The hearing aid of the future probably won’t look any different from what you’re currently wearing, but the technology contained within that tiny package will change radically. Imagine walking into a movie theater where your hearing aid automatically connects to the venue’s advanced wireless Bluetooth. Or you walk into a crowded dining room, and your hearing aid knows exactly which voice to amplify so you can hear each syllable perfectly.
Hearing aids will have the potential to monitor your health by sending automatic reports to your doctor if there’s an issue. Imagine hearing aids that help you meditate, soothe your nerves, and bolster your mental health.
Now imagine it’s all in one package.
Maybe that future device sounds a lot like science fiction to you. The reality, however, is these technologies are currently being developed, tested, and implemented.
Improving voice recognition and amplification
Hearing aids are built around very tiny speakers. As a result, crystal clear audio quality is important, and digital advances have come a long way in creating high-quality sound. This sound clarity is referred to as “high fidelity” (there’s also a movie with John Cusack by the same name, but it’s not about hearing aids).
For those who wear hearing aids, high fidelity is exceptionally important. A voice that is unclear or garbled is difficult to understand, no matter how well you can hear it. That’s why some of the most exciting developments in hearing aid technology are in the area of voice recognition and amplification.
Hearing aid innovations include:
- The use of machine learning AI algorithms to isolate human speech from background noise.
- An ability to isolate and amplify one specific speaker over the other.
- Reproducing sound with crystal clarity using sophisticated digital speakers and technologies.
- Automatically connecting to wireless devices, such as phones, so your hearing aids can benefit you on phone calls the same way they do during in-person conversations.
Hearing aids and health data
Of course, helping you hear better is simply the tip of the iceberg. It won’t be long before your hearing device has all the basic bio tracking capabilities of your Apple Watch, Fitbit, and more. Researchers are currently developing technology to make hearing aids important diagnostic devices and front-line health and safety tools.
Here’s what you might look forward to in the next generation of hearing devices:
- Fitness tracking capabilities can log your steps, physical activity, and even your heart rate or blood oxygen levels.
- Fall detection software to detect whether you could get up after a fall and alert emergency services if you need help. This feature is currently available on some hearing aids and will likely be more common in the future.
- The ability to record other physiological data designed to help your hearing device function better or provide your physician with important medical data.
Some of these developments are further off than others. Still, with the speed at which fitness tracking and health-related technology are being incorporated into hearing devices, many of these features will soon be commonplace.
It’s even likelier that many of these features will be integrated into existing wireless and internet-based technologies. Your hearing aid of the future might be able to keep track of your health and provide that data to an app on your phone.
Mental health assistance
It’s probably not surprising that hearing aids will ultimately incorporate health and fitness technology. What’s a bit less intuitive is the notion that tomorrow’s hearing aids may be able to maintain or improve your mental health! Researchers are using new technologies to do just that.
Here’s how it might work:
- Hearing aids can integrate with existing meditation software, services, and technologies to help you meditate appropriately and more regularly!
- By incorporating complex behavioral algorithms, your hearing aid may be able to evaluate your mental state (for example, by analyzing your pulse rate or voice patterns). This might enable you to seek help earlier when your mental health is affected.
- Hearing aids can wirelessly connect to laptops and personal tablets, essential for those who receive mental health treatments via telemedicine visits. If you’re speaking with your therapist by videoconference, you need to be able to hear the therapist’s voice clearly.
A bright future
Some of these applications may sound far-fetched. Although a few of these innovations might be a long way from becoming the norm, the vast majority of these technologies already exist in some form. They will be enhanced by improving the technology that already exists within modern hearing aids.
So your next hearing aid might not look like anything special compared to its predecessor, but the technology inside that little package could be absolutely revolutionary.