That’s a Computer Behind Your Ear

Smart hearing aids are part of the much larger and ever-evolving world of smart products. These include everything from Tesla cars to Medtronic’s Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) device to the Petcube Camera.

These products are distinct not only because of their ability to connect with other devices and exchange data, but also to upload internal monitoring data they collect to the “product cloud” for further analysis.

Sounds pretty futuristic and high-tech, right? But today this can be part of the small hearing aid that you use every day.

“Smart Hearing” is the new industry buzzword. Hearing aids with smart hearing capabilities can connect with other computer devices — and at this point, your hearing aid probably has as much computing power as some 1950s-era computer that was the size of a suitcase, so it’s a computer too — to create a web of interconnected devices.

Basically, what a smart hearing aid can do is connect to other wireless devices, especially smartphones. Many of these devices are labeled “Made For iPhone,” but they can usually connect with other smartphones. Some can do so directly — without a streaming device like a wireless router via Bluetooth or similar technology — while some need to be part of a wireless network.

The benefits of this new technology are significant. Instead of fumbling with small controls on your hearing aid, you can adjust the volume and other settings via an app on your phone. Likewise, you can stream audio — music, podcasts, radio broadcasts, phone calls — directly into your hearing aid, which will heighten sound quality and lessen outside distractions. And with the self-monitoring feature, audiologists can better individualize the programing of your hearing aid. A detailed record of the sound environments where you spend most of your time is created and then the base settings of your device can be optimized for you.

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