Why Artificial Intelligence is used as a hearing aid technology – and how it can help your clients

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a popular term you’ve probably been hearing a lot lately. But how can you use AI as a hearing aid technology?
“Artificial Intelligence” was coined all the way back in the 1950s. Today, this technology is not just something computer scientists and tech aficionados dabble with – most of us use AI in our daily lives without really thinking or knowing about it. It’s already part of our behaviour.  
That’s because AI can make life a lot easier. If we’re talking healthcare, it could even save lives: AI has been shown to diagnose skin cancer with higher accuracy than experienced doctors

In short, Artificial Intelligence does what a human can do
AI is when a computer or machine can carry out a task that a person normally would be able to do. Like looking at a map and finding the fastest route home. Today, you’d probably use your GPS to help you find your way, and the GPS uses AI to get you there. 
This form of AI is very common. All it takes is a graphical representation of a map with dots to indicate the intersections and roads. When the computer in your GPS has this information, AI can easily find the fastest route to your house. 
You’re also exposed to AI when you shop online. Like when you almost bought a pair of pants on a website and decided not to. Then, moments later, you’ll see ads for those very same pants across different websites. That’s because AI knows you’re interested in the pants and is trying to get you to buy them. Or, at least, the company that sells them is (and uses AI to promote them).  
This simple kind of AI is mostly based on mathematics like combinatorics, logics and algorithmics. It uses explicit models, which means that to perform the task that you’re asking of AI, you’ll have to represent every possible outcome or condition in the computer. 
So, for instance, if you’re creating an AI-based chess robot, you’ll need to include every possible move and all the rules for the AI robot to play intelligently and win. The first time a computer used AI to win in chess was as far back as 1997, when the IBM computer Deep Blue beat the world chess champion.     
Machine learning is when Artificial Intelligence learns
A more complex form of AI is called Machine Learning. That’s when a machine learns structures and can predict future outcomes based on human input.
For instance, if you want to teach a computer what a dog looks like, you train it by repeatedly showing the computer pictures of dogs. That way it learns how to categorise a dog as a dog, because it gradually understands the traits that define a dog. It learns.
This form of learning is implicit rather than explicit, and it makes the computer more capable of defining things on its own and predicting outcomes based on experience. Of course, you can never be 100% sure that the computer will always be right in its predictions or categorisations. 

When Artificial Intelligence can truly help humans
AI in its simplest form performs a task that a human could do. But Machine Learning, the deeper form of AI, can predict future outcomes beyond what a human could do.
A good example comes from a healthcare study where the computer could spot more patterns than humans could. The study used Computer Assisted Diagnosis to review early mammography scans of women who later developed breast cancer. The computer predicted 52% of the cancers a year ahead of the official diagnoses. With this kind of information, humans can take over and more easily prevent the cancer from progressing.  

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning as hearing aid technology
When it comes to hearing aids, AI is used for different purposes.
For many years, AI has been used as a hearing aid technology to classify sound environments so that the hearing aid can automatically adjust to an appropriate setting for each environment. Nowadays, this is a feature that’s expected of any hearing aid.
Beyond that, AI is used today to track health and to personalise hearing in the moment (through SoundSense Learn). 
SoundSense Learn uses the deeper form of AI, Machine Learning, to calculate the best possible hearing outcome for a given situation in just 20 comparisons. And every time this AI is used, it stores the information it’s given in the cloud, so that it can improve hearing for other users of this feature. 
To reach the same result, a user would have to do almost 2,500,000 comparisons. So, Machine Learning is completing a task which a human would not be able to do in practice, because it has been trained to do so.  
AI can also remember your preferred volume settings for every sound class and automatically adjust the settings for the next time you’re in that sound class. 

Artificial Intelligence still needs human intervention 
AI will get smarter over time as humans continue to build on the technology. But humans will dictate how AI develops and when it’s successful or not. AI will continue to need humans to give input and keep it up to date.  
As for hearing aids, we can only speculate about what’s to come. One day, hearing aids may be able to perform all sorts of tasks themselves, with no assistance from apps. But one thing is for sure: AI will always need humans to succeed. 

Need help explaining AI to your clients? Check out our animation below: