You may think of your favorite sci-fi movie when someone mentions artificial intelligence (AI). But today, AI is a reality that we all better get accustomed to. When it comes to hearing aids, this is especially true. Gone is the time of one-size-fits-all hearing aids that merely increase the volume of sounds around you. Modern-day, high-end hearing aids utilize AI.
What is artificial intelligence?
AI is a complex computer algorithm that makes use of data inputs to generate new results. AI is capable of using an algorithm to take part in a kind 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 degree of hearing loss, lifestyle, and habits, AI in hearing aids can make changes depending on your behaviors and your needs. Your hearing aids will be more effective at increasing your ability to hear as a result.
How can you hear better with AI?
This may feel a bit abstract initially. Hearing aids do seem to have a straightforward function, after all. How can things be enhanced by adding AI to the mix? Well, you know that row of big dials and switches that people utilize to mix music in recording studios? (Perhaps you’ve seen them in movies.) Your hearing aid has one of those! (It’s minuscule.) Adjusting these settings can deliver better quality sound. With hearing aids that are powered by AI, these settings are adjusted automatically without requiring you to do anything.
This AI hearing aid imitates human brain response using a deep neural network. Without even being programmed to, these devices respond to real-time situations because of this.
This may sound like futuristic science, but it’s the same fundamental technology that allows streaming services to suggest programming according to your viewing history. AI is also encountered in cars and the emails auto-sorted into your inbox. These devices become more adept at making correct choices the more you use them.
New advances in AI hearing aids
These days, hearing aids are incorporating several brand new improvements in AI to help you hear even better. Some of the best instances include the following:
- Acoustic environment classification: Every room you go into has its own distinctive acoustic properties. Your hearing aids can handle some of those properties, but others it doesn’t do so well with. You will hear better in nearly any setting with AI technology making practical automatic adjustments.
- Noisy room filters: If you’re in a setting that has a lot of echoes, or is excessively loud, new AI technology algorithms can separate out room noise. Cross talk, for instance, can often be difficult on a hearing aid. But with an AI filtering out non-essential information, you’ll be able to hear more clearly what the person across from you is saying, even in a crowded or noisy setting.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: During the pandemic, everybody was masking up, which was good, but definitely made conversations with a hearing aid more challenging. AI algorithms can automatically amplify those voices behind the facemask, helping individuals with hearing aids hear better and stay safe simultaneously.
- Edge mode: This is a user initiated, AI assist mode. Essentially, you can activate something called edge mode whenever you’re having a hard time hearing. When this is triggered AI will begin working on clearing up what you’re hearing.
Hearing aid producers and scientists are constantly innovating new hearing aid technologies, so this might be just the tip of the iceberg.
AI for the field of audiology
These days, AI has kind of become a bit of a buzzword. Depending on the context, AI does different things, which can occasionally result in confusion. So in terms of the field of audiology, how does AI fit in.
First, it means that scientists are looking for ways to make hearing aids even more useful to patients. New technologies, like machine learning and deep neural networks, are included in this research. But it’s not just hearing aids. Helping patients hear better and even diagnosing hearing loss are some things that AI will probably do in the future.
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
In contrast to some other industries, AI is not being integrated into hearing aids simply because it’s the hot new fad. These machine learning algorithms offer some considerable benefits to patients. Among those benefits are the following:
- Helping you listen to devices: Microphones from cell phones, speaker phones, televisions, and other myriad 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.
- 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 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 understand.
- Social engagement: When it comes to managing social interaction, individuals who use AI-assisted hearing aids are likely to be more successful, according to some research. The speech that they hear will be clearer in a wide spectrum of settings, which likely accounts for better social interaction. Having said that, it’s not completely clear that AI is the deciding factor in keeping your social life afloat. Most likely, it simply helps people who are already social better preserve their relationships.
- You have more control over how you hear: Many AI-assisted hearing aids give you the option to turn off those algorithms. So the quality of sound users hear will be more in their control. And this often translates into hearing better more frequently.
How does this affect patients?
These benefits often become real-world advantages for people with these AI-assisted hearing aids. Imagine you are having a discussion at a party. An older hearing aid would make everything louder. And unfortunately, background noise also gets boosted making it difficult 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 algorithm to deal with the various types of sounds it picks up. If you return to a particular location or sound profile, AI can initiate these programs. Other hearing aids with AI are programmed with everyday sounds in order to better identify and amplify important sounds.
Some of the other practical advantages of AI-assisted hearing aids include the following:
- Your quality of life will get better.
- Your brain will have a reduced cognitive burden.
- You won’t be aggravated because you can’t hear (at least, not as frequently).
In other words, it’ll be simpler to follow along with your favorite shows, hang out with your favorite people, and take care of your favorite brain.
Cost vs. reward
There was a time when AI was not available in the vast majority of hearing aids because of the costs involved. After all, the device itself must perform some extreme calculations (an algorithm, after all, is basically a very elegant math problem). However, partially because of the preponderance 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 necessarily be less costly in the near future. Clearly, patients will still have to make important decisions. But, it does mean that these AI-assisted features are becoming more common and more widely available.
Deciding what’s best for you
For someone who lives alone and doesn’t go out much, hearing aids with AI might not be worth the added cost. To somebody who is socially active and finds themselves in scenarios with many competing sounds, however, it makes a big difference.
Hearing aids with AI are also practical for somebody who is quickly worn out in social situations where the task of keeping up with conversations using a traditional hearing aid is exhausting. Social situations are simpler 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. Hearing aids will continue to improve as AI technology improves.
Want to find out how AI hearing aids can work for you? Contact us to set up an appointment!