Latest posts by Timothy Hunsaker Au.D. (see all)
- American Girl Introduces the First Doll with Hearing Loss - January 23, 2020
- New Year’s Resolution: Get Your Hearing Tested - January 13, 2020
- Keeping Your Hearing Aids Dry - December 31, 2019
People who suffer partial or complete hearing loss face several challenges that become real issues for their personal lives. First, hearing loss can affect the way people see and understand their own and work life. A person with hearing loss sees their contributions to society differently than the average person. A significant drawback that loss of hearing brings to a person is the reduction of job opportunities they see they have now that they are aware of their handicap with hearing loss.
With an inability to communicate without help from others, it makes it difficult to act like they are like everyone else who is sane. Because those with hearing loss feel inadequate to average persons, they need to work harder to be accepted in society and may respond by withdrawing from society. Also, because people with hearing losses suffer a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, they may allow this behavior to stigmatize them and act with less self-esteem and confidence.
Hearing Aid Technology
Engineers and designers in hearing aid technology have worked hard to come up with ways that creates a better environment for people with hearing loss to cope healthily with others despite their partial or total hearing loss. One thing that audiologists are doing to enhance hearing aid devices is to integrate what is called artificial intelligence (AI) into their workflow. To under AI better, we need to understand what it is. Another and perhaps better term to use for AI is machine learning. Machine learning is the ability of a machine to learn on its own. A device can learn on its own when it has enough knowledge built into itself that it can begin to connect what it already knows and make sense of what is in the real world; that is, it begins to connect the dots.
Hearing Aids and Machine Learning
Computers can help another device learn things by teaching it new information and allow the network to learn what it has been given and connect it to what it already knows. Scientists have found that a hearing aid can function in a similar way for its user.
A computer can understand that the hearing aid that is worn by its owner belongs to and has a particular setting for its use. A new company called Hearing Tracker allows the computer to learn a background in the hearing aid and what context it has. When the new environment it enters, it can discriminate how the acoustic properties it has and what it requires to optimize the owner’s standard settings. The Bluetooth technology that uses AI will automatically adjust the hearing aid and change it as close as it can to what the user needs in the new environment. All of this takes place with AI. The program also takes note of how the owner adjusts its settings to make it more comfortable. In other words, AI learns what is best for its owner.
AI Technologies Influencing Hearing Aids
Google® Laboratories recently made a breakthrough in their working with AI and its collaboration with hearing aids for those who have a loss of hearing. The way a hearing aid functions is to tune out background noise and tune into sounds that are similar to itself. That in itself is a huge problem. For those who have good hearing, we take for granted that wherever we go, we already have what we need to communicate to those in an environment.
Google Laboratories and Machine Learning
Google Laboratories now have been able to filter out these background noises and tune into the sounds that would be common to a person in a room hearing things; that is, the voices of others speaking. The difficulty is dialing down the background noises and choosing those which are necessary for human interaction. These and similar AI technologies are now becoming more available to people who suffer hearing loss. This means that people with hearing loss can look forward shortly to have more AI technology that is built into their hearing aids even to monitor their vital physical and medical states and communicate them to their caretaker.