to Nura cofounder Dragan Petrovic. A host of biological factors contribute to our hearing as vibrations travel through different parts of ours ears on their way to becoming electrical signals in our brains.

The idea behind Nura is that measuring how your ear responds to different frequencies of sound will allow the company to create a pair of headphones that is “tuned” for your ears.

Here’s how it works. First, Nura creates a map of your hearing by measuring the faint sounds that “leak” back out of your ears when you are listening to things like music (“otoacoustic emission,” according to Petrovic). It uses the relative strength of those signals to determine which frequencies you are most sensitive to. Then it “tunes” your headphones to boost the frequencies you don’t hear well, balancing the sound.

We got a chance to try a Nura prototype, and the differences between the tuning for various members of our team were striking, as were the differences in the shape of our hearing graphs. My colleague’s profiles sounded substantially worse to me than my own (and vice versa). And those differences didn’t just stem from our hearing being worse or better, but from differences in how well we heard specific frequencies.

But preference isn’t just about how well we hear certain frequencies, but also simply what we like. And there is a huge swath of the population that likes to pump up the bass (see the popularity of Beats headphones). Petrovic says that Nura tries to take this into account with its design. Nura's headphones have a ear-bud like piece that delivers your custom sound profile into your ear, and also seal it. But they also have an over-ear component that plays bass vibrations so you can feel them around your ears. This can potentially help prevent hearing damage for people who like to crank up the bass, Petrovic says.

If you want to learn more about Nura, check out the company’s Kickstarter, where you can pre-order the headphones for $179.