When somebody mentions artificial intelligence (AI), it might conjure thoughts of your favorite sci-fi movie. But today, AI is a reality that we all better get used to. This is especially true when it comes to hearing aids. The times when hearing aids simply amplified the volume and were one-size-fits-all are gone for good. AI is at the root of modern hearing aids.
What is artificial intelligence?
AI is a complex computer algorithm that makes use of data inputs to generate new results. In doing this, AI algorithms take part in a type of learning, aptly called “machine learning”. With AI the user doesn’t need to program every individual result because the algorithm does that by itself.
In the instance of hearing aids, AI algorithms can help your hearing aids adapt to your personal needs depending on your behaviors, lifestyle, habits, and degree of hearing loss. Your hearing aids will be more effective at increasing your ability to hear because of this.
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 adding AI to the situation enhance things? Well, imagine a recording studio with the soundboard full of switches and knobs. (Perhaps you’ve seen them in movies.) There’s a tiny one of those inside of your hearing aid. Changing these settings can deliver better quality sound. With hearing aids that are powered by AI, these settings are changed automatically without requiring you to do anything.
These smart devices use a rich neural network to emulate human brain responses. Without even being programmed to, these devices react to real-time conditions because of this.
This is the same technology that allows streaming services to suggest movies based on your viewing history, though it most likely sounds like futuristic technology at first. AI is also encountered in cars and the emails auto-sorted into your inbox. The more you use these devices, the more efficient they become at making proper decisions.
New advances in AI hearing aids
Hearing aids nowadays are helping you hear even better with new advancements in AI technology. Here are some of the best examples:
- Acoustic environment classification: Every room you go into has its own distinctive acoustic characteristics. 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 setting.
- Edge mode: This is an assist mode which can be initiated by the user. Basically, when you have a difficult time hearing, you can activate something called Edge Mode. This then activates the AI algorithm and the algorithm will start working to make your hearing clearer.
- Noisy room filters: New AI algorithms can help to filter out room noise in a number of loud or echo-prone settings. Cross talk, for example, 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 environment.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: Conversations were certainly tougher during the pandemic when everybody was wearing a facemask. AI algorithms can automatically amplify those voices behind the facemask, helping people with hearing aids hear better and stay safe simultaneously.
This is probably only the start of the advancements scientists and manufacturers are making.
AI for the field of audiology
These days, AI has kind of become something of a buzzword. Depending on the context, AI does different things, which can in some cases lead to confusion. So with regard to the field of audiology, how does AI fit in.
Making hearing aids even more useful for patients is one of the first and most evident things that researchers are tackling. 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 may be able to help with diagnosing hearing loss or even helping patients prevent future hearing loss.
Patients will see AI in more and more of their devices as the technology becomes more reliable.
AI-assisted hearing aids and their benefits
Unlike some other industries, AI isn’t being incorporated into hearing aids simply because it’s the popular new thing. These machine learning algorithms offer some considerable advantages to patients. Here are some of those benefits:
- You have more control over how you hear: You can activate AI or turn it off with most AI-assisted hearing aids. This means hearing aid users will have more control over the quality of sound they hear. And this often translates into hearing better more often.
- Health tracking and fall prevention: If you happen to fall while you’re wearing your hearing aids, your AI-assisted devices may be capable of detecting the significance and seriousness of your tumble. In some situations, these hearing aids may be programmed to automatically alert authorities or loved ones if there is a severe fall. Should you be drinking more water, exercising more, eating healthier? AI can make your health information easier to interpret.
- Social engagement: With regard to dealing with social interaction, individuals 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 spectrum of settings, which most likely accounts for better social interaction. But that doesn’t necessarily mean AI will make-or-break your social life. Most likely, it simply helps those who are already social better manage their relationships.
- Helping you listen to devices: Microphones from cell phones, speaker phones, televisions, and other array devices can cause feedback in your hearing aids. This feedback can be filtered out by machine learning algorithms so the sound you actually want to hear is the only sound you will hear.
How does this affect patients?
These benefits often lead to real-world advantages for people who use these AI-assisted hearing aids. Imagine you are having a conversation at a party. An older hearing aid would raise the volume on everything. This isn’t practical 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 lowering unwanted noise.
AI will create a location-by-location algorithm to deal with the various kinds of sounds it picks up. If you return to a particular location or sound profile, AI can activate these programs. Other hearing aids with AI are programmed with day-to-day sounds in order to better define and amplify important sounds.
Some of the other practical benefits of AI-assisted hearing aids include the following:
- You won’t be frustrated because you can’t hear (at least, not as frequently).
- The cognitive burden will be decreased.
- Your quality of life will get better.
You will be able to spend time with friends again, watch your favorite shows, and take good care of your brain, in other words.
Reward vs. cost
Due to the costs, AI wasn’t available in most hearing aids until recently. An algorithm is, after all, an intricate math equation. However, in part 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 may end up choosing a model that doesn’t have AI capabilities. Clearly, the decision making is in the hands of the patient. But AI functions are becoming more widely available and common.
Figuring out what choice is best for you
For somebody who lives alone and doesn’t go out very much, hearing aids with AI may not be worth the additional cost. But AI makes a huge difference for individuals who are socially active and go out into noisy situations a lot.
For somebody who uses traditional hearing aids and still gets fatigued easily in social situations, AI hearing aids would be really helpful. AI-powered hearing aids reduce 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. Hearing aids will continue to improve as AI technology improves.
How can AI technology help you? Schedule an appointment with us right away.