When someone talks about artificial intelligence (AI), it may conjure thoughts of your favorite sci-fi movie. But these days, AI is more science than just fiction. With regard to hearing aids, this is especially true. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all hearing aids that simply increase the volume of sounds around you. Modern-day, high-end hearing aids utilize AI.
Artificial intelligence – what exactly is it?
AI is a complex computer algorithm that utilizes data inputs to produce new results. In this way, AI algorithms participate in a type of learning, aptly called “machine learning”. With AI the user doesn’t need 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 adjust to your personal needs depending on your behaviors, lifestyle, habits, and level of hearing loss. This makes your hearing aid more effective at improving your hearing.
How does AI help hearing aids work better?
At first, this may seem a bit abstract. Hearing aids do seem to have a basic function, after all. How can things be improved 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? (You’ve likely seen them in movies.) Your hearing aid contains one of those! (It’s minuscule.) Changing these settings can produce 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 deep neural network to imitate human brain responses. Without even being programmed to, these devices react to real-time conditions because of this.
This may sound like space-age science, but it’s the same basic technology that allows streaming services to suggest programming based on your viewing history. 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.
New improvements in AI hearing aids
Hearing aids nowadays are helping you hear even better with new advancements in AI technology. Here are a few of the best examples:
- Noisy room filters: If you’re in a setting that has lots of echoes, or is extremely loud, new AI technology algorithms can filter out room noise. Cross talk, for instance, can often be hard on a hearing aid. But even in a noisy environment, you’ll be able to hear more clearly what the person across from you is talking about as AI filters out unwanted information.
- Edge mode: This is an assist mode which can be activated by the user. Basically, when you have a hard time hearing, you can activate something called Edge Mode. When this is triggered AI will begin working on clearing up what you’re hearing.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: During the pandemic, everybody was wearing masks, which was good, but certainly made talking 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.
- Acoustic environment classification: Every room you walk into has its own unique acoustic characteristics. Some of those properties are helpful for your hearing aids; some are bad for your hearing aids. With AI technology, your hearing aid can effortlessly make automatic corrections that let you hear better in just about any environment.
This is most likely only the beginning of the advancements scientists and manufacturers are making.
AI for the field of audiology
AI has become somewhat of a buzzword these days. Everybody’s heard it, which is okay, but the trouble is that AI does different things depending on the contexts. So when it comes to the field of audiology, how does AI fit in.
First off, it means that researchers are looking for ways to make hearing aids even more beneficial to patients. This research includes new technologies, such as deep neural networks and machine learning. But hearing aids aren’t all there is to it. Helping patients hear better and even diagnosing hearing loss are some things that AI will likely do in the future.
Patients will find AI in more and more of their devices as the technology becomes more reliable.
The advantages of AI-assisted hearing aids
Unlike some other industries, AI is not being integrated into hearing aids just because it’s the popular new thing. Some significant advantages to patients are provided by these machine learning algorithms. Among those advantages are the following:
- Helping you listen to devices: Your hearing aid can get feedback from a wide variety of devices, like televisions, cell phones, speaker phones, and a myriad of other devices. Machine learning algorithms can help by filtering out this feedback, so all you hear is the sound you actually want to hear.
- Health tracking and fall prevention: When you’re wearing a hearing aid and you take a tumble, your AI-assisted device can detect the seriousness of your fall. In some cases, these hearing aids may be programmed to automatically notify authorities or loved ones if there is a major fall. AI can also make your health information easier to interpret, helping you know when you should be exercising more, eating better, or just hydrating more.
- 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 normally translates into hearing better more frequently.
- Social engagement: Studies have revealed that individuals who wear AI-assisted hearing aids are more successful with regard to dealing with their social engagement. This is likely because the speech they hear is clearer in a larger number of settings. With that being said, it’s not completely clear that AI is the defining factor in keeping your social life afloat. Likely, it simply helps people who are already social better manage their relationships.
What this means for patients
For people with AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits often become real-world advantages. 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 impossible to hear voices. An AI hearing aid is intelligent and will be capable of identifying and boosting a person’s voice while lowering undesired noise.
AI will generate a location-by-location algorithm to address the various types of sounds it detects. If you go back to a particular location or sound profile, AI can activate these algorithms. In order to better identify and amplify important sounds, some AI hearing aids are programmed with everyday sounds.
Here are some other practical advantages to AI-assisted hearing aids:
- You won’t be frustrated because you can’t hear (at least, not as frequently).
- The cognitive burden will be decreased.
- You will have improved quality of life.
In other words, it’ll be simpler to hear your favorite shows, hang out with your favorite people, and take care of your favorite brain.
Reward vs. cost
There was a time when AI wasn’t offered in most hearing aids owing to the costs involved. After all, the device itself has to do some intense calculations (an algorithm, of course, is basically a very elegant math problem). But prices are decreasing, partially due to the prevalence of the technology.
That’s not saying that those hearing aids will definitely come down in price soon and you still might end up choosing a model that doesn’t have AI functionality. Clearly, the decision making is in the hands of the patient. But, it does mean that these AI-assisted features are becoming more common and more readily available.
Finding out what option is best for you
Hearing aids with AI might be too much for somebody who lives by themselves and stays home a lot. But AI makes a huge difference for individuals who are socially involved and go out into noisy situations a lot.
For somebody who uses traditional hearing aids and still gets exhausted easily in social scenarios, AI hearing aids would be really helpful. 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 improve, hearing aids will continue to as well.
How can AI technology help you? Make an appointment with us right away.