When someone mentions artificial intelligence (AI), it might conjure thoughts of your favorite sci-fi movie. But these days, AI is more science than just fiction. This is especially true when it comes to hearing aids. The days when hearing aids simply amplified the volume and were one-size-fits-all are gone for good. Contemporary, high-end hearing aids utilize AI.
What is artificial intelligence?
AI is a form of technology that makes use of complex algorithms to generate new results from inputs of data. In this way, AI algorithms participate 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 on its own.
In the case of hearing aids, AI algorithms can help your hearing aids adapt to your personal needs based on your behaviors, lifestyle, habits, and degree of hearing loss. Your hearing aids will be more effective at increasing your ability to hear as a result.
How can AI help hearing aids work better?
At first, this might seem a little abstract. After all, hearing aids appear to have a fairly basic function. How can things be improved by adding AI to the mix? Well, picture a recording studio with the soundboard full of buttons and dials. (You’ve likely seen them in movies.) Your hearing aid includes one of those! (It’s minuscule.) Better sound quality can be attained by adjusting these settings. 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 rich neural network. Without even being programmed to, these devices react to real-time situations because of this.
This might sound like space-age science, but it’s the same basic 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 appropriate choices the more you use them.
New advancements in AI hearing aids
Presently, hearing aids are incorporating several brand new improvements in AI to help you hear even better. Here are a few of the best examples:
- Acoustic environment classification: Every room you walk into has its own distinct 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 effective automatic adjustments.
- Edge mode: This is an assist mode which can be activated by the user. Essentially, you can activate something called edge mode whenever you’re having a difficult time hearing. When this is initiated AI will begin working on cleaning up what you’re hearing.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: Conversations were undoubtedly harder during the pandemic when everybody was wearing a facemask. AI algorithms can automatically amplify those voices behind the facemask, helping those with hearing aids hear better and remain safe simultaneously.
- 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 hard on a hearing aid. But with an AI filtering out non-imperative information, you’ll be able to hear more clearly what the individual across from you is saying, even in a crowded or noisy setting.
This is probably only the start of the developments scientists and manufacturers are making.
How is AI employed in the discipline of audiology?
AI has become somewhat of a buzzword these days. Depending on the application, AI does different things, which can sometimes cause confusion. So when it comes to the field of audiology, how does AI fit in.
First off, it means that scientists are looking for ways to make hearing aids even more helpful to patients. New technologies, including machine learning and deep neural networks, are a big part of this research. But hearing aids aren’t all there is to it. In the future, AI might be able to help with diagnosing hearing loss or even helping patients prevent future hearing loss.
As the technology develops and becomes more reliable, patients can expect to find artificial intelligence in more of their devices.
The advantages 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. Some considerable advantages to patients are offered by these machine learning algorithms. Among those advantages are the following:
- Health tracking and fall prevention: When you’re wearing a hearing aid and you take a fall, your AI-assisted device can determine the seriousness of your fall. In some situations, these hearing aids might be programmed to automatically notify 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 interpret.
- Social engagement: Studies have found that individuals who use AI-assisted hearing aids are more successful when it comes to managing their social involvement. This is probably because the speech they hear is clearer in a wider variety of environments. But that doesn’t automatically mean AI will make-or-break your social life. Likely, it simply helps people who are already social better preserve their relationships.
- Helping you listen to devices: Microphones from cell phones, speaker phones, televisions, and other array 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.
- You have more control over how you hear: Many AI-assisted hearing devices give you the option to turn off those algorithms. So the clarity of sound users hear will be more in their control. And this normally translates into hearing better more often.
How does this impact patients?
For people who use AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits frequently become real-world advantages. Imagine you were at a party having a discussion. If you were using an older-style hearing aid, it would just boost the volume up. And unfortunately, background noise also gets boosted making it impossible to hear voices. An AI hearing aid is intelligent and will be capable of identifying and boosting a person’s voice while dulling undesired noise.
AI learns to recognize sounds and creates a location-by-location algorithm. These algorithms help when you go back to a particular location or sound profile. Other hearing aids with AI are programmed with everyday sounds in order to better identify and amplify important sounds.
Here are some other practical advantages to AI-assisted hearing aids:
- You will have improved quality of life.
- You won’t be aggravated because you can’t hear (at least, not as often).
- The cognitive load will be reduced.
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 wasn’t available in the vast majority of hearing aids owing to the costs involved. An algorithm is, in fact, an intricate math equation. However, partially because of the preponderance of the technology, prices for AI hearing devices are beginning to go down.
That isn’t saying that those hearing aids will absolutely come down in price soon and you still might end up choosing a model that doesn’t have AI capabilities. Obviously, the decision making is in the hands of the patient. But AI functions are becoming more readily obtainable and common.
Figuring out what choice is best for you
For someone who lives alone and doesn’t go out very much, hearing aids with AI may not be worth the extra cost. To someone who is socially active and finds themselves in scenarios with lots of competing sounds, however, it makes a big difference.
Hearing aids with AI are also practical for somebody who is quickly worn out in social scenarios where the task of keeping up with conversations using a traditional hearing aid is fatiguing. Social situations are easier and the user will feel less exhausted 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. As technology and AI improve, hearing aids will continue to too.
Want to find out how AI hearing aids can help you? Schedule an appointment with us right away.