Hearing Aids & Artificial Intelligence

Dr. Li-Korotky

Dr. Li is one of the most accomplished audiologists in the country. She has more than 20 years of research and clinical experience, and she has written more than 100 scientific studies.
Dr. Li-Korotky

When you hear about “Artificial Intelligence” (or, AI), many images may come to mind. You might think of robots in pop culture, such as R2D2 or C3PO in Star Wars or HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. On the other hand, you might think about dystopian visions of the future in which robots become smarter than humans and take over the planet. Although our first associations with AI might be these extremes, in fact AI is already an important part of many processes in our everyday lives.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Although computers have been used for calculations of all kinds for many decades, specialists refer to AI as the ability of a non-human entity to perform operations that look like human intelligence. We know that computers can make calculations based on massive data sets much faster than humans can, but that may not be AI, per se. Humans have the remarkable abilities to understand complex language, recognize visual patterns, and to interact with nuance in social settings. Although computers far outpace human intelligence in terms of rote memorization and rapid calculation, AI specifically refers to the ability for a computer to synthesize information in the ways human minds are so adept at doing.

Artificial Intelligence and Hearing Aids

You might wonder about the connection between AI and hearing aids, given that our minds are already quite skilled at discerning meaning from audible clues in language and using context clues from social interaction. Some of the recent innovations in hearing aid technology make it possible to hear in ways that mimic these capabilities of the human mind. When hearing a person speak, the brain does operations that were formerly impossible to replicate with hearing aid technology. In addition to isolating one voice from the rest of a crowd, AI is now able to do some of the other complicated operations that the mind completes when listening.

One of the most impressive AI developments in hearing aid technology is the SoundSense Learn technology for Widex EVOKE hearing aids. This technology begins when a user customizes listening profiles to the environments that require assistance from the hearing aids. Individuals can let the SoundSense program know if they need to have higher volume, more high end, or better speech isolation in their locations. The AI takes over when it uses that information to predict and customize the listening experience in the future. When it remembers the desired sound profile for a particular place or a certain type of sonic environment, it can respond by offering the listening experience that the user had requested in the past. Just imagine the possibilities of this type of AI. If a person tends to struggle to hear in a favorite restaurant, the program can respond by remembering that location. However, it doesn’t stop there. As you know, one restaurant might be very noisy on a Friday or Saturday night while being relatively quiet for a weekday lunch. The SoundSense Learn program does not only remember the location of the restaurant but also analyzes the sound profile of the space to respond with appropriate sound amplification and enhancement suited to the user.

An entirely different kind of AI function comes from the Starkey line of hearing aids to incorporate hearing assistance with health monitoring. By sensing the bio-measures of the wearer, including breathing rate and heart rate, these hearing aids may be able to alert family and loved ones to dramatic changes in those rates, indicating a medical emergency. Whereas other devices for health monitoring require an additional bracelet, wrist watch, or even device worn around the neck, incorporating both health monitoring and hearing assistance in a single device.

The possibilities are limitless for incorporating AI with hearing aids are limitless. Imagine the many ways that a single pair of small units—quite like earbuds—can be merged with wireless technology to create a comprehensive profile of individualized assistance and enjoyment. Hearing aids are already “smart” when they move seamlessly from music, television, phone calls, and hearing assistance through Bluetooth technology. The sky is the limit when considering the many new ways that hearing aids can fill in the gaps in human capability to devise new solutions to old problems.

Pacific Northwest Audiology

If you’re in the market for a new pair of hearing aids, or you’re interested in upgrading to smarter tech, contact us at Pacific Northwest Audiology today. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and will help you find a pair of advanced hearing aids to improve your hearing – and your well-being!

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