It seems like all our devices are getting smarter, stronger, and smaller. Generally speaking, the trend is that devices have more features and take up less space.
Hearing aids are no exception, and it’s not surprising. The world’s population is getting older and hearing problems, though they can have a number of causes, are more common amongst older individuals. About 37.5 million people and 3 million Canadians report some amount of hearing impairment according to the National Institutes of Health. And that number is rising because age is the strongest demographic variable to predict hearing loss.
If you’re dealing with hearing loss, that’s one person too many. Are there any better ways to manage hearing loss? Bring ‘em on! Here are some of the innovations that are happening.
Using Your Hearing Aid to Track Your Whole Body
This is so obvious, it’s one of those “Now why didn’t I think of that” developments. Health and fitness trackers have to be worn on the body. So, if you’ve already got a device that’s in your ear… do you really need another one on your wrist? The answer is no. Or at least, you don’t with some of the latest hearing aids, which along with helping correct for hearing difficulties such as tinnitus, will also keep track of your pulse, your physical activity, and a whole lot more. Certainly, a wearable such as an Apple Watch can do that, but hearing aids can give you other kinds of input that can be helpful to monitoring health, like how much time you spend in active conversation 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. Audio from a device, such as a smart TV can now be streamed directly to your hearing aid if it is Bluetooth compatible. Google published open-source specifications for Android developers that show them how to use specific channels within Bluetooth to produce uninterrupted audio straight to hearing aids. This kind of technology is helping hearing aids work almost like super-powered wireless headphones, making it easier to enjoy movies, music, and more.
Big Data Allows Smart Adjustments
Similar to how Netflix suggests shows and movies according to what you’ve watched previously, or your Fitbit alerts you to tell you that you’ve reached a milestone (or okay, let’s say stepping stone, depending on how driven your daily step goals are), your next hearing aid may make personalized recommendations. Several manufacturers are working on hearing aids that will learn both from the adjustments you make and from listening to the places you go. Some go as far as to crowdsource information about people’s utilization 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 recognize what your situation is and make adjustments to provide you with the most enjoyable audio experience.
Finally Ditching The Batteries
Ya, it sounds too good to be true, hearing aids that don’t require batteries? 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 a hearing aid that doesn’t use any batteries at all might seem like wishful thinking, rechargeable battery technology keeps improving. That means longer time in use, faster recharging, and less worrying about batteries, overall, not too bad.