You might think of your favorite sci-fi movie when somebody starts talking about artificial intelligence (AI). But today, AI is a reality that we all need to get used to. With regard to hearing aids, this is especially true. Gone is the time of one-size-fits-all hearing aids that simply raise the volume of sounds around you. Modern-day, 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. AI is able to use an algorithm to participate in a kind of learning called “machine learning”. When the algorithm is working correctly, there’s no need to “program” the AI to produce each separate result.
In the case of hearing aids, AI algorithms can help your hearing aids adjust to your personal requirements depending on your behaviors, lifestyle, habits, and degree of hearing loss. This makes your hearing aid more successful at improving your hearing.
How can you hear better with AI?
This may feel a little abstract initially. Hearing aids do seem to have a straightforward function, after all. How can adding AI to the mix improve things? Well, you know that row of big dials and switches that people utilize to mix music in recording studios? (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 the way you hear without any work by you.
These smart devices use a rich neural network to imitate human brain responses. Without even being programmed to, these devices respond to real-time situations because of this.
This is the same technology that lets streaming services suggest movies according to your viewing history, though it most likely sounds like space-aged technology at first. 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 improvements in AI hearing aids
Hearing aids these days are helping you hear even better with new advancements in AI technology. Some of the most relevant examples include the following:
- 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. AI algorithms can automatically amplify those voices behind the facemask, helping those with hearing aids hear better and remain safe at the same time.
- Acoustic environment classification: Distinctive audio properties come with each specific room you go into. Some of those properties are good for your hearing aids; some are bad for your hearing aids. With AI technology, your hearing aid can effectively make automatic adjustments that let you hear better in nearly any environment.
- 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 instance, can often be difficult on a hearing aid. But with an AI filtering out non-imperative 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. When this is activated AI will start working on cleaning up what you’re hearing.
Hearing aid manufacturers and scientists are continuously developing new hearing aid technologies, so this may be just the beginning.
AI for the field of audiology
AI has become somewhat of a buzzword these days. Depending on the context, AI does different things, which can in some cases lead to confusion. 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 helpful to patients. This research includes new technologies, like deep neural networks and machine learning. But it isn’t just hearing aids. Helping patients hear better and even diagnosing hearing loss are some things that AI will most likely do in the future.
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
AI is being integrated into hearing aids not because it’s the popular new fad, unlike other industries. These machine learning algorithms offer some considerable benefits to patients. Here are some of those benefits:
- Social engagement: With regard to dealing with social interaction, individuals who use AI-assisted hearing aids are likely to be more successful, according to some research. The speech that they hear will be clearer in a wide spectrum of settings, which most likely accounts for better social engagement. Having said that, it’s not entirely clear that AI is the defining factor in keeping your social life healthy. It most likely just helps people better preserve the relationships they already have.
- You have more control over how you hear: Many AI-assisted hearing devices give you the option to turn those algorithms on or off. This means hearing aid users will have more control over the clarity of sound they hear. And this normally means a better all-around hearing experience.
- 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. In some situations, these hearing aids may be programmed to automatically alert authorities or loved ones in the event of a major fall. AI can also make your health data easier to understand, helping you know when you should be moving more, eating better, or just hydrating more.
- 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. This feedback can be filtered out by machine learning algorithms so the sound you want to hear is the only sound you will hear.
How does this affect patients?
These benefits often lead to real-world advantages for those with these AI-assisted hearing aids. Imagine you were at a party having a conversation. An older hearing aid would make everything louder. And unfortunately, background noise also gets boosted making it impossible to hear voices. With AI, the hearing aid can listen to the noise around you and respond the way your brain would, lowering background noise and focusing on your friends’ voices.
AI learns to recognize sounds and generates a location-by-location program. If you go back to a specific location or sound profile, AI can activate these algorithms. Other hearing aids with AI are programmed with day-to-day sounds in order to better identify and amplify important sounds.
Some of the other practical advantages of AI-assisted hearing aids include the following:
- Your quality of life will get better.
- Your brain will have a lower cognitive load.
- You won’t be frustrated because you can’t hear (at least, not as frequently).
You will be able to spend time 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 was not available in most hearing aids because of the costs involved. After all, the device itself has to perform some intense calculations (an algorithm, after all, is basically a very elegant math problem). But prices are decreasing, partially 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 expensive in the near future. Obviously, patients will still need to make important decisions. But AI functions are becoming more widely available and prevalent.
Deciding what’s best for you
For somebody who lives alone and doesn’t go out very much, hearing aids with AI might not be worth the added cost. But AI makes a big difference for people who are socially active and go out into noisy situations a lot.
Hearing aids with AI are also practical for someone who is quickly worn out in social situations where the chore of keeping up with conversations using a traditional hearing aid is exhausting. Social situations are easier and the user will feel less exhausted 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. As technology and AI develop, hearing aids will continue to as well.
Want to see how AI hearing aids can work for you? Call us to set up an appointment!