When somebody talks about artificial intelligence (AI), it may arouse thoughts of your favorite sci-fi movie. But today, AI is a reality that we all better get accustomed to. This is particularly true when it comes to hearing aids. The days when hearing aids simply boosted the volume and were one-size-fits-all are gone forever. Modern, high-end hearing aids use AI.
Artificial intelligence – what exactly is it?
AI is a type of technology that makes use of complex algorithms to generate new results from inputs of data. In this way, AI algorithms engage in a type of learning, appropriately called “machine learning”. When the algorithm is working correctly, 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 adjust to your personal needs depending on your behaviors, lifestyle, habits, and level of hearing loss. Your hearing aids will be more effective at improving your ability to hear as a result.
How can you hear better with AI?
At first, this might seem a bit abstract. Hearing aids do seem to have a basic function, after all. How can things be enhanced by adding AI to the mix? Well, you know that row of big knobs and buttons that people utilize to mix music in recording studios? (Maybe you’ve seen them in movies.) Your hearing aid contains one of those! (It’s minuscule.) Altering these settings can deliver better quality sound. AI-powered hearing aids move these digital dials and switches automatically, enhancing how you hear without any hassle on your part.
These smart devices use a rich neural network to emulate human brain responses. As a result of this, these hearing aids respond in real-time to conditions 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 space-aged technology initially. AI is also found in cars and the emails auto-sorted into your inbox. These devices become more proficient at making correct decisions the more you use them.
AI hearing aids – new innovations
Presently, hearing aids are incorporating several brand new advances in AI to help you hear even better. Here are some of the best examples:
- Noisy room filters: If you’re in a setting that has a lot of echoes, or is overly loud, new AI technology algorithms can separate out room noise. 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 individual across from you is saying, even in a packed or noisy setting.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: Conversations were undoubtedly harder 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.
- Acoustic environment classification: Distinctive audio qualities come with each individual room you go into. Some of those qualities are helpful for your hearing aids; some are bad for your hearing aids. You will hear better in nearly any environment with AI technology making effective automatic adjustments.
- Edge mode: This is an assist mode which can be activated by the user. Basically, you can activate something known as edge mode whenever you’re having a hard time hearing. This then activates the AI algorithm and the algorithm will get to work trying to make your hearing clearer.
This is probably only the start of the advancements scientists and manufacturers are making.
AI for the discipline of audiology
AI has become somewhat of a buzzword these days. Depending on the application, AI does different things, which can in some cases result in confusion. So, what does AI mean for the field of audiology?
Making hearing aids even more useful for patients is one of the first and most evident things that researchers are tackling. New technologies, such as machine learning and deep neural networks, are a big part of this research. But it isn’t just hearing aids. Helping patients hear better and even diagnosing hearing loss are some things that AI will likely do in the future.
Patients will see AI in more and more of their devices as the technology becomes more reliable.
The advantages 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. Some considerable advantages to patients are offered by these machine learning algorithms. Here are a few of those benefits:
- Social engagement: With regard to managing social interaction, people who use AI-assisted hearing aids tend to be more successful, according to some studies. This is most likely because the speech they hear is clearer in a larger number of settings. But that doesn’t automatically mean AI will make-or-break your social life. Most likely, it simply helps people who are already social better maintain 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. In some cases, these hearing aids might be programmed to automatically notify authorities or loved ones in the event of a severe fall. Should you be drinking more water, exercising more, eating healthier? AI can make your health information easier to understand.
- Helping you listen to devices: Microphones from cell phones, speaker phones, televisions, and other myriad devices can cause your hearing aids to feedback. This feedback can be filtered out by machine learning algorithms so the sound you want to hear is the only sound you will hear.
- You have more control over how you hear: You can activate AI or turn it off with most AI-assisted hearing aids. This means hearing aid users will have more control over the quality of sound they hear. And this normally means a better overall hearing experience.
What this means for patients
These benefits often become real-world advantages for people with these AI-assisted hearing aids. Imagine you were at a party having a discussion. If you were using an older-style hearing aid, it would just crank the volume up. And sadly, background noise also gets boosted making it impossible to hear voices. An AI hearing aid is intelligent and will be able to identify and boost a person’s voice while dulling unwanted noise.
AI will generate a location-by-location algorithm to deal with the various kinds of sounds it detects. If you return to a specific location or sound profile, AI can activate these programs. Other hearing aids with AI are programmed with day-to-day sounds in order to better identify and amplify important sounds.
Here are some other practical benefits to AI-assisted hearing aids:
- You won’t be frustrated because you can’t hear (at least, not as often).
- Your brain will have a lower cognitive burden.
- Your quality of life will improve.
You will be able to hang out 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 owing to the costs involved. After all, the device itself must perform some extreme calculations (an algorithm, after all, is basically a very elegant math problem). However, partially because of the preponderance of the technology, prices for AI hearing aids are beginning to go down.
That’s not saying that those hearing aids will definitely come down in price soon and you still may wind up wanting a model that doesn’t have AI functionality. Clearly, patients will still have to make important decisions. But, it does mean that these AI-assisted features are becoming more prevalent and more readily available.
Deciding what’s best for you
For someone who lives alone and doesn’t go out very much, hearing aids with AI may not be worth the additional cost. To somebody who is socially involved and finds themselves in conditions with lots of competing sounds, however, it makes a big difference.
For someone who uses traditional hearing aids and still gets fatigued easily in social scenarios, AI hearing aids would be very helpful. AI-powered hearing aids decrease the listener’s fatigue and make social situations more enjoyable. 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 improve, hearing aids will continue to too.
How can AI technology help you? Contact us to set up an appointment!