When somebody mentions artificial intelligence (AI), it might conjure thoughts of your favorite sci-fi movie. But nowadays, AI is more science than just fiction. With regard to hearing aids, this is particularly true. Gone is the time of one-size-fits-all hearing aids that merely raise the volume of sounds around you. AI is at the root of contemporary hearing aids.
What is artificial intelligence?
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 participate in a kind of learning known as “machine learning”. With AI the user doesn’t have to program every specific result because the algorithm does that on its own.
In the case of hearing aids, AI algorithms can help your hearing aids adapt to your personal needs depending on your behaviors, lifestyle, habits, and level of hearing loss. Your hearing aids will be more effective at increasing your ability to hear as a result.
How can you hear better with AI?
This might seem a little abstract initially. After all, hearing aids appear to have a fairly basic function. How can adding AI to the mix improve things? Well, you know that row of big dials and buttons that people use to mix music in recording studios? (Perhaps you’ve seen them in movies.) Your hearing aid includes one of those! (It’s minuscule.) Better quality of sound can be obtained by adjusting these settings. AI-powered hearing aids move these digital dials and switches automatically, improving how you hear without any effort by you.
These smart devices use a rich neural network to imitate human brain responses. As a result of this, these hearing aids react in real-time to conditions without being programmed to do so.
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. AI is also encountered in cars and the emails auto-sorted into your inbox. The more you utilize these devices, the more efficient they become at making correct decisions.
AI hearing aids – new innovations
Hearing aids nowadays are helping you hear even better with new developments in AI technology. Some of the best instances include the following:
- Helping you hear through facemasks: During the pandemic, everyone was masking up, which was good, but certainly made conversations with a hearing aid more challenging. You can stay safer and hear better at the same time as AI algorithms can amplify the voice behind the facemask.
- Acoustic environment classification: Every room you walk into has its own distinct acoustic characteristics. Your hearing aids can handle some of those properties, but others it can’t handle very well. You will hear better in just about any setting with AI technology making effective automatic adjustments.
- Noisy room filters: If you’re in a location that has lots of echoes, or is overly loud, new AI technology algorithms can filter out room noise. Cross talk, for example, can often be hard 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 packed or noisy setting.
- Edge mode: This is an assist mode which can be activated by the user. Basically, you can initiate something known as edge mode whenever you’re having a difficult time hearing. This then triggers the AI algorithm and the algorithm will start working to make your hearing clearer.
This is most likely only the start of the advancements scientists and manufacturers are making.
How is AI utilized in the field of audiology?
AI has become somewhat of a buzzword these days. Everyone’s heard it, which is okay, but the trouble is that AI does different things depending on the applications. 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 useful to patients. This research includes new technologies, including deep neural networks and machine learning. But hearing aids aren’t all there is to it. In the future, AI may be able to help with detecting hearing loss or even helping patients avoid future hearing loss.
Patients will find AI in more and more of their devices as the technology becomes more dependable.
The benefits of AI-assisted hearing aids
Unlike some other industries, AI isn’t being integrated into hearing aids just because it’s the hot new fad. These machine learning algorithms offer some significant advantages to patients. Among those benefits are the following:
- Health tracking and fall prevention: When you’re using a hearing aid and you take a fall, your AI-assisted device can determine the severity of your fall. If there is a serious fall, these hearing aids can, in some situations, alert the Authorities. Should you be hydrating more, exercising more, eating better? AI can make your health data easier to interpret.
- You have more control over how you hear: Many AI-assisted hearing aids 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 found that those who use AI-assisted hearing aids are more successful with regard to dealing with their social engagement. The speech that they hear will be clearer in a wide variety of settings, which most likely accounts for better social engagement. 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.
- 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?
For individuals with AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits frequently 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 helpful because the conversation you actually care about will get drowned out by background noise. With AI, the hearing aid can tune in to the noise around you and react the way your brain would, dulling background noise and focusing on your friends’ voices.
AI will generate a location-by-location algorithm to deal with the various types of sounds it detects. These algorithms help when you go back to a specific location or sound profile. Other hearing aids with AI are programmed with everyday sounds in order to better identify 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 often).
- The cognitive load will be reduced.
- You will have improved quality of life.
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
Because of the costs, AI wasn’t offered in most hearing aids until recently. After all, the device itself has to perform some extreme calculations (an algorithm, after all, is essentially a very elegant math problem). But prices are decreasing, partly due to the prevalence of the technology.
This doesn’t mean that every hearing aid you want might have AI, or even that those hearing aids will necessarily be less pricey 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 prevalent and more widely available.
Figuring out what option 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 added cost. To someone who is socially active and finds themselves in situations with lots of competing sounds, however, it makes a huge difference.
For someone who uses traditional hearing aids and still gets fatigued easily in social scenarios, AI hearing aids would be really helpful. AI-powered hearing aids decrease the listener’s fatigue and make social situations more enjoyable. AI technology can also send alerts to your phone when the doorbell rings, alert others that you have fallen, and track your steps. Hearing aids will keep improving as AI technology improves.
Want to see how AI hearing aids can help you? Give us a call to make an appointment!