Could AI Help Restore Hearing?

Many Americans are affected by a hearing impairment. The National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that up to 20% of Americans have hearing loss. For many with hearing loss, hearing aids help to improve their hearing abilities.

Treating a hearing loss can do more than improve your ability to communicate. Other benefits can include:

  • Reduced risk of accidents
  • Reduced risk of cognitive decline
  • Improve quality of life

Given the benefits, it’s hardly surprising that hearing technology continues to evolve. The hearing aids of today are sophisticated devices. Essentially, they work as a mini-computer. Compared to the hearing aids of even just a few decades ago, they are a world-apart.

Recent advances in hearing technology involve the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In theory, AI can adapt to your unique listening environments. It can also adjust to your unique type of hearing loss. It begs the question; could AI help restore hearing?

What is Artificial Intelligence

Let’s cross this off first. Artificial Intelligence, or AI, sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. The AI of today is most definitely not science fiction; it is science fact.

Put simply, AI refers to technology that displays human-like intelligence. This could include:

  • Problem-solving capabilities
  • Recognition of objects
  • The ability to make decisions
  • Respond and actually understand language

You are probably already interacting with AI. Some common applications for this technology include:

  • Smartphones
  • Smart cars
  • Smart home speakers
  • Social media
  • Banking
  • Travel or Navigation
  • Music
  • And much, much more!

As you can see, AI touches on almost every part of a modern life. If you’d like to go into further detail on AI, check out this article from IBM.

Artificial Intelligence and Hearing Devices

Artificial intelligence can help improve the performance of hearing aids devices. If you wear hearing aid devices, you probably worked with your hearing healthcare specialist to adjust the device. Your hearing healthcare specialist can program the hearing aid devices to suit your unique hearing needs.

You may also adjust your hearing aid device yourself. For example, adjusting the volumes based on your listening environment. While a useful feature, it can sometimes be a tedious, manual process.

Integrating AI into hearing devices would help automate this process. Imagine a super-computer in your hearing aid devices that knows your volume needs adjusting!

Could AI Help Restore Hearing?

Researchers have already shown how AI can help people with a hearing impairment. One research project, at Perception and Neurodynamics Laboratory (PNL) at the Ohio State University, demonstrated the incredible impact that AI can have on hearing.

The researchers used something known as a deep neural network (DNN). A DNN is AI technology that has been configured to replicate how our brain’s neural network functions. DNN should, in theory, respond in the same way our brains would.

Researchers trained a DNN to understand and distinguish speech from other noises. Put simply, it aimed to increase people’s understanding of conversation, while reducing unwanted background noises. The results were impressive.

“People with hearing impairment could decipher only 29 percent of words muddled by babble without the program, but they understood 84 percent after the processing,” DeLiang Wang, professor of computer science and engineering at Ohio State University, wrote in IEEE Spectrum.

Other ways that AI could improve hearing include: 

  • Reducing unwanted background noise
  • Hearing devices that focus on the correct person (the person you want to listen to.)
  • Lip-reading AI to improve understanding

Hearing Devices Using AI

In January 2021, Oticon announced the Oticon More™ hearing aid. Oticon More is a Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE) hearing aid.

What makes the Oticon More special, is that it is the first world’s first hearing aid that uses an on-board Deep Neural Network (DNN). Oticon aimed to “train” a hearing aid device on as many real-life sound scenarios as possible. The objective was to help the DNN understand the different sounds, and improve how to balance the sounds in it. 

And that is exactly what Oticon did! The DNN in the Oticon More™ was trained with 12 million complex real-life sound scenes. The real-life results of this speak for themselves: “Oticon More delivers 30% more sound to the brain and increase speech understanding by 15%.*” (Source)

Want to Learn More? Contact Us Today!

Interested in amplifying your listening experience? The hearing healthcare specialists at Anderson Audiology would be glad to help. To book an appointment, call us on 702-997-2964. Alternatively, click here to request an appointment online.

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