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 accustomed to. This is especially true with regard to hearing aids. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all hearing aids that merely raise the volume of sounds around you. AI is at the root of contemporary hearing aids.
Artificial intelligence – what exactly is it?
AI is a form of technology that utilizes complex algorithms to generate new results from inputs of data. In doing this, AI algorithms engage in a kind of learning, appropriately called “machine learning”. Once the algorithm is working properly, there’s no need to “program” the AI to generate each separate result.
In the instance of hearing aids, AI algorithms can help your hearing aids adapt to your personal requirements depending on your behaviors, lifestyle, habits, and degree of hearing loss. This makes your hearing aid more effective at improving your hearing.
How can you hear better with AI?
This might seem a bit abstract initially. After all, hearing aids appear to have a pretty basic function. How can adding AI to the mix improve things? Well, imagine a recording studio with the soundboard loaded with buttons and knobs. (You’ve probably seen them in movies.) There’s a tiny one of those inside of your hearing aid. Altering these settings can provide better quality sound. AI-powered hearing aids move these digital dials and switches automatically, improving how you hear without any work by you.
These smart devices use a deep neural network to re-create human brain responses. Without even being programmed to, these devices respond to real-time situations because of this.
This is the same technology that allows streaming services to suggest movies based on your viewing history, though it most likely sounds like futuristic technology initially. AI is also encountered in cars and the emails auto-sorted into your inbox. These devices become more adept at making correct choices the more you use them.
New advancements 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: 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 example. But with an AI filtering out non-imperative information, you’ll be able to hear more clearly what the individual across from you is saying, even in a packed or noisy setting.
- Edge mode: This is a user initiated, AI assist mode. Essentially, when you have a hard time hearing, you can activate something known as Edge Mode. This then activates the AI algorithm and the algorithm will get to work trying to make your hearing clearer.
- Acoustic environment classification: Distinctive audio properties come with each specific room you go into. Some of those qualities are helpful for your hearing aids; some are negative for your hearing aids. You will hear better in almost any environment with AI technology making practical automatic adjustments.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: Conversations were undoubtedly more difficult during the pandemic when everybody was wearing a facemask. You can remain safer and hear better simultaneously as AI algorithms can amplify the voice beneath the facemask.
This is probably only the beginning of the developments scientists and manufacturers are making.
AI for the discipline of audiology
These days, AI has sort of become a bit of a buzzword. Everyone’s heard it, which is good, but the trouble is that AI does different things depending on the contexts. 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 useful to patients. This research includes new technologies, including deep neural networks and machine learning. But it’s not just hearing aids. 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 develops and becomes more reliable, patients can expect to find artificial intelligence in more of their devices.
The benefits of AI-assisted hearing aids
AI is being integrated into hearing aids not because it’s the hot new fad, in contrast to other industries. These machine learning algorithms provide some significant advantages to patients. Here are some of those benefits:
- 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. In some cases, these hearing aids may be programmed to automatically notify authorities or loved ones in the event of a severe fall. AI can also make your health data easier to interpret, helping you know when you should be exercising more, eating better, or just drinking more water.
- 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 actually want to hear is the only sound you will hear.
- You have more control over how you hear: You can turn on AI or turn it off with most AI-assisted hearing devices. This means hearing aid wearers will have more control over the quality of sound they hear. And this normally translates into hearing better more often.
- Social engagement: When it comes to managing social interaction, people who utilize 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 variety of settings, which most likely accounts for better social interaction. But that doesn’t automatically mean AI will make-or-break your social life. Likely, it simply helps those who are already social better manage their relationships.
What this means for patients
For individuals who use AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits frequently lead to real-world advantages. Imagine you are having a discussion at a party. If you had an older-style hearing aid, it would just boost the volume up. This isn’t useful because the conversation you actually care about will get drowned out by background noise. With AI, the hearing aid can tune in to the noise around you and react the way your brain would, lowering background noise and focusing on your friends’ voices.
AI learns to recognize sounds and creates a location-by-location algorithm. If you return to a particular location or sound profile, AI can activate these programs. In order to better identify and amplify important sounds, some AI hearing aids are programmed with day-to-day sounds.
Some of the other practical advantages of AI-assisted hearing aids include the following:
- You will have improved quality of life.
- You will feel less frustrated because you will be able to hear better.
- The cognitive load will be reduced.
You will be able to spend time 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 wasn’t available in most hearing aids because of the costs involved. After all, the device itself must perform some intense calculations (an algorithm, of course, is basically a very fancy math problem). But prices are coming down, 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 wind up choosing a model that doesn’t have AI capabilities. Obviously, patients will still have to make important decisions. But AI features are becoming more widely obtainable and prevalent.
Deciding what’s best for you
Hearing aids with AI might be too much for someone who lives by themselves and stays home a lot. To someone who is socially involved and finds themselves in situations with many competing sounds, however, it makes a huge difference.
For someone who uses traditional hearing aids and still gets exhausted easily in social situations, AI hearing aids would be very helpful. AI-powered hearing aids reduce the listener’s exhaustion and make social situations more enjoyable. 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 find out how AI hearing aids can help you? Give us a call to set up an appointment!