Technology is evolving into smarter, more powerful, and smaller devices. 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 issues, though they can have many different causes, are more common among older individuals. About 37.5 million adults 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 best demographic variable to predict hearing loss.
If you’re suffering from hearing loss, that’s one person too many. Better ways to decrease hearing loss? Let’s have them! Here are some of the innovations that are in the works.
Complete-Body Tracking Through Your Hearing Aids
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 do you really need a device on your wrist if you already have one in your ear? Nope! Or at least, you don’t with some of the newest hearing aids, which in addition to helping correct for hearing difficulties like tinnitus, will also keep track of your pulse, your physical activity, and much more. Sure, a wearable like an Apple Watch can do that, but hearing aids can offer you 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.
Connectivity is the primary watchword, as virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa have moved from smartphones to in-home devices seamlessly. Some hearing aids that offer Bluetooth capabilities now let users stream audio directly from a device, like a smart TV for example, to the hearing aids. Google published open-source standards for Android developers that show them how to use specific channels within Bluetooth to produce uninterrupted audio straight to hearing aids. 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 watched previously, or your Fitbit alerts you to tell you that you’ve reached a goal (or okay, let’s say stepping stone, depending on how ambitious your everyday 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 utilization habits, making it anonymous then aggregating it. All this information enables the hearing aids to figure out your tendencies and make adjustments on the fly so that if you’re at home watching TV or you’re at an IMAX theater (for example), you’ll get the best possible 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 see hearing aids that don’t need any batteries, there has been a constant improvement in rechargeable technology. That means longer in-use time, faster recharging, and less worrying about batteries, all in all, not too shabby.