It seems like all our devices are getting stronger, smarter, and more compact. In general, the trend is that devices do more and take up less space.
This is also true for hearing aids, 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. According to the National Institutes of Health, around 37.5 million people and 3 million Canadians describe having trouble hearing, and because age is a better predictor of hearing loss than any other demographic variable, that number is likely to go up.
Naturally, if you’re dealing with hearing loss, even one individual with difficulty hearing, i.e. you, is one person too many. Are there any better ways to deal with hearing impairment? Bring ‘em on! Here are some of the innovations that are in the works.
Using Your Hearing Aid to Track Your Whole Body
This one seems as if it should be obvious. Devices that offer different types of health tracking are almost always worn and need to be worn on the body. So, if you already have a device that’s in your ear… do you really need a separate one on your wrist? Nope! If you have the latest hearing aid, it probably can track your pulse, physical activity along with correcting hearing problems such as tinnitus. Sure, a wearable such as an Apple Watch can do that, but hearing aids can offer you other types of input that can be helpful to tracking health, like how much time you spend in active conversation or listening. How much social engagement you get can actually be a vital health metric, particularly as you age.
Virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri have smoothly moved from smartphones to in-home devices and the primary focus 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 capable. Android developers now have open-source specs provided by Google which allows them to use specific Bluetooth channels to stream uninterrupted audio directly to your hearing aid. This type 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 previously watched, or your Fitbit buzzes to let you know you’ve reached a goal (or okay, let’s say stepping stone, depending on how driven your everyday step goals are), your next hearing aid might 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 data about people’s utilization habits, making it anonymous then aggregating it. All this info allows the hearing aids to determine your preferences and make adjustments on the fly so that if you’re at home watching TV or you’re in an IMAX theater (for example), you’ll get the best possible sound.
Finally Ditching The Batteries
Ya, it sounds too good to be true, hearing aids that don’t need batteries? After all, making certain you’ve got spare batteries on hand, 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 improvement in rechargeable technology. That means longer in-use time, faster recharging, and less worrying about batteries, all in all, not too bad.