Hearing aids may be small. But the technology they contain would have once filled a whole room. Here are just a few ways that hearing aids incorporate some of the most state-of-the-art technologies of our day.
First, the simple stuff. Hearing aids today are digital. That means they don’t just pick up sound, amplify it and then direct it into your ear. They use advanced computer technology to enhance that sound and optimize the hearing experience.
They use BlueTooth to connect wirelessly with your smart TV or specially-equipped concert hall sound systems. This eliminates background noise, bringing the sound right to your ear.
You can use your smartphone to control the settings on your hearing aids or turn your smartphone into a microphone to improve hearing in a restaurant. Stream music or a phone call right from your phone into your hearing aids. There are so many more ways your smartphone works with these advanced “hearables”.
The Internet of Things
As you’re well aware the Internet is quickly changing our world.
Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept of connecting everyday things to the Internet so they can communicate with each other and share information. A Fitbit activity tracker is a common IoT device. These devices can track your sleep, exercise and heart rate. They communicate health information to a secure website only you have access to. You can then share this data with your doctor to develop a more personalized health plan.
Some hearing aids can now do the same thing.
Hearing aids can also be connected to the Internet to notify family or emergency services in case of a fall or other accident, similar to an alert pendant.
Machine learning is a special kind of computer programming that allows a computer to learn from the input it collects from its environment. It can then analyze it and use it to enhance how it functions.
Machine Learning is already being used in hearing aids. It allows them to adapt to your unique needs. Hearing aids use machine learning in a couple important ways.
They can use what they learn to help you hear at your best in various settings. The longer you have these advanced hearing aids, the better your hearing experience becomes.
In addition to being able to notify your family in case of an emergency, thanks to machine learning, today’s advanced hearing devices can learn to detect behavior that’s unusual for you. It uses the knowledge to identify when you may need help. This technology may help people who wear hearing aids stay independent in their homes longer.
Scientists are even proposing using machine learning to improve communities.
Machine Learning Paints a Sound Landscape
What if hearing aids could battle noise pollution, solve traffic problems and improve how we transport people, food and products?
Scientists are suggesting we crowdsource sound information to help solve these problems. Crowdsourcing is a new term for an old idea. It’s when a bunch of people comes together to pitch in and accomplish something that none of them could do alone. You might bring a bunch of volunteers together to clean up your local park. Someone might start a fund to help a sick child’s family with medical bills.
Today, a lot of people use social media to organize these efforts.
How might hearing aid wearers crowdsource machine learning?
There are millions of hearing aid wearers around the world. The idea floating around is that hearing aid manufacturers could integrate a new kind of machine learning technology into hearing aids. The hearing aids would then be able to collect sound information — with your permission of course — from the various places you go:
- national parks
- golf courses
- grocery stores
- and more
Analytical programs could then process this data to create a sound map. Imagine if you could look at a real map and be able to see the noise level in different places on the map. If enough hearing aid wearers worked together, we could know the noisiest times of day and times of year in different places. You could even create these maps in real-time.
City planners could then use this data to redirect traffic patterns, reducing congestion. They could help reduce noise levels in neighborhoods and recreational areas.
We would have a better understanding about where people are being exposed to most damaging or annoying noise. Health organizations, occupational groups and smart city planners could then work together to cut back on damaging noise contributing to the high rates of hearing loss globally.
With how technologically-advanced hearing aids are today, we could see this becoming a reality in the next several years.
Are you getting the most out of your hearing aids? You may already have these technologies in your current hearing aids and not even realize it. Talk to a hearing specialist about new technologies available now.