What’s Next in Hearing Technology?


Pixelated human form representing the advacning technology in hearing aids.

We’re almost 20 years into the 21st century. We have robots, self-driving cars, and on-demand funny cat videos available right at the touch of a button on those little supercomputers we call smartphones. Living in the digital age means we have scientists and hearing specialists hard at work developing technological solutions to everyday hearing issues like tinnitus and even complete hearing loss.

You don’t have to hop into a Delorean, fire up the Flux Capacitor, and travel 30 years into the future to find these 5 hearing tech innovations – they are being developed and improved right now:

Digital Hearing Aids 2.0

Honestly, digital seems like old news since just about everything analog has switched over to digital, from music to television to cell phones. One holdout over the years used to be the hearing aid. Analog hearing aids have trouble distinguishing different noises and produce a lot of feedback, but digital hearing aids can help solve those problems. Background noise suppression and noise-canceling capabilities are the two most notable benefits of digital hearing aids right now. But how “digital” is defined is changing all the time and the biggest benefit may come from the fact that digital technology has the ability to incorporate new technologies, like…

Improved Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is one of those new buzzwords that makes people think of driverless cars and robots stealing factory jobs (or Terminator-esque post-apocalyptic futures, should AI become self-aware) but scientists are working diligently to find out how AI can help those suffering from hearing loss. Ai is helping hearing aids utilize self-learning, which means they’ll become better at distinguishing more important sounds while tuning out background noise. In other words, your hearing aids will become trained to give you the best hearing experience possible…automatically.

Earbuds That Cancel Out Tinnitus

Earbuds are blamed for a multitude of hearing issues, but can they actually help people suffering from tinnitus? Shockingly, they may. There is now FDA-approved technology that uses earbuds to provide personalized relief for nighttime tinnitus. The earbuds are worn while sleeping and mimic the sounds caused by tinnitus and eventually, after a number of months, trains the brain to ignore those sounds. What’s revolutionary about this treatment is that patients actually choose the sounds the earbuds produce to better match their own tinnitus sounds, which is an upgrade over older technology.

Optical Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants, which are devices that surgically implanted to help restore hearing in damaged ears, have been around for more than 30 years and in that time there have been very few advancements…until now. A German hearing specialist is changing the way cochlear implants function by turning them into optical devices. It doesn’t mean you’ll use your eyes to hear – instead, these new devices use micro-LED lights to flash information onto genetically modified neurons, which then transmit the information to the brain as sounds. Human trials are currently a couple of years away, but preliminary testing has shown very promising results.

Tongue Hearing?

Definitely the weirdest new technology on the list, a device created by scientists from Colorado State University converts sounds into vibrations that be felt on a user’s tongue, allowing them to “hear” sounds and words. This technology uses a Bluetooth earpiece and retainer to send messages to the brain, and many users compared the feeling to eating Pop Rocks or drinking champagne. While it will take a significant amount of time to train your brain to interpret tongue sensations to sounds, in the end, this device can be an absolute game changer.

 

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