Whether we realize it or not, in today’s high-tech driven world we are exposed to many forms of machine learning, also known as artificial intelligence. It could involve something as simple as a performing a web search, or even a targeted advertisement online. However, it could also take the form of a complex program designed to detect fraud, as executed by your bank. Machine learning is defined as a form of artificial intelligence that provides computers with the ability to learn, over time, through the analysis of data and statistics. For the wearers of hearing aids, a pertinent question may be: “How can this advanced technology be employed to benefit the way I am able to hear sound?”
The goal of machine learning as applied to hearing aids is to gather detailed information from a wearer’s usage and preferences in real life hearing environments. Utilizing what has been learned ultimately leads to providing enhanced sound quality for the wearer. This feature gives users the opportunity to fully interact with their hearing aids and optimize its function to their needs. For example, say you are dining in a restaurant and you make changes to the sound settings of your hearing aid, the next time you are at that restaurant your hearing aids will recall your previously desired settings and automatically adjust accordingly.
In April 2018, Widex became the first hearing aid manufacturer to introduce machine-learning technology to its hearing aid platform with “SoundSense Learn.” Widex Evoke is a made-for-iPhone hearing aid that wirelessly connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth. This seamless connection allows for streaming of phone calls, music, audiobooks, and use of the Widex Evoke application (App). If you have an Android phone, you can still connect your phone to your hearing aids with the use of a hands-free streaming device called a COM-DEX.
Once connected, you will be able to take full advantage of the features of this app, where you can change hearing aid programs, adjust volume, and use an equalizer to adjust sounds. You can also create personalized programs for different environments. However, the biggest innovation is with “SoundSense Learn” feature. It provides you with the ability to perform an A-to-B comparison of sound. You will listen to both sound profiles and decide which of the two you prefer. The more you use this feature, the more your hearing aids will get to know your preferences, and through application of machine learning it will be able to predict your desired sound settings without you needing to do anything at all.
In an interview with Oliver Townend, Widex Audiology Communications Manager, he stated: “The current machine learning algorithm, SoundSense Learn, learns each time the hearing aid wearer uses it. In time, we will start to identify patterns. Through further analysis of this anonymous data, we are confident that SoundSense Learn will become more agile. This analysis will result in even faster learning. We will also look for patterns and trends showcasing what hearing aid wearers want from sounds in real-life. This will impact how we think about our future hearing aid sound. The future is very exciting, and the potential of smartphone connectivity is huge.”
With this innovation, it is safe to say the next big step in the evolution of hearing aids has arrived, and Widex Evoke is ushering the machine learning era. This is an advancement that will provide tangible benefits to hearing aid users and audiologists alike. You can learn more about Widex Evoke at an ACA office near you!