When someone mentions artificial intelligence (AI), it may arouse thoughts of your favorite sci-fi movie. But today, AI is a reality that we all need to get accustomed to. This is especially true when it comes to hearing aids. The days when hearing aids merely amplified the volume and were one-size-fits-all are gone forever. Modern, high-end hearing aids utilize AI.
What is artificial intelligence?
AI is a sophisticated computer algorithm that makes use of data inputs to produce new results. AI is able to use an algorithm to engage in a type of learning known as “machine learning”. With AI the user doesn’t have to program every individual 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 based on your behaviors, lifestyle, habits, and level of hearing loss. Your hearing aids will be more effective at increasing your ability to hear because of this.
How can you hear better with AI?
Initially, this could seem a little abstract. Hearing aids do seem to have a basic function, after all. How can adding AI to the situation improve things? Well, you know that row of big dials and buttons that people utilize to mix music in recording studios? (You’ve likely seen them in movies.) There’s a tiny one of those inside of your hearing aid. Better sound quality can be achieved by modifying these settings. 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 re-create human brain responses. As a result of this, these hearing aids react in real-time to situations without being programmed to do so.
This is the same technology that allows streaming services to recommend movies based on your viewing history, though it probably sounds like futuristic technology at first. AI is also found 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 developments in AI technology. Some of the most relevant examples include the following:
- Edge mode: This is an assist mode which can be activated by the user. Basically, you can initiate something called edge mode whenever you’re having a difficult time hearing. This then triggers the AI algorithm and the algorithm will get to work trying to make your hearing clearer.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: During the pandemic, everybody was wearing masks, which was good, but definitely 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 simultaneously.
- Noisy room filters: If you’re in a setting that has lots of echoes, or is extremely loud, new AI technology algorithms can separate out room noise. A hearing aid can have a hard time with cross-talk, for example. But even in a loud environment, you’ll be capable of hearing more clearly what the individual across from you is talking about as AI filters out unwanted information.
- Acoustic environment classification: Distinctive audio qualities come with each specific room you walk into. Your hearing aids can deal with some of those properties, but others it can’t handle very well. With AI technology, your hearing aid can effectively make automatic corrections that let you hear better in nearly any environment.
This is most likely only the start of the advancements scientists and manufacturers are making.
How is AI employed in the field of audiology?
AI has become somewhat of a buzzword these days. Everybody’s heard it, which is good, but the difficulty is that AI does different things depending on the applications. So with regard to the field of audiology, how does AI integrate.
First, it means that researchers are looking for ways to make hearing aids even more useful to patients. New technologies, like 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 may be able to help with detecting hearing loss or even helping patients avoid future hearing loss.
Patients will find AI in more and more of their devices as the technology becomes more reliable.
AI-assisted hearing aids and their benefits
In contrast to some other industries, AI is not being integrated into hearing aids just because it’s the hot new fad. These machine learning algorithms offer some significant advantages to patients. Among those advantages are the following:
- Helping you listen to devices: Microphones from cell phones, speaker phones, televisions, and other myriad devices can cause feedback in your hearing aids. This feedback can be filtered out by machine learning algorithms so the sound you actually want to hear is the only sound you will hear.
- 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 means a better all-around hearing experience.
- Health tracking and fall prevention: When you’re wearing a hearing aid and you take a fall, your AI-assisted device can determine the severity of your fall. If there is a severe fall, these hearing aids can, in some situations, notify the Authorities. Should you be drinking more water, exercising more, eating better? AI can make your health information easier to interpret.
- Social engagement: In terms of 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 environments. Having said that, it’s not entirely clear that AI is the defining factor in keeping your social life afloat. It most likely just helps people better maintain the relationships they already have.
How does this impact patients?
These benefits often become real-world advantages for those with these AI-assisted hearing aids. Imagine you are having a discussion at a party. An older hearing aid would raise the volume on everything. And sadly, 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 identify sounds and creates 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 everyday sounds in order to better define and amplify important sounds.
Here are some other practical advantages to AI-assisted hearing aids:
- You will have improved quality of life.
- The cognitive burden will be reduced.
- You won’t be frustrated because you can’t hear (at least, not as often).
In other words, it’ll be easier 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 was not offered in most hearing aids owing to the costs involved. An algorithm is, in fact, a complex math equation. However, partially because of the preponderance of the technology, prices for AI hearing aids are beginning to go down.
This doesn’t mean that every hearing aid you want may have AI, or even that those hearing aids will automatically be less expensive 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 common and more readily available.
Deciding what’s best for you
For somebody who lives alone and doesn’t go out much, hearing aids with AI might not be worth the extra cost. But AI makes a big difference for individuals who are socially active and go out into loud situations a lot.
For someone who uses traditional hearing aids and still gets exhausted easily in social scenarios, AI hearing aids would be very helpful. 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. Hearing aids will keep improving as AI technology improves.
How can AI technology help you? Contact us to schedule an appointment!