Technology has improved the lives of countless people over the years. From helping those with amputated limbs live normal lives to helping the blind see, there seems to be no limit to what technology and science can help solve–and hearing loss is no exception. Hearing aids are a vital medical device for millions of people, but sometimes it’s tough to see a way to improve on existing technology. But there are hundreds of brilliant engineers and scientists who are harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the lives of those with mild to profound hearing loss.
Problems with Current Hearing Aids
One of the most basic issues with current hearing aid technology is that it can’t really filter out complex background noise. Background noise is one of the biggest hurdles for those with hearing loss. Trying to focus on one voice in the middle of a crowd is extremely difficult, but lip-reading AI can help circumvent this problem.
That’s right–AI will soon be able to lip-read for us! Combining several different sciences from AI to computer vision and even speech sciences, lip-reading AI can actually watch an audio-less clip of a person speaking. By analyzing the lip movements of the individual in the video, the AI can then recreate an audio file of what the person said. This could transform hearing technology by eliminating the need to filter out background noise altogether.
Because computers can recreate very clean speech from lip reading alone, it makes it very possible to focus in on one person in a crowd so you can more effectively communicate in crowded environments.
The Multiple Speaker Problem
While this may seem like a background noise issue, the problem of multiple speakers actually presents its own host of problems for those with profound hearing loss. Especially in videos or similar media, multiple speakers can present issues for listeners with hearing aids. However, Google is developing a clever feature that detects audio and visual cues in recorded media. After analyzing the speakers, this technology can recreate a very clean recording of a single individual even when accompanied by other simultaneous speakers.
While this type of AI could absolutely prove useful in helping circumvent background noise as well, this technology can also help the hearing impaired enjoy videos or other media (e.g. comedy, news interviews, etc) that could feature speakers talking over one another for extended periods of time.
How to Adopt This New Hearing Technology?
While all of these incredible AI technologies seem to be pulled right from the pages of a science fiction novel, the real hurdle comes in knowing how to harness this technology into “hearables,” or wearable technology that still provides effective hearing services. It’s possible that something like Google Glass–wearable augmented reality glasses–could be used broadly. The glasses would allow for “computer vision” and could be equipped with a hearing aid device or external speaker that could translate the lip readings into audio files.
Especially for those with milk to moderate hearing loss, wireless earbuds could also present an easy and readily accessible solution to this problem. But the real question comes in when you consider those with profound, irresistible hearing loss. Because of the extensive deterioration of the inner ear that comes with severe hearing loss, many with it struggle to hear in one-on-one conversation in quiet places.
It’s possible that this technology could somehow be integrated into existing pieces, like cochlear implants, but Elon Musk has recently sent the hearing sciences world abuzz with his announcement of Neuralink–an innovative new technology that could eventually transmit sounds directly into the brain.
Neuralink was created by a team of brilliant scientists and engineers who created a “brain-machine interface” that has over 3,000 electrodes to target various sections of the brain. If it could transmit music, as Musk claims, then it’s no surprise to consider that it could also transmit clean human speech as well.
The Future of Hearing is Bright
While those who suffer from hearing loss may feel like there is little they can look forward to, we’re happy to report that the future of hearing sciences is very bright! Pioneering companies like Google, SpaceX, Apple, and Bose are jumping into the hearing aid game and will transform the “hearables” industry.
While we chronicle these new hearing discoveries, be sure to seek out the answers and therapies you need to manage your own hearing loss. Hearing aids are an incredible tool that can help you improve your quality of life, so be sure to reach out to the Hearing Associates of Las Vegas and see what kinds of hearing aids could help you start living your best life today!