You might think of your favorite sci-fi movie when someone mentions artificial intelligence (AI). But nowadays, AI is more science than just fiction. This is especially true with regard to hearing aids. The days when hearing aids simply increased the volume and were one-size-fits-all are gone forever. AI is at the root of modern hearing aids.
Artificial intelligence – what exactly is it?
AI is a form of technology that uses sophisticated algorithms to produce new results from inputs of data. AI is capable of using an algorithm to engage in a type of learning known as “machine learning”. Once the algorithm is working correctly, there’s no need to “program” the AI to generate each individual result.
In the instance of hearing aids, AI algorithms can help your hearing aids adapt to your personal requirements based on your behaviors, lifestyle, habits, and level of hearing loss. This makes your hearing aid more successful at improving your hearing.
How does AI help hearing aids work better?
This may feel a little abstract at first. After all, hearing aids appear to have a pretty basic function. How can things be improved by adding AI to the mix? Well, picture a recording studio with the soundboard full of buttons and knobs. (You’ve most likely seen them in movies.) Your hearing aid includes one of those! (It’s tiny.) Better sound quality can be attained by modifying these settings. AI-powered hearing aids move these digital dials and switches automatically, enhancing how you hear without any hassle on your part.
This AI hearing aid imitates human brain response using a rich neural network. Because of this, these hearing aids react in real-time to situations without being programmed to deal with them.
This is the same technology that allows streaming services to recommend movies according to your viewing history, though it probably sounds like space-aged technology initially. AI is also found in cars and the emails auto-sorted into your inbox. The more you utilize these devices, the more reliable they become at making correct decisions.
New advancements in AI hearing aids
These days, hearing aids are integrating multiple brand new advances in AI to help you hear even better. Some of the most relevant examples include the following:
- Acoustic environment classification: Unique audio qualities come with each individual room you go into. Your hearing aids can deal with some of those properties, but others it doesn’t do so well with. With AI technology, your hearing aid can effectively make automatic adjustments that let you hear better in just about any environment.
- Noisy room filters: New AI algorithms can help to filter out room noise in a variety of loud or echo-prone locations. A hearing aid can have a hard time with cross-talk, for instance. 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 packed or noisy environment.
- Edge mode: This is a user activated, AI assist mode. Essentially, you can activate something known as edge mode whenever you’re having a hard time hearing. This then initiates the AI algorithm and the algorithm will start working to make your hearing clearer.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: During the pandemic, everybody was masking up, which was good, but certainly made conversations with a hearing aid more difficult. You can remain safer and hear better simultaneously as AI algorithms can amplify the voice behind the facemask.
Hearing aid manufacturers and scientists are constantly developing new hearing aid technologies, so this may be just the beginning.
How is AI utilized in the discipline of audiology?
These days, AI has kind of become a bit of a buzzword. Everyone’s heard it, which is good, but the trouble is that AI does different things depending on the contexts. So, what does AI mean for the field of audiology?
Making hearing aids even more useful for patients is one of the first and most evident things that researchers are working on. New technologies, including machine learning and deep neural networks, are included in this research. But hearing aids aren’t the whole story. In the future, AI might be able to help with detecting hearing loss or even helping patients avoid future hearing loss.
As the technology develops and becomes more reliable, patients can expect to see artificial intelligence in more of their devices.
The advantages 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 thing. These machine learning algorithms provide some significant advantages to patients. Here are a few of those benefits:
- You have more control over how you hear: You can turn on AI or turn it off with most AI-assisted hearing aids. This means hearing aid wearers will have more control over the clarity of sound they hear. And this normally means hearing better more frequently.
- Health tracking and fall prevention: When you’re wearing a hearing aid and you take a fall, your AI-assisted device can determine the severity of your fall. In some cases, these hearing aids may be programmed to automatically notify authorities or loved ones in the event of a severe fall. Should you be drinking more water, exercising more, eating healthier? AI can make your health data easier to interpret.
- 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 want to hear is the only sound you will hear.
- Social engagement: Studies have revealed that people who wear AI-assisted hearing aids are more successful in terms of dealing with their social engagement. This is most likely because the speech they hear is clearer in a wider variety of environments. But that doesn’t automatically mean AI will make-or-break your social life. It probably just helps people better maintain the relationships they already have.
What this means for patients
For individuals with AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits frequently become real-world advantages. Imagine you were at a party having a discussion. If you had an older-style hearing aid, it would just crank the volume up. And unfortunately, background noise also gets boosted making it impossible to hear voices. 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 create a location-by-location program to address the various types of sounds it picks up. If you go back to a specific location or sound profile, AI can initiate these algorithms. Other hearing aids with AI are programmed with everyday sounds in order to better identify and amplify important sounds.
Here are some other practical advantages to AI-assisted hearing aids:
- You will have improved quality of life.
- The cognitive burden 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 follow along with your favorite shows, hang out with your favorite friends, and take care of your favorite brain.
Reward vs. cost
Due to the costs, AI wasn’t available in most hearing aids until recent times. After all, the device itself has to do some extreme calculations (an algorithm, of course, is essentially a very fancy math problem). However, partially because of the preponderance of the technology, prices for AI hearing devices are starting to go down.
That’s not saying that those hearing aids will absolutely come down in price soon and you still might end up wanting a model that doesn’t include AI functionality. Obviously, patients will still need to make important decisions. But AI features are becoming more widely obtainable and common.
Deciding what’s best for you
For somebody who lives alone and doesn’t go out very much, hearing aids with AI may not be worth the extra cost. To someone who is socially active and finds themselves in situations with many competing sounds, however, it makes a big difference.
Hearing aids with AI are also useful for someone who is rapidly worn out in social scenarios where the chore of keeping up with conversations using a traditional hearing aid is fatiguing. 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. As technology and AI develop, hearing aids will continue to as well.
How can AI technology help you? Contact us to schedule an appointment!