When someone mentions artificial intelligence (AI), it may conjure thoughts of your favorite sci-fi movie. But today, AI is a reality that we all better get accustomed to. This is especially true when it comes to hearing aids. The days when hearing aids simply amplified the volume and were one-size-fits-all are gone forever. AI is at the root of contemporary hearing aids.
What is artificial intelligence?
AI is a form of technology that uses complex algorithms to generate new results from inputs of data. AI is capable of using an algorithm to participate in a type of learning called “machine learning”. With AI the user doesn’t need to program every specific result because the algorithm does that on its own.
In the instance 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 as a result.
How does AI help hearing aids work better?
This might seem a little abstract initially. After all, hearing aids appear to have a pretty basic function. 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.) Your hearing aid has one of those! (It’s tiny.) Changing these settings can deliver better sound quality. With hearing aids that are powered by AI, these settings are changed automatically without needing you to do anything.
This AI hearing aid mimics human brain response using a rich neural network. As a result of this, these hearing aids react in real-time to situations without being programmed to do so.
This may sound like futuristic science, but it’s the same basic technology that allows streaming services to suggest programming based on your viewing history. AI is also found in cars and the emails auto-sorted into your inbox. The more you utilize these devices, the more reliable they become at making proper decisions.
AI hearing aids – new advances
These days, hearing aids are incorporating several brand new advances in AI to help you hear even better. Some of the most relevant examples include the following:
- Noisy room filters: If you’re in a location that has lots of echoes, or is excessively loud, new AI technology algorithms can separate out room noise. Cross talk, for example, can often be difficult on a hearing aid. 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 crowded or noisy environment.
- Acoustic environment classification: Distinctive audio qualities come with each specific room you go into. Your hearing aids can handle some of those properties, but others it doesn’t do so well with. With AI technology, your hearing aid can effortlessly make automatic corrections that allow you to hear better in just about any setting.
- Helping you hear through facemasks: Conversations were definitely harder during the pandemic when everybody was wearing a facemask. AI algorithms can automatically amplify those voices behind the facemask, helping individuals with hearing aids hear better and stay safe at the same time.
- Edge mode: This is a user activated, AI assist mode. In essence, when you have a hard time hearing, you can activate something called Edge Mode. This then activates the AI algorithm and the algorithm will start working to make your hearing clearer.
This is probably only the start of the developments scientists and manufacturers are making.
How is AI employed in the field of audiology?
These days, AI has sort of become something of a buzzword. Depending on the context, AI does different things, which can occasionally result in 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 beneficial to patients. New technologies, like machine learning and deep neural networks, are included in this research. But hearing aids aren’t all there is to it. In the future, AI might be able to help with diagnosing hearing loss or even helping patients avoid future hearing loss.
As the technology expands and becomes more dependable, patients can expect to see artificial intelligence in more of their devices.
AI-assisted hearing aids and their advantages
AI is being incorporated into hearing aids not because it’s the hot new fad, unlike other industries. Some considerable advantages to patients are offered by these machine learning algorithms. Here are a few of those benefits:
- 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.
- Health tracking and fall prevention: If you accidentally fall while you’re wearing your hearing aids, your AI-assisted devices may be able to detect the significance and severity of your tumble. In the event of 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: Studies have found that individuals who wear AI-assisted hearing aids are more successful with regard to dealing with their social engagement. The speech that they hear will be clearer in a wide variety of settings, which probably accounts for better social engagement. That said, it’s not completely clear that AI is the defining factor in keeping your social life afloat. Likely, it simply helps those who are already social better maintain their relationships.
- You have more control over how you hear: Many AI-assisted hearing aids give you the option to turn off those algorithms. So the clarity of sound users hear will be more in their control. And this usually translates into hearing better more frequently.
How does this affect patients?
For people with AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits frequently translate into real-world advantages. Imagine you were at a party having a discussion. An older hearing aid would make everything louder. This isn’t practical because the conversation you actually care about will get drowned out by background noise. An AI hearing aid is intelligent and will be capable of identifying and boosting a person’s voice while dulling unwanted noise.
AI learns to identify sounds and generates a location-by-location program. These programs help when you go back to a particular location or sound profile. Other hearing aids with AI are programmed with day-to-day sounds in order to better define and amplify important sounds.
Some of the other practical benefits of AI-assisted hearing aids include the following:
- The cognitive load will be decreased.
- You won’t be frustrated because you can’t hear (at least, not as frequently).
- Your quality of life will get better.
You will be able to hang out with friends again, watch your favorite shows, and take good care of your brain, in other words.
Reward vs. cost
Due to the costs, AI wasn’t offered in most hearing aids until recently. 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.
That’s not saying that those hearing aids will definitely come down in price soon and you still might end up wanting a model that doesn’t have AI capabilities. Obviously, patients will still need to make important choices. But, it does mean that these AI-assisted features are becoming more common and more readily available.
Deciding what’s best for you
Hearing aids with AI might be overkill for somebody who lives by themselves and stays put a lot. To someone who is socially active and finds themselves in conditions with lots of competing sounds, however, it makes a huge difference.
Hearing aids with AI are also helpful for someone who is rapidly worn out in social situations where the chore of keeping up with conversations using a traditional hearing aid is exhausting. AI-powered hearing aids reduce the listener’s exhaustion 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 as well.
Want to find out how AI hearing aids can help you? Call us to make an appointment!