Hearing loss affects about 15% of U.S. adults 18 and older, about 37.5 million people, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). The incidence of hearing loss increases with age, topping out at 50% of people 75 and older who have disabling or profound loss. According to a 2016 NIDCD study based on 2015 Census Bureau estimates, about 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from hearing aids, but only 16% of adults 20 to 69 have ever used them. We’ve written about wearable tech and changes in hearing aid and hearing assistance markets, including the U.S. Senate’s approval of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act. Both Bose and Nuheara market self-fitting hearing devices.
Starkey, a major traditional hearing aid company, continues to add new features to its Livio AI hearing aid, which it terms “the first hearing aid with artificial intelligence.” According to Starkey, Livio AI can track body and brain health, stream audio from cell phones, TV, music, and other media, and geotag your location to switch hearing modes based on your preferences for tagged locations. The newest Livio AI feature is the ability to detect falls via onboard motion sensors. The system also responds to manual alerts triggered by the wearer tapping the hearing aid. In either case, with manual tapping or AI fall detection, the system automatically sends an alert to up to three pre-configured contacts.
Other new features include the Thrive Virtual Assistant that can respond to questions such as “What’s today’s weather forecast?” Livio AI also has a voice-to-text transcription mode. The Livio AI also can measure heart rate and other data through the use of technology from Valencell.
First we saw wearables moving toward hearing aid functionality including self-testing and selectable modes based on environmental sound profiles. Now a traditional hearing aid company is adding features from consumer electronics such as streaming audio support and voice-driven digital assistance. Fall detection and health tracking put the Starkey hearing aid system in the wearable tech arena. One major difference between enhanced hearing aids and wearables that provide hearing assistance is that if you want to try or buy Livio AI hearing aids, you have to go to an audiologist.