Technology is evolving into stronger, smarter, and smaller devices. Being smaller while having more functionality is the general trend.
This is also true for hearing aids, and it’s not a surprise. The world’s population is aging and hearing issues, though they can have many different causes, are more common amongst older people. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 37.5 million individuals and 3 million Canadians report having difficulty hearing, and because age is a stronger predictor of hearing loss than any other demographic variable, that number is likely to go up.
Of course, if you’re suffering from hearing loss, even one individual with trouble hearing, i.e. you, is one person too many. Are there any better ways to manage hearing impairment? Let’s have them! Here are some of the innovations that are happening.
Whole-Body Tracking Through Your Hearing Aids
This is so intuitive, it’s one of those “Now why didn’t I think of that” innovations. Devices that provide different kinds of health tracking are nearly always worn and have to be worn on the body. So, if you already have a device that’s in your ear… do you actually need another one on your wrist? Nope! If you have a newer hearing aid, it probably can track your pulse, physical activity along with fixing hearing issues such as tinnitus. Sure, a wearable like an Apple Watch can do that, but hearing aids can give you other kinds of input that can be helpful to tracking health, like how much time you spend having conversations or listening. Particularly as you get older, your level of social involvement can actually be an important health metric.
Virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri have smoothly moved from smartphones to in-home devices and the primary emphasis here is connectivity. Some hearing aids that have Bluetooth capabilities now allow users to stream audio directly from a device, like a smart TV for example, to the hearing aids. Google published open-source standards for Android developers that show them how to use specific channels within Bluetooth to produce uninterrupted audio directly to hearing aids. This technology is making things like music and movies more satisfying by acting like super-powered wireless headphones.
Big Data Allows Smart Adjustments
Similar to how Netflix suggests shows and movies according to what you’ve previously watched, or your Fitbit buzzes to let you know you’ve reached a milestone (or okay, let’s say stepping stone, depending on how ambitious your daily step goals are), your next hearing aid could make personalized recommendations. The places you go and the adjustments you make will allow these new hearing aids, being manufactured by a few companies, to learn your habits. Some go as far as to crowdsource data about people’s usage habits, making it anonymous then aggregating it. So whether you’re watching TV at home, or in an IMAX theater, your hearing aids will be able to use this information to know what your situation is and make adjustments to give you the best audio experience.
Finally Ditching The Batteries
Hearing aids that don’t need their batteries replaced? Sound too good to be true? After all, making sure you’ve got spare batteries with you, or even taking time to recharge your hearing aid batteries, can be a pain in the, um, ear. While we’re not likely to see hearing aids that don’t need any batteries, there has been a constant advancement in rechargeable technology. That means longer time in use, faster recharging, and less worrying about batteries, all in all, not too bad.