Using Machine Learning to Make Your Hearing Aids Better

By: Dr Cliff Olson
March 25, 2019
Video Transcript

When I say machine learning, you either think, "what the heck is that" or, you think of companies like Netflix.  Netflix uses machine learning to predict what types of shows you prefer to watch before you know you wan't to watch them.  However, what if I told you that not only could you improve your movie watching experience, but you could also improve the way your hearing aids perform.  Imagine this:  You receive a new set of hearing aids and have your hearing care provider program them correctly using Real Ear Verification.  You go to a restaurant with your friend, only to find that while you can hear better, you still aren't hearing as well as you hoped.  Normally, you would have to relay your experience to your hearing care professional so they could make adjustments at a follow-up visit. Well, what if instead you could make adjustments to your own hearing aids, while you are in that environment, with the help of Machine Learning?

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence that uses data to recognize patters to ultimately make decisions with minimal human intervention.  This exactly what Widex is doing with the SoundSense Technology inside of their Widex Evoke Hearing Aids.  The Evoke App lets you choose between two different sound samples while you are actually in a real listening situation. You simply identify what type of situation you are in, and what your goal is inside of that environment. The SoundSense learn feature will then create two different sound Profiles, one labeled A and one labeled B. Each option changes how you hear, in real time, in that environment. Once you determine which option you like best, you then indicate how much more you like it. Each time you perform this comparison, SoundSense Learn will calculate the most likely optimal setting for the next comparison.

With the help of the Machine Learning inside of the SoundSense Learn App, you could take millions of different program settings, and optimize them within only 20 paired comparisons to maximize Sound Quality and Sound Comfort of your hearing aids.In a 2018 study published in the Hearing Review, http://www.hearingreview.com/2018/05/... , Researchers found that SoundSense Learn users reported better listening comfort and better sound quality.  In a more recent 2019 study in The Hearing Review, http://www.hearingreview.com/2019/02/... , 72% of SoundSense Learn users reported an improvement in hearing, while 80% reported a willingness to recommend the feature to others.To illustrate just how unique individual listening preferences are, 13,000 users of SoundSense Learn created over 33,000 unique programs, with no clear trend of preferences between users.  

Not only do Widex Evoke Hearing Aids Utilize SoundSense Learn for custom hearing aid adjustments, they also have the capability of using SoundSense Adapt technology to allow your hearing aids to remember settings that you prefer in similar environments. This means that your hearing aids actually get smarter the more you use them.  Widex can also has the capability of using this anonymous data collected by SoundSense Technology, combining it with data from other users around the world, which allows SoundSense technology to get smarter over time.  At the end of the day, Machine Learning could help you hear better now, in all environments, and pave the way for improvements into the future.  While it is cool to have Netflix know what I want to watch before I want to watch it, it is even cooler to have a hearing aid that can use very similar technology to improve the way you hear in a variety of listening situations.

Dr. Cliff's Thoughts
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