Hearing aid technology was, for a long time, stuck in the past. While the devices in our pockets advanced by leaps and bounds every year, assistive hearing technology stagnated.
Fortunately, that situation is beginning to change, and those who are hard of hearing are finally reaping some of the rewards of the digital revolution of the last couple of decades. Miniaturization and new connected technologies have opened up a world of opportunity for hearing aids in a way few thought possible.
So, what are the latest hearing technologies and how might they help meet your needs?
Artificial intelligence-based learning
Today’s most advanced hearing aids come with a plethora of settings that help users filter sound in the various situations they may face throughout the day. But there’s a problem: many of these changes must be made manually – a big hassle.
Now, though, a company called Widex is working on an artificial intelligence technology that will learn which settings users prefer in different environments, applying them automatically when it detects a change in situation.
The technology is a boon for people who find themselves traveling between meetings for their work, transitioning between indoor and outdoor environments or who need to spend working in both noisy and quiet environments.
Up until recently, hearing aids didn’t work in synchrony with the biological hearing apparatus of wearers. However, that may be about to change, thanks to the innovative work of Phonak, a hearing aid maker. Rather than ignoring the natural topography of the inner and outer ear, the company wants to utilize it for its directional sound qualities, helping users detect not only that there is noise, but where it’s coming from too. The company says that its devices now contain sensors that collect data on a wearer’s ear shape, providing extra volume and directionality over standard noise-canceling assistive hearing devices.
Although this technology is still in its infancy, it has the potential to improve the quality of life for people who depend on directional hearing in both their everyday life, as well as their hobbies and work.
Outsourced processing to digital devices
When Made for iPhone hearing aids were first released, many people failed to see the potential that fully integrating assistive hearing devices with smartphone technology could bring. At the time, smartphones were seen as platforms for hearing aid apps, allowing users to adjust settings on the fly.
But now Signia, the company behind the Made for iPhone drive, says that it wants to more fully integrate hearing aids with smartphones and outsource processing from hearing aids to their companion devices. The possibilities of this technology are immense because it allows wearers to benefit from the far greater audio processing capacity of larger devices. One can imagine hearing aids using larger and more capable phone sensors to calibrate their sound quality, rather than relying on miniaturized onboard equivalents.
Sensors on hearing aids
Many hearing aid users are elders and so companies are looking for ways to add extra features that will cater to this market.
Sensors have fallen in price substantially over recent years, prompting manufacturers to look for ways to include them on their devices. Starkey, a leading hearing aid manufacturer, says that it’s trying to incorporate sensors on its hearing aids that can detect activity and, importantly, falls. Hearing aids with sensor technology, it hopes, will appeal to older people worried about falling. Starkey says that their hearing aids can detect falls and alert the relevant people so that wearers can feel safer and get assistance when they need it.
If you’re somebody who needs regular medical consultations, then hearing aids with telecare connectivity may improve your life considerably. The idea is simple: to connect people who are hard of hearing directly to medical professionals and audiologists at a time of their choosing. Patients will be able to set up video calls with doctors and receive audio signals wirelessly to their assistive hearing devices.
What’s more, remote telecare may also allow professionals to tweak user’s devices in real time by adjusting settings, negating the need to travel to busy clinics for troubleshooting which may be difficult for some people.
Which device should you choose?
Choosing the right hearing aid for you can difficult. But our team of experts at Sound Advice are here to help you make the right choice, depending on your situation. We’ll guide you through the different technologies available and help you decide which will improve your quality of life most. Call on (818) 748-8613 to speak to our friendly audiologists.