Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic medical issues that people navigate. Impacting nearly 1 in 5 people, hearing loss affects communication which is a major way we navigate and understand the world. The most common treatment for hearing impairment is hearing aids, electronic devices that are designed to amplify and process sound. Hearing aids can significantly improve a person’s ability to hear in various environments.
Similar to most electronics today, hearing aids have experienced incredible innovation. Now more than ever before, hearing aids have a range of features and technologies that allow them to easily integrate in daily life, creating optimal listening experiences. The most recent innovation focuses on incorporating virtual assistant technology to provide seamless connection.
Hearing Aid Innovations
According to the National Institute on Deafness & Other Communication Disorders, nearly 29 million people could benefit from using hearing aids. Hearing aids improve hearing health which has numerous positive outcomes on overall health and wellness including improved cognitive function. These devices are smaller and more advanced than ever, offering numerous features that support daily life. Bluetooth connectivity is one of the most significant innovations that has drastically enhanced hearing aids. In 2014, the first made for iPhone hearing aids were introduced to the market, radically changing the industry. Since this debut, nearly all hearing aids now come with the Bluetooth feature.
Bluetooth technology allows hearing aids to wirelessly connect to other devices like your smartphone. This allows hearing aids to stream audio from your phone (or speaker, laptop etc.) directly to your hearing aids. Wireless connectivity sharpens sound quality and creates a more integrated experience while doing activities like talking on the phone, watching television, listening to music etc. Bluetooth technology has created even more possibilities for integrated hearing aid connectivity. Hearing aid manufacturers have introduced features like accessing and using virtual assistants which provide even more support!
What Are Virtual Assistants?
Virtual assistants are a voice-based technology that are designed to provide convenient digital support. They work by using artificial intelligence (and machine learning) to recognize a person’s speech and perform a specific task that is communicated vocally. The primary purpose of virtual assistants is to answer questions and apply commands like pulling up a specific app, getting directions, making a phone call, playing a song etc. Popular examples that you may regularly interact with include:
– Apple’s Siri
– Microsoft’s Cortana
– Amazon’s Alexa
Virtual assistants are designed to make interacting with your devices easier and convenient. Hearing aids can utilize Bluetooth technology to connect to your smartphone and access it’s virtual assistant. Currently, manufacturers of hearing aids are now starting to integrate virtual assistant technology with hearing aids to offer this easy way of interacting with your device.
Virtual Assistants & Hearing Aids
There are five major manufacturers of hearing aids and three have recently introduced virtual assistant technology. In the first phases of this technology, the version of virtual assistants specifically for hearing aids are not intended to replace Siri, Cortana, Alexa etc. Rather, they are currently meant to offer information and assistance specific to your hearing aid device. They are specialized to provide details about battery life, settings, programs, and other questions that you may have about your hearing aids. They can also process general questions, not related to hearing aids, which are fielded differently. This feature offers numerous benefits including:
– Easy access to device controls and settings
– Quick responses on questions about device
– Readily switch settings on hearing aids
– Location and navigation support
These benefits enhance overall user experience and simplify communication in our increasingly digital lives. This is particularly important and useful for older adults who are disproportionately impacted by hearing loss. Older adults who may live in senior living communities or rely on support from family members, can significantly benefit from this technology which can provide specialized attention and support. Virtual assistant technology can help people with hearing loss live more independently and engaged. This contributes to better mental, social, and physical health; improves quality of life and overall happiness.