When someone mentions artificial intelligence (AI), it may conjure thoughts of your favorite sci-fi movie. But nowadays, AI is more science than just fiction. This is especially true with regard to hearing aids. The times when hearing aids simply boosted the volume and were one-size-fits-all are gone forever. Modern, high-end hearing aids use AI.
What is artificial intelligence?
AI is a type of technology that uses complex algorithms to generate new results from inputs of data. In doing this, AI algorithms take part in a type of learning, aptly called “machine learning”. Once 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 needs. This makes your hearing aid more successful at improving your hearing.
How does AI help hearing aids work better?
This might feel a bit abstract initially. After all, hearing aids appear to have a rather basic function. How can things be improved by adding AI to the mix? Well, imagine a recording studio with the soundboard full of switches and dials. (Perhaps you’ve seen them in movies.) There’s a tiny one of those inside of your hearing aid. Adjusting these settings can deliver better quality sound. AI-powered hearing aids move these digital dials and switches automatically, enhancing the way you hear without any hassle on your part.
These smart devices use a rich neural network to imitate human brain responses. Without even being programmed to, these devices respond to real-time conditions 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. Newer cars utilize this technology to help you drive more safely and your email provider uses it to auto-sort emails into your inbox. The more you use these devices, the more reliable they become at making correct decisions.
New advancements in AI hearing aids
Hearing aids these days are helping you hear even better with new advancements in AI technology. Here are a few of the best examples:
- Edge mode: This is a user activated, AI assist mode. Essentially, you can initiate something called edge mode whenever you’re having a hard time hearing. When this is activated AI will begin working on cleaning up what you’re hearing.
- Noisy room filters: New AI algorithms can help to filter out room noise in a number of loud or echo-prone locations. A hearing aid can have a hard time with cross-talk, for instance. But even in a loud setting, you’ll be capable of hearing more clearly what the individual across from you is saying as AI filters out unwanted information.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: During the pandemic, everyone was masking up, which was good, but certainly made talking with a hearing aid more difficult. 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 properties. Some of those qualities are helpful for your hearing aids; some are negative 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.
Hearing aid makers and scientists are continuously innovating new hearing aid technologies, so this may be just the beginning.
How is AI utilized in the discipline of audiology?
These days, AI has kind of become something of a buzzword. Depending on the application, AI does different things, which can sometimes result in confusion. So, what does AI mean for the discipline of audiology?
First off, it means that scientists are looking for ways to make hearing aids even more helpful to patients. New technologies, such as 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 detecting hearing loss or even helping patients avoid future hearing loss.
Patients will see 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 isn’t being incorporated into hearing aids simply because it’s the popular new thing. These machine learning algorithms provide some considerable benefits to patients. Here are a few of those benefits:
- Health tracking and fall prevention: When you’re using a hearing aid and you take a tumble, your AI-assisted device can detect the severity of your fall. In some situations, these hearing aids might be programmed to automatically notify authorities or loved ones if there is a severe fall. AI can also make your health information easier to understand, helping you know when you should be moving more, eating healthier, or just drinking more water.
- You have more control over how you hear: You can activate AI or turn it off with most AI-assisted hearing devices. This means hearing aid users will have more control over the quality of sound they hear. And this often means hearing better more frequently.
- Helping you listen to devices: Your hearing aid can get feedback from lots of devices, like televisions, cell phones, speaker phones, and a range of other devices. This feedback can be filtered out by machine learning algorithms so the sound you want to hear is the only sound you will hear.
- Social engagement: When it comes to managing social interaction, people who use AI-assisted hearing aids tend to be more successful, according to some studies. This is probably because the speech they hear is clearer in a larger number of environments. But that doesn’t necessarily mean AI will make-or-break your social life. It most likely just helps people better maintain the relationships they already have.
How does this impact patients?
For people with AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits frequently translate into real-world advantages. Imagine you were at a party having a conversation. An older hearing aid would raise the volume on everything. This isn’t useful because the conversation you actually care about will get overpowered by background noise. With AI, the hearing aid can listen to the noise around you and react the way your brain would, lowering background noise and focusing on your friends’ voices.
AI will generate a location-by-location algorithm to address the various kinds of sounds it picks up. These algorithms help when you return to a specific location or sound profile. In order to better identify and amplify important sounds, some AI hearing aids are programmed with day-to-day sounds.
Here are some other practical advantages to AI-assisted hearing aids:
- The cognitive burden will be decreased.
- You won’t be frustrated because you can’t hear (at least, not as frequently).
- You will have improved quality of life.
In other words, it’ll be simpler to hear your favorite shows, hang out with your favorite friends, and take care of your favorite brain.
Cost vs. reward
There was a time when AI was not available in most hearing aids owing to the costs involved. After all, the device itself must perform some extreme calculations (an algorithm, of course, is essentially a very fancy math problem). But prices are coming down, partially due to the prevalence of the technology.
This doesn’t mean that every hearing aid you want may 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
Hearing aids with AI might be too much for somebody who lives by themselves and stays put a lot. But AI makes a huge difference for people who are socially involved and go out into loud situations a lot.
Hearing aids with AI are also practical for someone who is rapidly worn out in social scenarios where the task of keeping up with conversations using a traditional hearing aid is exhausting. Social situations are simpler and the user will feel less tired 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 develop, hearing aids will continue to too.
Want to see how AI hearing aids can help you? Make an appointment with us right away.