Hearing aid technology is light years away from its humble beginnings as a metal trumpet placed in the ear! Computers in hearing aids make features such as noise reduction and speech enhancement possible. Now, the industry is taking hearing device technology to a new level. The future of hearing devices includes artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and sensor technology. The near future of hearing aids is incredible!
Computers can solve complex problems with advanced problem-solving approaches. This high-tech ability is called artificial intelligence or AI. The technology is in use in robotic vacuum cleaners and navigation systems in commercial airliners. Future implications include automated labor, cars that drive themselves, and ATMs that create accounts and dispense loans. For the hearing impaired, this is exciting technology.
If you are at work or sitting in a favorite restaurant, you will notice the many sounds that vie for your attention at any given moment. For a person who wears hearing aids, it is challenging to isolate one single sound. AI technology in hearing aids handles the complexity of these situations by the use of problem-solving algorithms. This technology is known as auditory attention decoding. This process allows the computer in a hearing aid to teach itself how to pinpoint a single voice in a loud environment.
Machine learning is an area of computer science in which systems learn from collected data to predict outcomes for unseen input data. This learning results in a system that learns while experimenting as it stays in a domain that human-level intelligence can comprehend. Modern hearing aids have numerous capabilities. Noise reduction, feedback cancellation, and speech enhancement are a few of the features available today. These features also involve complexity which makes adjusting them to individual needs a difficult challenge. The technology queries data and learns from experience. Audiological machine-learning provides solutions to assist a hearing healthcare professional during the hearing aid fitting process, and it helps end-users when a professional is not available.
Sensor technology allows a hearing aid wearer to control a hearing aid by tapping it. Inertial sensors include an accelerometer and gyroscope sensor devices. With these in a hearing aid, a wearer can augment their vestibular system for balance and activity tracking. The hearing aid can serve as an activity tracker letting the user know how many steps they are taking.
Inertial sensors can detect a fall, and automatic fall detection is a feature that can have a significant impact in the future. Estimates indicate that an older adult dies every 19 minutes from a fall-related injury. Hearing aid with an inertial sensor can detect a fall and alert the wearer’s loved ones. Predicting a fall is a future possibility too as sensors can detect a change in a person’s gait and predict the propensity of a fall. Sensors for heart rate monitoring are also in the works.
Future hearing devices will learn from experience, allow users to hear better in crowded rooms, and even possibly save someone’s life. A new level of hearing technology is coming, and it is just amazing!