You may think of your favorite sci-fi movie when somebody starts talking about artificial intelligence (AI). But today, AI is a reality that we all better get accustomed to. This is especially true with regard to hearing aids. The times when hearing aids simply amplified the volume and were one-size-fits-all are gone for good. AI is at the root of contemporary hearing aids.
Artificial intelligence – what exactly is it?
AI is a type of technology that makes use of sophisticated algorithms to produce new results from inputs of data. AI is capable of using an algorithm to participate in a type of learning called “machine learning”. With AI the user doesn’t have to program every individual result because the algorithm does that on its own.
Depending on the extent of hearing loss, lifestyle, and habits, AI in hearing aids can make modifications depending on your behaviors and your needs. This makes your hearing aid more successful at improving your hearing.
How can you hear better with AI?
This may feel a little abstract initially. Hearing aids do seem to have a straightforward function, after all. How can adding AI to the mix improve things? Well, picture a recording studio with the soundboard full of switches and dials. (Maybe you’ve seen them in movies.) There’s a little tiny one of those inside of your hearing aid. Better sound quality can be obtained by modifying these settings. AI-powered hearing aids move these digital dials and switches automatically, enhancing the way you hear without any hassle on your part.
These smart devices use a rich neural network to re-create human brain responses. As a result of this, these hearing aids react in real-time to conditions without being programmed to do so.
This may sound like space-age science, but it’s the same basic technology that allows streaming services to recommend programming according to your viewing history. Newer cars utilize this technology to help you drive more safely and your email supplier uses it to auto-sort emails into your inbox. These devices become more proficient at making correct decisions the more you use them.
New improvements in AI hearing aids
Hearing aids these days are helping you hear even better with new developments in AI technology. Some of the best examples include the following:
- Helping you hear through facemasks: Conversations were certainly more difficult during the pandemic when everybody was wearing a facemask. You can stay safer and hear better at the same time as AI algorithms can amplify the voice behind the facemask.
- Noisy room filters: If you’re in a location that has a lot of echoes, or is extremely loud, new AI technology algorithms can filter out room noise. Cross talk, for instance, can often be difficult 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 setting.
- Acoustic environment classification: Every room you go into has its own distinct acoustic properties. Your hearing aids can deal with some of those properties, but others it can’t handle very well. With AI technology, your hearing aid can effectively make automatic adjustments that allow you to hear better in almost any environment.
- Edge mode: This is a user initiated, AI assist mode. Essentially, when you have a hard time hearing, you can activate something called Edge Mode. When this is initiated AI will start working on cleaning up what you’re hearing.
Hearing aid producers and scientists are constantly innovating new hearing aid technologies, so this may be just the tip of the iceberg.
AI for the field of audiology
These days, AI has kind of become something of a buzzword. Everyone’s heard it, which is good, but the difficulty is that AI does different things depending on the applications. So with regard to the field of audiology, how does AI fit in.
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 all there is to it. In the future, AI might be able to help with diagnosing hearing loss or even helping patients prevent future hearing loss.
As the technology grows and becomes more dependable, patients can expect to see artificial intelligence in more of their devices.
The benefits of AI-assisted hearing aids
In contrast to some other industries, AI is not being integrated into hearing aids simply because it’s the popular new fad. These machine learning algorithms provide some significant benefits to patients. Among those benefits are the following:
- You have more control over how you hear: You can activate AI or turn it off with most AI-assisted hearing devices. This means hearing aid wearers will have more control over the clarity of sound they hear. And this normally means a better all-around hearing experience.
- Helping you listen to devices: Your hearing aid can get feedback from lots of devices, like televisions, cell phones, speaker phones, and a range of other devices. Machine learning algorithms can help by filtering out this feedback, so all you hear is the sound you really want to hear.
- Social engagement: In terms of managing social interaction, people who utilize AI-assisted hearing aids tend to be more successful, according to some research. The speech that they hear will be clearer in a wide array of settings, which likely accounts for better social interaction. With that being said, it’s not entirely clear that AI is the deciding factor in keeping your social life afloat. Likely, it simply helps those who are already social better preserve their relationships.
- Health tracking and fall prevention: When you’re using a hearing aid and you take a fall, your AI-assisted device can determine the severity of your fall. In some situations, these hearing aids might be programmed to automatically alert authorities or loved ones if there is a major fall. Should you be hydrating more, exercising more, eating better? AI can make your health data easier to interpret.
What this means for patients
These benefits often result in real-world advantages for people who use these AI-assisted hearing aids. 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 practical because the conversation you actually care about will get drowned out by background noise. With AI, the hearing aid can listen to the noise around you and react the way your brain would, lowering background noise and focusing on your friends’ voices.
AI will generate a location-by-location algorithm to address the various types of sounds it picks up. These programs help when you return to a particular location or sound profile. In order to better identify 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 brain will have a lower cognitive burden.
- You won’t be aggravated because you can’t hear (at least, not as frequently).
- Your quality of life will get better.
You will be able to hang out 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 starting to go down.
This doesn’t mean that every hearing aid you want might have AI, or even that those hearing aids will automatically be less costly in the near future. Clearly, the decision making is in the hands of the patient. But, it does mean that these AI-assisted features are becoming more common and more readily available.
Deciding what’s best for you
Hearing aids with AI might be too much for someone who lives by themselves and stays home a lot. But AI makes a big difference for individuals who are socially involved and go out into loud situations a lot.
Hearing aids with AI are also helpful for someone who is rapidly worn out in social situations where the chore of keeping up with conversations utilizing a traditional hearing aid is fatiguing. Social situations are easier and the user will feel less tired with AI hearing aids. When the doorbell rings, or when you have a fall AI technology can alert you or a loved one and it can even track your steps. As technology and AI improve, hearing aids will continue to as well.
Want to see how AI hearing aids can help you? Call us to make an appointment!