Technology is developing into stronger, smarter, and smaller devices. Generally speaking, the trend is that devices have more features and take up less space.
So it’s no surprise that hearing aids are no exception. Though hearing issues have a variety of causes, hearing difficulties are more common amongst older individuals, and the world’s population is aging. About 37.5 million adults and 3 million Canadians report some level of hearing loss according to the National Institutes of Health. And that number is increasing because age is the strongest demographic variable to predict hearing loss.
Of course, if you’re dealing with hearing loss, even one person with difficulty hearing, i.e. you, is one person too many. Better ways to decrease hearing loss? Let’s have them! Here are some of the innovations that are happening.
Whole-Body Tracking Through Your Hearing Aids
This one seems like it should be obvious. Health and fitness trackers need to be worn on the body. So do you really need a device on your wrist if you already have one in your ear? Nope! If you have the latest hearing aid, it can most likely keep track of your pulse, physical activity along with correcting hearing issues like tinnitus. Sure, a wearable such as 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 having conversations or listening. How much social engagement you get can actually be an essential health metric, especially as you get older.
Connectivity is the major watchword, as virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa have advanced from smartphones to in-home devices without missing a beat. 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 provide uninterrupted audio directly to hearing aids. This technology is making things like music and movies more satisfying by acting like super-powered wireless headphones.
Smart Adjustments From Big Data
Similar to how Netflix suggests shows and movies based on what you’ve previously watched, or your Fitbit alerts you to tell you that 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 may 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 take it one step further, crowdsourcing data on how individuals use their hearing aids anonymizing and then mixing the data. All this info allows the hearing aids to figure out your tendencies and make adjustments on the fly so that whether you’re watching TV at home or you’re at an IMAX theater (for instance), you’ll get the best sound.
Finally Ditching The Batteries
Hearing aids that don’t need their batteries replaced? Sound too good to be true? After all, making certain 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 get hearing aids that don’t need any batteries, there has been a consistent advancement in rechargeable technology. You’ll get faster charging time, longer use time, and less worry about batteries, which seems pretty good.