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 need to get used to. With regard to hearing aids, this is particularly true. Gone is the time of one-size-fits-all hearing aids that simply increase the volume of sounds around you. AI is at the root of contemporary hearing aids.
Artificial intelligence – what exactly is it?
AI is a complex computer algorithm that makes use of data inputs to generate new results. In this way, AI algorithms participate in a kind of learning, appropriately called “machine learning”. As soon as the algorithm is working correctly, there’s no need to “program” the AI to generate each individual result.
Depending on the amount of hearing loss, lifestyle, and habits, AI in hearing aids can make adjustments depending on your behaviors and your needs. This makes your hearing aid more effective at improving your hearing.
How can you hear better with AI?
At first, this could seem a little abstract. After all, hearing aids appear to have a rather straightforward function. How can things be improved by adding AI to the mix? Well, you know that row of big dials and buttons that people utilize to mix music in recording studios? (You’ve most likely seen them in movies.) There’s a little tiny one of those inside of your hearing aid. Altering these settings can produce better quality sound. With hearing aids that are powered by AI, these settings are changed automatically without requiring 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 deal with them.
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. Newer cars use this technology to help you drive more safely and your email supplier utilizes it to auto-sort emails into your inbox. These devices become more adept at making appropriate decisions the more you use them.
New advancements in AI hearing aids
Hearing aids these days are helping you hear even better with new advancements in AI technology. Here are a few of the best examples:
- Helping you hear through facemasks: Conversations were certainly harder during the pandemic when everybody was wearing a facemask. You can stay safer and hear better simultaneously as AI algorithms can amplify the voice beneath the facemask.
- Edge mode: This is a user activated, AI assist mode. Essentially, when you have a hard time hearing, you can activate something known as Edge Mode. When this is initiated AI will start working on cleaning up what you’re hearing.
- Noisy room filters: If you’re in a location that has lots of echoes, or is extremely 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-essential information, you’ll be able to hear more clearly what the individual across from you is saying, even in a packed or noisy setting.
- Acoustic environment classification: Unique audio properties come with each individual room you walk into. Your hearing aids can handle some of those properties, but others it can’t handle very well. With AI technology, your hearing aid can effortlessly make automatic corrections that allow you to hear better in just about any environment.
Hearing aid producers and scientists are constantly innovating new hearing aid technologies, so this may be just the beginning.
AI for the discipline of audiology
These days, AI has sort of become a bit of a buzzword. Depending on the context, AI does different things, which can in some cases result in confusion. So in terms of the field of audiology, how does AI fit in.
First, it means that researchers are looking for ways to make hearing aids even more helpful to patients. 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. In the future, AI may be able to help with diagnosing hearing loss or even helping patients avoid future hearing loss.
As the technology grows and becomes more dependable, patients can expect to find artificial intelligence in more of their devices.
AI-assisted hearing aids and their advantages
AI is being incorporated into hearing aids not because it’s the hot new fad, in contrast to other industries. These machine learning algorithms offer some considerable advantages to patients. Among those benefits are the following:
- Health tracking and fall prevention: When you’re wearing a hearing aid and you take a tumble, your AI-assisted device can determine the seriousness of your fall. In the event of a severe 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 interpret.
- You have more control over how you hear: Many AI-assisted hearing devices give you the option to turn off those algorithms. This means hearing aid wearers will have more control over the quality of sound they hear. And this normally means a better overall hearing experience.
- Helping you listen to devices: Microphones from cell phones, speaker phones, televisions, and other array devices can cause your hearing aids to feedback. This feedback can be filtered out by machine learning algorithms so the sound you want to hear is the only sound you will hear.
- Social engagement: When it comes to managing social interaction, people who utilize AI-assisted hearing aids tend to be more successful, according to some studies. The speech that they hear will be clearer in a wide array of settings, which likely accounts for better social engagement. With that being said, it’s not entirely clear that AI is the defining factor in keeping your social life afloat. It probably just helps people better preserve the relationships they already have.
How does this impact patients?
For individuals with AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits often translate into real-world advantages. Imagine you are having a discussion at a party. An older hearing aid would make everything louder. This isn’t helpful because the conversation you actually care about will get drowned out by background noise. An AI hearing aid is intelligent and will be capable of identifying and boosting a person’s voice while lowering unwanted noise.
AI learns to recognize sounds and generates a location-by-location program. If you return to a specific location or sound profile, AI can initiate these programs. In order to better identify and amplify important sounds, some AI hearing aids are programmed with day-to-day sounds.
Here are some other practical benefits to AI-assisted hearing aids:
- Your quality of life will improve.
- The cognitive load will be reduced.
- You won’t be frustrated because you can’t hear (at least, not as often).
In other words, it’ll be simpler to hear your favorite shows, hang out with your favorite people, and take care of your favorite brain.
Reward vs. cost
There was a time when AI was not available in the vast majority of hearing aids owing to the costs involved. An algorithm is, in fact, a complex math equation. However, partially because of the preponderance of the technology, prices for AI hearing aids are starting to go down.
That isn’t saying that those hearing aids will absolutely come down in price soon and you still may end up wanting a model that doesn’t have AI functionality. Clearly, patients will still need to make important decisions. However, it does mean that these AI-assisted features are becoming more prevalent and more widely available.
Deciding what’s best for you
For somebody who lives alone and doesn’t go out much, hearing aids with AI may not be worth the extra cost. But AI makes a big difference for individuals who are socially active and go out into loud situations a lot.
For somebody who uses traditional hearing aids and still gets fatigued easily in social situations, AI hearing aids would be very helpful. Social situations are easier and the user will feel less tired with AI hearing aids. AI technology can also send alerts to your phone when the doorbell rings, alert others that you have fallen, and track your steps. Hearing aids will continue to improve as AI technology improves.
Want to find out how AI hearing aids can help you? Call us to schedule an appointment!