You might think of your favorite sci-fi movie when somebody mentions artificial intelligence (AI). But today, AI is a reality that we all better get accustomed to. This is especially true with regard to hearing aids. The times when hearing aids simply boosted the volume and were one-size-fits-all are gone forever. AI is at the root of modern hearing aids.
What is artificial intelligence?
AI is a type of technology that makes use of sophisticated algorithms to generate new results from inputs of data. In doing this, AI algorithms engage in a kind of learning, aptly called “machine learning”. When the algorithm is working correctly, there’s no need to “program” the AI to generate each separate result.
In the case of hearing aids, AI algorithms can help your hearing aids adjust to your personal requirements 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 can you hear better with AI?
This might seem a bit abstract initially. After all, hearing aids seem to have a rather basic function. How can things be improved by adding AI to the mix? Well, picture 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. Better audio quality can be obtained by altering these settings. With hearing aids that are powered by AI, these settings are changed automatically without needing you to do anything.
These smart devices use a rich neural network to re-create human brain responses. Without even being programmed to, these devices react to real-time conditions because of this.
This might sound like space-age science, but it’s the same fundamental 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. These devices become more expert at making appropriate decisions the more you use them.
New improvements 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:
- Helping you hear through facemasks: During the pandemic, everyone was masking up, which was good, but definitely made talking with a hearing aid more difficult. You can remain safer and hear better at the same time as AI algorithms can amplify the voice beneath the facemask.
- Acoustic environment classification: Every room you walk into has its own distinct acoustic characteristics. Some of those qualities are good for your hearing aids; some are bad for your hearing aids. With AI technology, your hearing aid can effortlessly make automatic adjustments that allow you to hear better in nearly any setting.
- 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. Cross talk, for example, can often be hard on a hearing aid. But even in a noisy setting, you’ll be capable of hearing more clearly what the individual across from you is talking about as AI filters out unwanted information.
- Edge mode: This is an assist mode which can be activated by the user. Essentially, you can initiate something known as 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.
Hearing aid manufacturers and scientists are continuously innovating new hearing aid technologies, so this might be just the beginning.
How is AI employed in the discipline of audiology?
AI has become somewhat of a buzzword these days. Everyone’s heard it, which is okay, but the trouble is that AI does different things depending on the contexts. So, what does AI mean for the field of audiology?
Making hearing aids even more beneficial for patients is one of the first and most obvious things that researchers are working on. New technologies, like machine learning and deep neural networks, are included in this research. But it’s not just hearing aids. In the future, AI might be able to help with diagnosing hearing loss or even helping patients prevent future hearing loss.
As the technology develops and becomes more dependable, patients can expect to find artificial intelligence in more of their devices.
AI-assisted hearing aids and their advantages
AI is being integrated into hearing aids not because it’s the hot new fad, unlike other industries. These machine learning algorithms provide some considerable benefits to patients. Among those advantages are the following:
- Social engagement: Studies have revealed that those who use AI-assisted hearing aids are more successful in terms of dealing with their social involvement. The speech that they hear will be clearer in a wide array of settings, which probably accounts for better social interaction. Having said that, it’s not completely clear that AI is the defining factor in keeping your social life healthy. Most likely, it simply helps those who are already social better manage their relationships.
- 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 quality of sound users hear will be more in their control. And this often means hearing better more often.
- Helping you listen to devices: Microphones from cell phones, speaker phones, televisions, and other array devices can cause your hearing aids to feedback. Machine learning algorithms can help filter out this feedback, so all you hear is the sound you really want to hear.
- 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. In some situations, these hearing aids might be programmed to automatically alert authorities or loved ones if there is a major fall. Should you be hydrating more, exercising more, eating better? AI can make your health data easier to understand.
How does this impact patients?
For individuals with AI-assisted hearing aids these benefits frequently result in real-world advantages. Imagine you were at a party having a discussion. If you had an older-style hearing aid, it would just boost the volume up. And unfortunately, background noise also gets boosted making it difficult to hear voices. With AI, the hearing aid can listen to the noise around you and respond the way your brain would, dulling background noise and focusing on your friends’ voices.
AI will create a location-by-location algorithm to address the various types of sounds it picks up. These algorithms help when you go back to a particular location or sound profile. In order to better define and amplify important sounds, some AI hearing aids are programmed with day-to-day sounds.
Here are some other practical benefits to AI-assisted hearing aids:
- Your brain will have a decreased cognitive load.
- You will have improved quality of life.
- You won’t be aggravated because you can’t hear (at least, not as frequently).
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
Because of the costs, AI wasn’t available in the majority of hearing aids until recent times. An algorithm is, after all, a complex math equation. However, in part because of the prevalence of the technology, prices for AI hearing devices 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 necessarily be less pricey in the near future. Clearly, the decision making is in the hands of the patient. But, it does mean that these AI-assisted features are becoming more common 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 might not be worth the additional cost. But AI makes a huge 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 continue to improve as AI technology improves.
How can AI technology help you? Call us to make an appointment!