With Sensors and AI, These Smart Hearing Aids Are Meant Also for People Who Don’t Have Hearing Problems

Smart hearing aids
Image: Starkey Hearing Technologies

Hearing aids have come a long way over the last several years and the technology within them is improving rapidly. From sensors to artificial intelligence, modern hearing aids are packed with technology. They’re like a mini computer for your ears. They not only help you hear better, but they also help you live a far more fulfilling life. Even if you do not have a hearing problem, you might want a wearable that tracks your heart rate, monitor vital signs, and translates foreign languages. The prices of these next-level hearing aids are next-level too. They normally cost $2,000 to $3000, even more.

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Denmark-based GN Hearing, best known for its ReSound brand, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of hearing aids. GN Hearing also makes the very popular line of Jabra ear buds.

“There is no doubt that hearing aids have completely changed, even in the last 10 years. Everything from the quality, functionality and even the look has changed dramatically, allowing people to seamlessly integrate hearing aids into their everyday life without hassle or embarrassment. There are many things that have become possible for hearing aid users. Today, you can connect them to a TV, iPhone or Android phone, wirelessly streaming anything from a phone call to music straight to your ears,” Laurel Christensen, Chief Audiology Officer at GN Hearing, told MedGadget.

However, not all hearing aids are actually hearing aids, they are PSAPs, or Personal Sound Amplification Products. While hearing aids are FDA approved medical devices, PSAPs are not. These devices don’t offer nearly the same sound quality, especially in noisy situations. They might amplify speech a little in a quiet environment, but they do not have the level of sophistication that hearing aids have today, according to Christensen.

ReSound hearing aid
Image: ReSound

Starkey Hearing Technologies is an Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based company that manufactures smart hearing aids. Starkey now makes hearing aids that are also meant for people who don’t need hearing aids. Their new product Livio AI uses tiny sensors and artificial intelligence to selectively filter noise and focus on specific sound sources—for instance, the person across the table in a busy restaurant.

Livio AI also tracks various health metrics such as, steps walked, stairs climbed, and cognitive activity. It can also translate 27 languages and will, after a forthcoming update, measure heart rate.

“In the next five to seven years, your hearing aids are going to be like Jarvis from Iron Man,” says Brandon Sawalich, president of Starkey. “It’s going to be your personal assistant. It’s going to know more about what’s going on with your body that you want to know—your heart rate, blood pressure, glucose. The ear is the new wrist.”

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