You may think of your favorite sci-fi movie when somebody starts talking about artificial intelligence (AI). But nowadays, AI is more science than just fiction. When it comes to hearing aids, this is especially true. Gone is the time of one-size-fits-all hearing aids that just increase the volume of sounds around you. Modern, high-end hearing aids use AI.
What is artificial intelligence?
AI is a type of technology that makes use of complex algorithms to produce new results from inputs of data. In this way, AI algorithms take part in a type of learning, aptly called “machine learning”. As soon as the algorithm is working correctly, there’s no need to “program” the AI to generate each individual result.
Depending on the degree of hearing loss, lifestyle, and habits, AI in hearing aids can make modifications depending on your behaviors and your requirements. This makes your hearing aid more effective at improving your hearing.
How can you hear better with AI?
Initially, this might seem a bit abstract. Hearing aids do seem to have a basic function, after all. How can adding AI to the situation improve things? Well, imagine a recording studio with the soundboard full of switches and dials. (Perhaps you’ve seen them in movies.) Your hearing aid has one of those! (It’s minuscule.) Adjusting these settings can deliver better sound quality. AI-powered hearing aids change these digital dials and switches automatically, enhancing how you hear without any hassle on your part.
This AI hearing aid imitates human brain response using a deep neural network. Because of this, these hearing aids react in real-time to conditions without being programmed to deal with them.
This is the same technology that lets streaming services suggest movies according to your viewing history, though it most likely sounds like futuristic technology at first. AI is also found in cars and the emails auto-sorted into your inbox. These devices become more adept at making correct choices the more you use them.
AI hearing aids – new advances
Hearing aids nowadays are helping you hear even better with new developments in AI technology. Some of the most relevant examples include the following:
- Edge mode: This is a user activated, AI assist mode. Essentially, when you have a hard time hearing, you can activate something called Edge Mode. When this is initiated 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 definitely made talking with a hearing aid more challenging. You can stay safer and hear better simultaneously as AI algorithms can amplify the voice behind the facemask.
- Noisy room filters: New AI algorithms can help to filter out room noise in a variety of loud or echo-prone settings. A hearing aid can have a hard time with cross-talk, for instance. 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.
- Acoustic environment classification: Distinctive audio qualities come with each specific room you go into. Your hearing aids can handle some of those properties, but others it can’t handle very well. You will hear better in almost any environment with AI technology making practical automatic adjustments.
This is probably only the start of the developments scientists and manufacturers are making.
How is AI utilized in the field of audiology?
AI has become a bit of a buzzword these days. Everybody’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 discipline of audiology?
Making hearing aids even more useful for patients is one of the first and most obvious things that researchers are tackling. New technologies, like machine learning and deep neural networks, are a big part of this research. But hearing aids aren’t the whole story. Helping patients hear better and even diagnosing hearing loss are a couple of the things that AI will probably do in the future.
As the technology grows and becomes more reliable, patients can expect to find artificial intelligence in more of their devices.
The advantages of AI-assisted hearing aids
AI is being integrated into hearing aids not because it’s the popular new fad, in contrast to other industries. Some significant advantages to patients are provided by these machine learning algorithms. Among those advantages are the following:
- Social engagement: With regard to managing social interaction, people who utilize AI-assisted hearing aids tend to be more successful, according to some research. This is probably 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 deciding factor in keeping your social life afloat. Likely, it simply helps those who are already social better manage their relationships.
- Health tracking and fall prevention: When you’re using a hearing aid and you take a fall, your AI-assisted device can detect the seriousness of your fall. If there is a severe fall, these hearing aids can, in some situations, notify the Authorities. Should you be hydrating more, exercising more, eating better? AI can make your health data easier to understand.
- 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 range of other devices. Machine learning algorithms can help filter out this feedback, so all you will hear is the sound you really want to hear.
- You have more control over how you hear: You can activate AI or turn it off with most AI-assisted hearing devices. So the clarity of sound users hear will be more in their control. And this normally means a better all-around hearing experience.
What this means for patients
For people with AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits often result in real-world advantages. Imagine you are having a conversation at a party. If you had an older-style hearing aid, it would just crank the volume up. This isn’t useful because the conversation you actually care about will get drowned out by background noise. An AI hearing aid is intelligent and will be able to identify and boost a person’s voice while dulling unwanted noise.
AI will create a location-by-location program to address the various kinds of sounds it picks up. If you return to a particular location or sound profile, AI can activate these algorithms. In order to better define and amplify important sounds, some AI hearing aids are programmed with day-to-day sounds.
Some of the other practical benefits of AI-assisted hearing aids include the following:
- The cognitive load will be reduced.
- Your quality of life will get better.
- You won’t be frustrated because you can’t hear (at least, not as often).
You will be able to hang out with friends again, watch your favorite shows, and take good care of your brain, in other words.
Reward vs. cost
There was a time when AI was not available in the vast majority of hearing aids because of the costs involved. 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 coming down, partially due to the prevalence of the technology.
That isn’t saying that those hearing aids will definitely come down in price soon and you still might wind up choosing a model that doesn’t have AI capabilities. Obviously, 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.
Deciding what’s best for you
For someone who lives alone and doesn’t go out much, hearing aids with AI might not be worth the extra cost. To somebody who is socially involved and finds themselves in situations with lots of competing sounds, however, it makes a huge difference.
For somebody who uses traditional hearing aids and still gets fatigued easily in social situations, AI hearing aids would be very helpful. Social situations are easier and the user will feel less fatigued with AI hearing aids. 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 continue to improve as AI technology improves.
Want to see how AI hearing aids can work for you? Schedule an appointment with us right away.