You may think of your favorite sci-fi movie when someone starts talking about artificial intelligence (AI). But today, AI is a reality that we all better get accustomed to. With regard to hearing aids, this is especially true. The days when hearing aids simply amplified the volume and were one-size-fits-all are gone forever. Modern-day, high-end hearing aids utilize AI.
What is artificial intelligence?
AI is a sophisticated computer algorithm that utilizes data inputs to generate new results. AI is able to use an algorithm to take part in a type of learning known as “machine learning”. Once the algorithm is working properly, there’s no need to “program” the AI to produce each separate result.
Depending on the extent of hearing loss, lifestyle, and habits, AI in hearing aids can make changes depending on your routines and your needs. This makes your hearing aid more effective at improving your hearing.
How does AI help hearing aids work more effectively?
This may feel a bit abstract initially. After all, hearing aids appear to have a rather straightforward function. How can adding AI to the situation improve things? Well, imagine a recording studio with the soundboard full of buttons and dials. (You’ve likely seen them in movies.) Your hearing aid includes one of those! (It’s minuscule.) Adjusting these settings can produce better quality sound. With hearing aids that are powered by AI, these settings are changed automatically without needing you to do anything.
These smart devices use a deep neural network to imitate human brain responses. As a result of this, these hearing aids respond in real-time to situations without being programmed to do so.
This is the same technology that lets streaming services suggest movies based on your viewing history, though it most likely sounds like futuristic technology at first. Newer cars utilize this technology to help you drive more safely and your email provider uses it to auto-sort emails into your inbox. These devices become more proficient at making appropriate choices the more you use them.
AI hearing aids – new advances
Hearing aids nowadays are helping you hear even better with new advancements in AI technology. Here are a few of the best examples:
- Acoustic environment classification: Every room you walk into has its own distinct acoustic characteristics. Some of those qualities are good for your hearing aids; some are negative for your hearing aids. You will hear better in nearly any environment with AI technology making effective automatic adjustments.
- Noisy room filters: If you’re in a setting that has a lot of echoes, or is excessively loud, new AI technology algorithms can filter out room noise. Cross talk, for example, can often be hard on a hearing aid. But with an AI filtering out non-imperative information, you’ll be able to hear more clearly what the individual across from you is saying, even in a crowded or noisy environment.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: Conversations were certainly more difficult during the pandemic when everybody was wearing a facemask. AI algorithms can automatically amplify those voices behind the facemask, helping people with hearing aids hear better and remain safe at the same time.
- Edge mode: This is an assist mode which can be initiated by the user. Essentially, you can activate something known as edge mode whenever you’re having a difficult time hearing. This then activates the AI algorithm and the algorithm will get to work trying to make your hearing clearer.
This is likely only the start of the developments scientists and manufacturers are making.
AI for the field of audiology
These days, AI has kind of become something of a buzzword. Everybody’s heard it, which is good, but the difficulty is that AI does different things depending on the applications. So, what does AI mean for the field of audiology?
Making hearing aids even more helpful for patients is one of the first and most obvious things that researchers are tackling. New technologies, such as machine learning and deep neural networks, are a big part of this research. But hearing aids aren’t the whole story. Helping patients hear better and even diagnosing hearing loss are some things that AI will likely do in the future.
As the technology expands and becomes more dependable, patients can expect to find artificial intelligence in more of their devices.
The advantages of AI-assisted hearing aids
AI is being incorporated into hearing aids not because it’s the popular new fad, unlike other industries. These machine learning algorithms offer some significant advantages to patients. Here are some of those benefits:
- Helping you listen to devices: Your hearing aid can get feedback from lots of devices, like televisions, cell phones, speaker phones, and a myriad of other devices. This feedback can be filtered out by machine learning algorithms so the sound you actually want to hear is the only sound you will hear.
- You have more control over how you hear: Many AI-assisted hearing aids give you the option to turn those algorithms on or off. So the clarity of sound users hear will be more in their control. And this normally translates into hearing better more frequently.
- Social engagement: In terms of dealing with social interaction, individuals who utilize AI-assisted hearing aids are likely to be more successful, according to some studies. This is probably because the speech they hear is clearer in a larger number of settings. But that doesn’t necessarily mean AI will make-or-break your social life. Most likely, it simply helps people who are already social better maintain their relationships.
- Health tracking and fall prevention: If you accidentally fall while you’re wearing your hearing aids, your AI-assisted devices might be capable of detecting the significance and severity of your tumble. If there is a serious fall, these hearing aids can, in some cases, notify the Authorities. Should you be drinking more water, exercising more, eating better? AI can make your health data easier to understand.
How does this impact patients?
For individuals with AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits frequently become real-world advantages. Imagine you were at a party having a conversation. If you had an older-style hearing aid, it would just crank the volume up. This isn’t useful because the conversation you actually care about will get overpowered by background noise. With AI, the hearing aid can tune in to the noise around you and react the way your brain would, dulling background noise and focusing on your friends’ voices.
AI learns to recognize sounds and creates a location-by-location algorithm. If you return to a specific location or sound profile, AI can activate these algorithms. In order to better define and amplify important sounds, some AI hearing aids are programmed with everyday sounds.
Here are some other practical benefits to AI-assisted hearing aids:
- Your quality of life will get better.
- You will feel less aggravated because you will be able to hear better.
- The cognitive burden will be reduced.
You will be able to spend time with friends again, watch your favorite shows, and take good care of your brain, in other words.
Cost vs. reward
Due to the costs, AI wasn’t available in most hearing aids until recently. An algorithm is, after all, an intricate math equation. However, in part because of the prevalence of the technology, prices for AI hearing aids are beginning to go down.
That’s not saying that those hearing aids will definitely come down in price soon and you still may wind up choosing a model that doesn’t include AI functionality. Clearly, patients will still have to make important choices. But AI functions are becoming more widely available and prevalent.
Deciding what’s best for you
Hearing aids with AI might be overkill for someone who lives by themselves and stays put a lot. But AI makes a big difference for people who are socially active and go out into noisy situations a lot.
Hearing aids with AI are also helpful for someone who is quickly worn out in social scenarios where the task of keeping up with conversations utilizing a traditional hearing aid is exhausting. AI-powered hearing aids reduce the listener’s fatigue and make social situations more enjoyable. AI technology can also send alerts to your phone when the doorbell rings, alert others that you have fallen, and track your steps. As technology and AI develop, hearing aids will continue to too.
Want to see how AI hearing aids can help you? Give us a call to make an appointment!