Hearing loss is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide, especially seniors. Fortunately, advancements in technology, particularly the integration of artificial intelligence (AI), have led to significant improvements in hearing aid capabilities.
In this article, we will explore:
- Recent developments in the hearing tech industry
- Hearing aid challenges
- The role of AI in hearing aid technology
Recent developments in the hearing tech industry
In March 2023, search engine giant Google struck a partnership with Macquarie University Hearing, National Acoustic Laboratories, NextSense, The Shepherd Centre, and hearing implant maker Cochlear, under the Digital Future Initiative. The multi-year partnership will see the companies work with Google Research Australia on developing how AI and machine learning can be adapted for more personalised healthcare solutions in devices, such as properly separating human sounds from background noise and make for clearer conversation in various situations.
“Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent but one of the least treated medical conditions in the world. This unique collaboration will bring together the world-leading expertise we have in Australia to find new technologies and solutions that can help more people around the world to hear better,” expressed Cochlear president/CEO Dig Howitt.
Offering a more intelligent, adaptive, and personalised experience — AI technology has the potential to revolutionise the capabilities of hearing aids in Australia. By leveraging AI algorithms, these devices can adapt to different listening environments, enhance speech clarity, reduce feedback, and provide a tailored experience for each individual user.
The integration of AI represents a significant advancement in addressing the challenges faced by individuals with hearing loss, empowering them to actively participate in conversations, enjoy social interactions, and improve their overall quality of life.
Hearing aid challenges
Hearing aids have long been the primary solution for individuals with hearing loss, amplifying sound and improving their ability to communicate and engage in daily activities. However, traditional aids faced some challenges in adapting to different listening environments and providing optimal sound quality. Background noise, feedback, and the ability to distinguish speech from noise were common issues that users encountered.
To put in a scenario, let’s think of it this way: do you or a loved one have some degree of hearing loss to the point you have to raise voices to be heard, and your existing aids have all but malfunctioned? And you are in a crowded venue like a coffee place?
The role of AI in hearing aid technology
Artificial intelligence has the potential to address these challenges and take the technology to the next level. By incorporating AI algorithms and machine learning techniques, hearing aids can become more intelligent, adaptive, and personalised, providing users with a superior experience. Here are some ways in which AI can enhance its capabilities.
Adaptive sound processing
AI algorithms can analyse and understand the user’s listening environment, automatically adjusting the settings of the hearing aid to optimise sound quality. By dynamically adapting to different situations, such as noisy environments or quiet conversations, AI-powered aids can improve speech intelligibility and reduce background noise interference.
AI algorithms can differentiate between speech and background noise, focusing on enhancing speech signals while minimising unwanted noise. This feature is particularly beneficial in crowded social settings or when engaging in conversations in noisy environments. By enhancing speech clarity, AI-powered hearing aids enable users to better understand and participate in conversations.
Traditional hearing aids often suffer from feedback issues, causing an annoying whistling sound. AI algorithms can analyse and predict the occurrence of feedback, effectively cancelling it out in real-time. This technology not only enhances comfort but also allows for higher amplification levels without compromising sound quality.
Personalisation and user preferences
AI-powered hearing aids can learn from user behaviour and preferences, adapting their settings over time to match individual listening needs. By continuously analysing and adjusting to the user’s preferences, AI algorithms can provide a custom experience.
Connectivity and integration
AI-enabled hearing aids can seamlessly connect to other smart devices, such as smartphones, televisions, and smart speakers. This connectivity allows users to stream audio directly to their hearing aids, enhancing their overall listening experience. It also enables remote adjustments and firmware updates, providing convenience and flexibility for users.
Real-time monitoring and data insights
AI technology enables aids to monitor the user’s listening habits, collecting data on the environments they encounter and the adjustments made. This data can be analysed to provide valuable insights to hearing healthcare professionals, leading to more accurate and personalised fittings. It also facilitates remote care and troubleshooting, saving time and improving accessibility for users.
Continuous learning and improvement
AI algorithms have the ability to continuously learn and adapt based on user feedback and real-world usage data. As more data is collected, hearing aids can become even more effective in understanding user preferences and delivering optimal sound quality. This continuous learning process ensures that the hearing aids evolve and improve over time.
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DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only. The Australian Seniors Advisory Group has no relationships with any company mentioned in the article.