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Hearing Technology News & articles relating to hearing loss & audiology products.

‘Smart’ hearing aid technology – a thing of the future?

On 07, Dec 2016 | In Hearing Technology | By Jerusha Shulberg

Apple’s latest change to remove the headphone jack and replace the traditional plug-in ear phones with wireless AirPods has sparked some considerable conversation. AirPods could change the way we use headphones with its instant ability to connect to your iPhone as soon as it is turned on, to adjusting the volume of playback music, changing a song, getting directions by activating Siri or making a call wirelessly. We have been using this type of advanced wireless technology to make life easier for people with hearing loss for some time! Could forward-thinking companies like Apple be making connected hearing devices the ‘thing’ to wear?

The development of hearing aids

Sadly, wearing hearing instruments still comes with some stigma for a variety of beliefs and perceptions – some people tend to just associate hearing aids with old age, which we all know is not the complete picture. Our hearing starts to deteriorate as early as after the age of 25! One of the key reasons behind why we lose hearing acuity is due to Sociocusis, ie, the result of the accumulated effects that living in modern society has on our hearing. Far too many people experiencing hearing loss waste make a timely decision to take active steps to recover their hearing and increase their quality of life. On average, people with hearing loss wait almost 10 years before they do something about it and the longer people wait, the greater the risk of mental decline due to withdrawal from social interaction and activities.  What we find interesting is the potential of wireless technology from forward thinking companies like Apple to change the way hearing aid treatment technology is perceived.

Developers of hearing treatment technology such as Oticon were one of the first to create hearing aids that connect wirelessly to a variety of bluetooth enabled electronic devices such as iPhones, Androids, TV’s and introduced the first internet-connected hearing device, the Oticon Opn™ thus entering hearing technology into the IoT (Internet of Things) world. The Opn™ is a hearing aid that is designed to interact with other internet connected devices via the ON app by making use of the web-based automation system IFTTT (if-this-then-that) service.

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT is a platform that allows people to set up personalised “recipes” for triggering certain reactions when certain things happen. Plugging information from one service into another, allows you to link all your preferred web apps to integrate or make connections between services like Google, Gmail, Twitter, OFFICE 365 and more.

So “If [this thing happens on one service], then [do that on another service].” For example, “If I step into Waitrose, then show me my shopping list.” Or in the case of people wearing Oticon Opn™ technology, “then tell my hearing aid to read out my shopping list.”

 

What does this mean for hearing aid wearers?

If personalised appropriately by an Audiologist, hearing instruments can help just about anyone experiencing hearing loss and with the recent shift to internet connected devices, they are fast becoming an important part of daily life for many of our patients. Oticon Opn™ enables you to craft advanced connections to a whole world of wireless devices and solutions that has the potential to add a considerable amount of convenience and ease to your daily life.

The IFTTT service automates how your hearing aids, home devices, apps, and websites work with each other through rules (or “recipes”) that you create. These recipes and can be as simple as receiving notification in your hearing 15 minutes before an important event is indicated in your calendar; getting the weather forecast directly through your hearing aids at 7am each morning or receiving Fit bit text to speech reminders re progress with your daily goals. Similar to how Apple envision AirPods changing the lives of consumers in the future.

 

Daily IFTTT Recipe Examples

You can craft more complex recipes specific to your unique lifestyle needs. Here a just a few examples of the types of connections that you can craft into your daily life –

  • Set up your connected TV so that when you turn it on, the lights dim and your hearing aid switches modes to receive audio directly from your home entertainment system with a simple voice command.
  • Receive an audio notification for internet connected doorbells so that you are alerted when somebody is at the door.
  • Receive an audio notification that your hearing aid battery is running low.
  • Receive audio reminders to take your vitamins as soon as you switch your hearing aid one each morning.
  • Have your hearing aids switch to a preferred listening program based on your GPS location.
  • Keep track of your loved one’s hearing aid battery power. IFTTT can be extremely helpful for parents with children with hearing loss, caregivers and relatives of adults who require support with their hearing instruments. The hearing aid can be set up so that it sends a text message or email to the parent or caregiver when the hearing aid battery is low.
  • Use Smart ‘tags’ or trackers to alert you when your loved one has reach a certain geo-location safely. This is especially important for parents with children with hearing loss whose hearing aid can be set up to send a message to mum and dad letting them know that their child has reached school or is back home safe and sound.

 

Hearing Aid Technology in the ‘Smart’ World

With today’s smart home electronics, the potential to create a home environment that is easily controlled to provide effortless comfort and extreme convenience. You could, for example, craft connections so that your smart fridge sends you an audio message to update you on which items of food you’re low on at a specific time each day. Smart home security systems and smoke alarms can be set up to deliver a text-to speech message direct to the Opn™ prompting an immediate response. You can craft a connection between your hearing aid and home appliances that play a part in your morning routine. For example, the switching on of your hearing aids when you make up each morning can be set up to trigger your coffee machine to start brewing your favourite blend, your lights to switch on and your favourite radio station to play in the background. You can also craft connections between the hearing aid and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant which is like having a smart PA-in-a-box who is ready and waiting to help you with your shopping list, help you stream music from connected services, to read the latest news to you and to help you control your hearing aids. All you have to do is to ask Alexa.

 

The possibilities with IFTTT and the Internet of Things are endless!

Whatever you think about hearing aids or wireless ear phones, the industry IS shifting thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), the accessible IFTTT (if-this-then-that) service and forward-thinking technology companies like Apple shifting the hardware side of things. We hope this filters through to the world of audiology and positively influences the way hearing instruments are perceived, encouraging people who may be experiencing hearing loss to take the necessary steps to improve their hearing, communication relationships and quality of life sooner.

*All actions and triggers work on IOS and Android platforms, except the action to read out text. This is for now only available on iOS.

Want to find out more about internet-connected hearing devices, or find out more about getting your hearing tested?

Contact Cubex today >

 

 

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