You might think of your favorite sci-fi movie when somebody mentions artificial intelligence (AI). But these days, AI is more science than fiction. This is particularly true when it comes to hearing aids. The times when hearing aids merely amplified the volume and were one-size-fits-all are gone for good. AI is at the root of modern hearing aids.
What is artificial intelligence?
AI is a complex computer algorithm that uses data inputs to produce new results. In doing this, AI algorithms engage in a kind of learning, appropriately called “machine learning”. With AI the user doesn’t have to program every specific result because the algorithm does that on its own.
In the instance of hearing aids, AI algorithms can help your hearing aids adjust to your personal requirements based on your behaviors, lifestyle, habits, and degree of hearing loss. Your hearing aids will be more effective at increasing your ability to hear as a result.
How can AI help hearing aids work more effectively?
Initially, this could seem a little abstract. After all, hearing aids seem to have a pretty basic function. How can adding AI to the mix improve things? Well, imagine a recording studio with the soundboard full of buttons and knobs. (You’ve likely seen them in movies.) Your hearing aid contains one of those! (It’s minuscule.) Adjusting these settings can deliver better sound quality. With hearing aids that are powered by AI, these settings are adjusted automatically without needing you to do anything.
This AI hearing aid mimics human brain response using a deep neural network. Because of this, these hearing aids respond in real-time to conditions without being programmed to do so.
This might sound like futuristic science, but it’s the same basic technology that allows streaming services to recommend programming based on your viewing history. AI is also encountered in cars and the emails auto-sorted into your inbox. These devices become more adept at making appropriate choices the more you use them.
New advancements in AI hearing aids
Hearing aids nowadays are helping you hear even better with new developments in AI technology. Some of the best examples include the following:
- Acoustic environment classification: Every room you walk into has its own distinct acoustic properties. Some of those properties are good for your hearing aids; some are negative for your hearing aids. You will hear better in almost any environment with AI technology making practical automatic adjustments.
- Noisy room filters: If you’re in a setting that has lots of echoes, or is extremely loud, new AI technology algorithms can filter out room noise. Cross talk, for instance, 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.
- Edge mode: This is a user activated, AI assist mode. Basically, you can initiate something called edge mode whenever you’re having a hard time hearing. This then triggers the AI algorithm and the algorithm will get to work trying to make your hearing clearer.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: Conversations were undoubtedly 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.
This is probably only the beginning of the developments scientists and manufacturers are making.
AI for the discipline of audiology
These days, AI has sort of become something of a buzzword. Depending on the application, AI does different things, which can in some cases cause confusion. So in terms of the field of audiology, how does AI integrate.
Making hearing aids even more useful for patients is one of the first and most evident things that researchers are tackling. New technologies, including machine learning and deep neural networks, are a big part of this research. But it’s not just hearing aids. Helping patients hear better and even diagnosing hearing loss are a couple of the things that AI will likely do in the future.
As the technology expands and becomes more dependable, patients can expect to see artificial intelligence in more of their devices.
The advantages of AI-assisted hearing aids
AI is being integrated into hearing aids not because it’s the hot new fad, in contrast to other industries. These machine learning algorithms provide some considerable advantages to patients. Here are some of those benefits:
- Helping you listen to devices: Your hearing aid can get feedback from a wide variety of devices, like televisions, cell phones, speaker phones, and a range 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: You can activate AI or turn it off with most AI-assisted hearing devices. So the quality of sound users hear will be more in their control. And this usually means a better overall hearing experience.
- Social engagement: Studies have shown that people who use AI-assisted hearing aids are more successful with regard to managing their social involvement. The speech that they hear will be clearer in a wide variety of settings, which probably accounts for better social interaction. But that doesn’t automatically mean AI will make-or-break your social life. It probably just helps people better preserve the relationships they already have.
- Health tracking and fall prevention: If you accidentally fall while you’re wearing your hearing aids, your AI-assisted devices might be able to detect the significance and severity of your tumble. In some situations, these hearing aids may be programmed to automatically notify authorities or loved ones in the event of a severe fall. AI can also make your health information easier to interpret, helping you identify when you should be exercising more, eating healthier, or just hydrating more.
How does this impact patients?
These benefits frequently become real-world advantages for individuals who use these AI-assisted hearing aids. Imagine you are having a conversation at a party. If you were using an older-style hearing aid, it would just boost 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 respond the way your brain would, dulling background noise and focusing on your friends’ voices.
AI will generate a location-by-location algorithm to address the various kinds of sounds it detects. If you go back to a specific location or sound profile, AI can activate these programs. In order to better identify and amplify important sounds, some AI hearing aids are programmed with everyday sounds.
Here are some other practical advantages to AI-assisted hearing aids:
- Your quality of life will get better.
- You won’t be aggravated because you can’t hear (at least, not as frequently).
- Your brain will experience a decreased cognitive load.
You will be able to spend time with friends again, watch your favorite shows, and take good care of your brain, in other words.
Reward vs. cost
There was a time when AI wasn’t offered in most hearing aids due to the costs involved. An algorithm is, after all, a complex math equation. But prices are coming down, partially due to the prevalence of the technology.
This doesn’t mean that every hearing aid you want may have AI, or even that those hearing aids will automatically be less expensive in the near future. Clearly, the decision making is in the hands of the patient. However, it does mean that these AI-assisted features are becoming more common and more widely available.
Deciding what’s best for you
Hearing aids with AI might be too much for somebody 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 useful for someone who is quickly worn out in social situations where the task of keeping up with conversations utilizing a traditional hearing aid is fatiguing. AI-powered hearing aids reduce the listener’s fatigue and make social situations more enjoyable. 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. Hearing aids will keep improving as AI technology improves.
Want to see how AI hearing aids can help you? Schedule an appointment with us right away.