You may think of your favorite sci-fi movie when someone mentions artificial intelligence (AI). But today, AI is a reality that we all need to get accustomed to. This is especially true when it comes to hearing aids. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all hearing aids that merely raise the volume of sounds around you. AI is at the root of modern hearing aids.
Artificial intelligence – what exactly is it?
AI is a type of technology that makes use of complex algorithms to generate new results from inputs of data. 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 by itself.
Depending on the extent of hearing loss, lifestyle, and habits, AI in hearing aids can make adjustments depending on your behaviors and your requirements. Your hearing aids will be more effective at improving your ability to hear because of this.
How can AI help hearing aids work more effectively?
At first, this may seem a little abstract. 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 knobs and switches that people use to mix music in recording studios? (Perhaps you’ve seen them in movies.) There’s a tiny one of those inside of your hearing aid. Better quality of sound can be achieved by adjusting 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 mimics human brain response using a rich neural network. Without even being programmed to, these devices react to real-time situations because of this.
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 at first. Newer cars utilize this technology to help you drive more safely and your email provider uses it to auto-sort emails into your inbox. These devices become more expert at making correct choices the more you use them.
AI hearing aids – new innovations
Hearing aids these days are helping you hear even better with new developments in AI technology. Here are a few of the best examples:
- Acoustic environment classification: Unique audio qualities come with each individual room you walk into. Some of those qualities are good for your hearing aids; some are bad for your hearing aids. 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 lots of echoes, or is overly loud, new AI technology algorithms can separate out room noise. Cross talk, for instance, can often be hard on a hearing aid. But even in a loud setting, you’ll be capable of hearing more clearly what the individual across from you is saying as AI filters out unwanted information.
- Edge mode: This is a user initiated, AI assist mode. Basically, you can initiate something known as edge mode whenever you’re having a tough time hearing. When this is activated AI will begin working on clearing up what you’re hearing.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: During the pandemic, everyone was wearing masks, which was good, but certainly made conversations with a hearing aid more challenging. AI algorithms can automatically amplify those voices behind the facemask, helping those with hearing aids hear better and stay safe at the same time.
This is most likely only the start of the advancements scientists and manufacturers are making.
How is AI employed in the field of audiology?
AI has become a bit of a buzzword these days. Depending on the context, AI does different things, which can sometimes result in confusion. So, what does AI mean for the field of audiology?
First, it means that researchers are looking for ways to make hearing aids even more beneficial to patients. New technologies, like 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 grows 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 isn’t being incorporated into hearing aids simply because it’s the hot new thing. These machine learning algorithms offer some considerable advantages to patients. Among those advantages are the following:
- Health tracking and fall prevention: If you happen to fall while you’re wearing your hearing aids, your AI-assisted devices may 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 in the event of a major fall. AI can also make your health data easier to interpret, helping you know when you should be moving more, eating healthier, or just hydrating more.
- You have more control over how you hear: Many AI-assisted hearing devices give you the option to turn those algorithms on or off. So the clarity 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 wear AI-assisted hearing aids are more successful when it comes to managing their social engagement. The speech that they hear will be clearer in a wide variety of settings, which probably accounts for better social engagement. With that being said, it’s not completely clear that AI is the deciding factor in keeping your social life afloat. Most likely, it simply helps those who are already social better manage their relationships.
- Helping you listen to devices: Your hearing aid can get feedback from lots of devices, like televisions, cell phones, speaker phones, and a range of other devices. Machine learning algorithms can help by filtering out this feedback, so all you hear is the sound you really want to hear.
What this means for patients
For individuals who use AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits often translate into real-world advantages. Imagine you were at a party having a conversation. If you had 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. An AI hearing aid is intelligent and will be capable of identifying and boosting a person’s voice while dulling unwanted noise.
AI will generate a location-by-location program to address the various types of sounds it picks up. These programs help when you go back to a particular location or sound profile. Other hearing aids with AI are programmed with day-to-day sounds in order to better identify and amplify important sounds.
Here are some other practical advantages to AI-assisted hearing aids:
- You will feel less frustrated because you will be able to hear better.
- Your quality of life will improve.
- Your brain will experience a decreased cognitive load.
You will be able to hang out with friends again, watch your favorite shows, and take good care of your brain, in other words.
Cost vs. reward
There was a time when AI was not offered in most hearing aids because of the costs involved. An algorithm is, in fact, a complex math equation. However, partially because of the prevalence of the technology, prices for AI hearing devices are starting to go down.
This doesn’t mean that every hearing aid you want may have AI, or even that those hearing aids will necessarily 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 readily available.
Figuring out what option is best for you
Hearing aids with AI may be too much for someone who lives by themselves and stays home a lot. To someone who is socially active and finds themselves in scenarios with lots of competing sounds, however, it makes a huge difference.
Hearing aids with AI are also practical for someone who is rapidly worn out in social scenarios where the chore of keeping up with conversations utilizing a traditional hearing aid is exhausting. AI-powered hearing aids decrease the listener’s exhaustion 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. As technology and AI develop, hearing aids will continue to too.
Want to see how AI hearing aids can work for you? Call us to make an appointment!