Hearing Aids & Artificial Intelligence

Hearing Aids & Artificial Intelligence

In Hearing Aid Technology, hearing aids, Hearing Loss Treatment by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

From self-driving cars to digital personal assistants,  it seems like in nearly every aspect of life people are exploring the potential of artificial intelligence or “AI” for expanding the capabilities of our current technology. Artificial intelligence systems are becoming ever more common and prevalent in our everyday life with digital technology negotiating ever more complicated environments. 

Artificial intelligence has a lot to do with programming multi-layered input assessment with nuanced decision making, attempting to mimic the complex ways the human brain receives information and makes choices.  What AI can add to the power of the human mind is the potential for near instantaneous complex mathematical computations to be factored into “thinking” – meaning that sensitive decisions can be reached that also involve technical precision. 

AI has developed in leaps and bounds over the past several decades and one technology that it is starting to be introduced to is the development of hearing aids. There is much promise that advancements in AI can take the digital sound processing of current hearing aids to the next level of assistive ability. Let’s take a closer look.

Pushing the Limits

Since their inception, hearing aids have strived to adapt to all the complex factors that go into human hearing. While the first hearing aids acted as mere amplifiers for sound, the dawn of digital sound processing revolutionized the design and performance of hearing aids. Suddenly, devices were able to shrink in size making them more convenient, discreet and comfortable. Even more exciting, digital sound processing meant that hearing aids could be programmed to amplify sound in ways that align precisely with an individual’s specific hearing challenges. 

These breakthroughs in hearing aid design were a leap forward in hearing aid performance. Now, AI may hold the key to some of the biggest challenges in digital sound processing. While sound amplification has reached new levels of assistance, one area that remains difficult for hearing aids to perform well in is noisy environments with many different sound sources. Even digital sound can find it hard to parse relevant incoming sound from incidental background noise in these sorts of spaces. A common complaint amongst hearing aid users is that in loud situations, such as a boisterous party or busy restaurant, their hearing device has trouble prioritizing the specific conversation they wish to hear. 

This sort of prioritizing of sound is something our natural hearing does quite fluidly and naturally, and is based in part on the complex ways our auditory system is processed by the brain. With new horizons in artificial intelligence there lies the potential to process sound in ways that come to the same conclusion as our natural hearing would.

An AI Approach

While ideally artificial intelligence in hearing aids may reach the same selectiveness in prioritizing sound, it will certainly go about it in a different way from how the human mind processes incoming sound. In order to make the suppression of background noise accurate and effective, AI designers are looking at ways to process and prioritize parallel information. When many different sounds arrive in the ear all at once, new hearing aids are processing and prioritizing data on many levels. Hearing aid AI is learning to shift between different configurations of directional microphones to best lock into significant conversations. Similarly, incoming sound is filtered through levels of directional parameters to better determine background noise. The result is a developing cutting edge to sound processing.

We are already beginning to see the benefits in this early AI era of hearing aids. With artificial intelligence used to determine relevant sound, hearing aids are becoming better assistive tools, amplifying what is needed and suppressing interruptive noises, much in the way healthy hearing does. The threshold of AI in hearing may dispel the frustration people with hearing loss have often felt in noisy situations. 

Treating Hearing Loss

If you live with hearing loss, it is time to discover what hearing aids can offer you. Hearing aids help you navigate the world around you in countless ways and have been shown to improve your quality of life. Now is an exciting time to access assistive technology: with the introduction of AI sound processing, hearing aids are more convenient and effective than ever before. Want to learn more? Contact us today!