Technology is developing into stronger, smarter, and smaller devices. In general, the trend is that devices do more and take up less space.
So it’s not surprising that hearing aids are no exception. The world’s population is aging and hearing problems, though they can have many different causes, are more common amongst older people. According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 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 will probably go up.
If you’re suffering from hearing loss, that’s one person too many. Better ways to alleviate hearing loss? Let’s have them! Here are some of the innovations that are happening.
Using Your Hearing Aid to Track Your Entire Body
This one seems as if it should be obvious. Health and fitness trackers need to be worn on the body. So, if you’ve already got a device that’s in your ear… do you really need a separate one on your wrist? The answer is no. If you have a newer hearing aid, it probably can track your pulse, physical activity along with correcting hearing problems like tinnitus. Certainly, a wearable like an Apple Watch can do that, but hearing aids can provide you with other types of input that can be helpful to monitoring health, like how much time you spend in active conversation or listening. Especially as you age your level of social engagement can actually be an important health metric.
Better Streaming Straight to You
Virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri have quickly moved from smartphones to in-home devices and the primary focus here is connectivity. Some hearing aids that provide Bluetooth capabilities now allow users to stream audio directly from a device, like a smart TV for instance, to the hearing aids. Android developers now have open-source specs provided by Google which allows them to use specific Bluetooth channels to stream continuous audio straight to your hearing aid. 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 committed your daily step goals are), your next hearing aid might make personalized suggestions. 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 data about people’s usage habits, making it anonymous then aggregating it. All this information allows the hearing aids to figure out your preferences and make adjustments on the fly so that whether you’re at home watching TV or you’re in an IMAX theater (for instance), you’ll get the best possible sound.
Finally Ditching The Batteries
Hearing aids that don’t need their batteries changed? Sound too good to be true? After all, making sure you’ve got spare batteries on hand, or even making time to recharge your hearing aid batteries, can be annoying. While we’re not likely to see hearing aids that don’t need any batteries, there has been a continuous advancement in rechargeable technology. You’ll get faster charging time, extended use time, and less worry about batteries, which seems pretty good.