Artificial Intelligence: AI Could Improve Hearing For Millions of Americans
Artificial intelligence could improve modern hearing aids to make sound more natural and life-like for everyone.
Here are some shocking statistics on hearing loss from the US National Institutes of Health. Twenty-five percent of adults aged between 65 and 75, and half of those aged 75 and older, experience disabling hearing loss. And, 28.8 million US adults could benefit from using hearing aids. (E&T Engineering and Technology)
Hearing aids are yet to achieve perfection
Though hearing aids have come a long way from being just sound amplifiers, users still complain of the difference in the naturalness of the sound between the device and in real life. This problem is getting addressed as sound technology and the devices become more sophisticated.
For instance, devices now incorporate sophisticated applications of sound analysis; environment classification; inter-ear data processing; adaptive directional microphones; wireless programming; direct connectivity, and more.
Users also hesitate to wear a device on their ear for cosmetic and social reasons. However, gone are the days when hearing aids were bulky, obtrusive machines. Now they are far smaller and merge with the many other devices we have begun to wear using mobile technology. These include wireless earbuds, smartwatches, and fitness trackers.
So, definitely, the outlook for those afflicted with hearing loss is getting better by the day.
But perhaps AI could hasten audiometry towards that Aha! moment when a hearing aid becomes smart enough to dramatically improve the listening experience of its wearer.
What can AI do?
“By applying artificial intelligence, integrated with today’s advanced digital hearing aids, a hearing solution can learn how users best prefer various listening environments and give them greater automated control over their hearing experience,” says Lise Henningsen, global head of audiology for Denmark-based WSAudiology. “In other words, personalized, natural sound for the real world.”
For example, a hearing aid could connect to a machine learning application on a smartphone that could in turn interact with a cloud-based database of settings for optimizing the device. The user may only be required to customize a dozen or so settings, but the AI algorithm could fine-tune it thereafter.
The net result: hearing aids that are naturalized and customized to the unique needs of each user. These personalized settings could vary by location, and be stored on their phones/cloud accordingly. It would be a simple matter to switch the settings if the user changes her location.
A time may come when the hearing aid would be smart enough to do this by itself – on the fly – based on embedded microphones, sensors, and AI.
“Hearing aids supported by artificial intelligence and machine learning put the focus on personalized sound quality and listener intent where it belongs,” writes Henningsen. “Perhaps more than any other smart device, this new generation of hearing aids stands to seamlessly improve the lives of millions.”
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