If James Bond were real, he’d probably wear hearing aids. (After all, firing weapons without ear protection can cause tinnitus). And if he’s is going to wear a hearing aid, he’s probably going to opt for the coolest, most gadget-y hearing aid that exists. Luckily, those high-tech hearing aids of the future are on the market today–and some of them were recently introduced at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Some of the new technologies built into modern hearing aids are right out of the spy movies of yore (though, you should use these technologies for hearing and not for espionage… obviously).
Hearing Aids That Make Recommendations
Hearing aids are so much more than tiny amplifiers for your ears. A modern hearing aid is replete with settings and calibrations that can make differentiate the buzz of your air conditioner from the wail of your grandson. But that can also be a challenge because all of those settings can be a bit frustrating to understand and keep track of.
New hearing aid technology, however, is aiming to simplify and enhance this calibration process by drawing on essentially the same technology that powers Spotify or Pandora or Amazon Shopping (where algorithms seem to know what you want before you do).
- These smart hearing aids will monitor the auditory environment around the wearer, making recommendations that would optimize settings.
- These optimized settings would change based on the environment (which these smart hearing aids would also pick up on). One smart setting for your TV room, one smart setting for your grocery store, and so on.
- There’s no need for wearers to do any programming or note-taking; these smart hearing aids would do all the work themselves, making the hearing assistance device more potent in more locations.
Ignore the Noise
Espionage, in the movies, often involves eavesdropping on the right conversation (and spies will often use these weird dish-looking things to do that). That technology (or exaggeration of technology, as it were) has now been applied to hearing aids.
The success with which hearing aids are able to reliably prioritize the right sound varies (it is a really complicated technology). So the race for modern hearing aid manufacturers revolves primarily around improving the clarity of voices–and that’s what some manufacturers have showcased this year.
The hearing aids of the future (some of which, again, were shown off at CES 2019) will show significant improvements in automatically determining which sounds should take priority in a given situation.
- This can make human speech significantly easier to understand for someone who is wearing a hearing aid.
- When human speech is amplified, the hearing aid mimics the work that your brain already does, making for an easier transition to wearing hearing aids.
- The amplification of human speech in a crowded soundscape is a challenging parameter for many devices, but new technology is making it more common and more effective.
Have You Ever Wanted a Universal Translator?
Traveling, whether as a spy or as a tourist, can be an invigorating challenge, especially if you happen to be visiting a country whose language you don’t happen to know. When you’re hard of hearing, however, this challenge can suddenly become daunting. Even with a hearing aid, travelers can have a hard time picking up on the tiny clues and signals that enable basic communication through a language barrier.
That’s what makes earpieces from two new manufacturers so exciting. Both smartphone-controlled earpieces designed to translate the spoken word in real time (well, with a five-second delay, but close enough).
When someone speaks French to you, the earpiece can translate into English–for a continued duration of up to 15 seconds or so. These translation devices are sure to make travel and communication more approachable for just about anyone–but especially for those who typically wear a hearing aid (such as our hypothetically real-life 007, on account of his tinnitus).
More Technology, Please
That hearing aids and earpieces have become invaluable devices is to be lauded. We can’t help but feel like all this tech just makes hearing aids that much more… cool.