It seems like all our devices are getting smarter, stronger, and smaller. Being smaller while having more functionality is the overall trend.
This is also true for hearing aids, and it’s not surprising. Though hearing issues have a number of causes, hearing issues are more common amongst older people, and the world’s population is getting older. According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 37.5 million people and 3 million Canadians report having difficulty hearing, and since age is a better predictor of hearing loss than any other demographic variable, that number is likely to increase.
Naturally, if you’re suffering from hearing loss, even one person with difficulty hearing, i.e. you, is one person too many. Are there any better ways to manage hearing loss? Bring ‘em on! Here are some of the innovations that are in the works.
Whole-Body Tracking Through Your Hearing Aids
This is so obvious, it’s one of those “Now why didn’t I think of that” innovations. Devices that provide different kinds of health tracking are nearly always worn and need to be worn close to the body. So do you really need a device on your wrist if you already have one in your ear? The answer is no. If you have a newer hearing aid, it can most likely track your pulse, physical activity along with fixing hearing issues such as tinnitus. Certainly, a wearable such as an Apple Watch can do that, but hearing aids can offer you other types of input that can be helpful to monitoring health, like how much time you spend having conversations or listening. Particularly as you get older, your level of social involvement can actually be a key health metric.
Virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri have quickly moved from smartphones to in-home devices and the principal emphasis here is connectivity. Some hearing aids that offer Bluetooth capabilities now allow users to stream audio directly from a device, like a smart TV for example, to the hearing aids. Android developers now have open-source specs supplied by Google which allows them to use specific Bluetooth channels to stream continuous audio directly to your hearing aid. This kind of technology is helping hearing aids function almost like super-powered wireless headphones, making it easier to enjoy music, movies, and more.
Smart Adjustments From Big Data
In a similar way to how Netflix suggests shows and movies based on what you’ve previously watched, or your Fitbit alerts you to tell you that you’ve reached a goal (or okay, let’s say stepping stone, depending on how driven your everyday step goals are), your next hearing aid may make personalized suggestions. Several manufacturers are working on hearing aids that will learn both from the adjustments you make and from listening to the places you go. Some go as far as to crowdsource information about people’s utilization habits, making it anonymous then aggregating it. All this info enables the hearing aids to ascertain your tendencies and make adjustments on the fly so that whether you’re at home watching TV or you’re at an IMAX theater (for instance), you’ll get the best sound.
Finally Ditching The Batteries
Ya, it sounds too good to be true, hearing aids that don’t require batteries? It can be very inconvenient making sure you have extra batteries or that your hearing aids are fully charged. While we’re not likely to see hearing aids that don’t need any batteries, there has been a constant improvement in rechargeable technology. You’ll get faster charging time, longer use time, and less worry about batteries, which seems pretty good.