The Next Generation of Hearing Aids
Smart hearing aids are more and more becoming the norm, not the alternative. By plugging into the Internet of Things (IoT) the latest generation of hearing aids are not just glorified amplifiers of the sound in a user’s immediate physical location. Instead, they are now both input and output devices that can communicate not just with devices nearby but also with the IoT cloud.
The computing power in a modern hearing aid would shock a computer scientist of the 1950s (or maybe even the 1980s). The first wave of computerization of hearing aids — the transition from analog to digital — brought the ability to better mix frequencies and enhance the output in the parts of the sound spectrum a user needed help with.
The current transition from digital to “smart” is about amplifying not just sound, but communication — for both the user and the device itself.
Hearing aids, via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, can now be linked with any number of devices. Sound input can come from smartphones, tablets, computers, TVs — even doorbells can be programmed to communicate directly with a hearing aid.
And data input is now possible too. Apps can make a smartphone or tablet the hearing aid’s control panel, allowing a user to make adjustments to volume and mix levels (including pre-set mixes for different sound environments). This screen interface means no fumbling with any tiny knobs or buttons on the hearing aid itself.
Modern hearing aids can also send data now. Information about performance and sound environments can be uploaded to providers, who can use the data to better calibrate a user’s hearing aid to their specific needs.
All of this is happening as hearing aids themselves become smaller and lighter. It’s changing life for the hearing impaired in ways both subtle and obvious.