How Virtual Assistants Can Assist Those with Hearing Loss

How Virtual Assistants Can Assist Those with Hearing Loss
Dr. Steinberg
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When you first encounter a person with a virtual assistant at home, it can come as quite a surprise! These assistants use voice commands to perform tasks, and using them can feel like talking to a robot at first. After time these virtual assistants can become seamlessly integrated into your daily life, providing information, controlling settings in the home, and even enhancing home safety. However, these devices might seem like they aren’t suited to people with hearing loss. For instance, when you call out “Hey Google,” “Alexa,” or “Siri” and ask for a weather report, a person with hearing loss might find it difficult to hear the response. Although these devices feel sub-optimal for those with hearing loss, they are actually compatible with text-based devices that make it possible to enhance many life activities. Let’s look at some of the benefits of virtual assistants for those with hearing loss, as well as the forms of artificial intelligence (AI) that are woven into many of the latest hearing aids. 

Virtual Assistants 

When you call out for assistance from one of these devices, the response can come in the form of a simulated human voice. Depending on the nature of your hearing loss and the volume of that voice, the response might be difficult to hear. Despite this challenge, virtual assistants can be useful in many other ways. First of all, many of the voice commands do not require an audible response. If you have integrated a virtual assistant with settings in your home, such as lights, security systems, or heat and cooling, then you can benefit from those responses right away. In addition, text readers can be integrated with most of these virtual assistants to make it possible to use them at home and on the go. When you ask a virtual assistant to tell you the weather report, for instance, these text readers can provide not only a verbal report but also a report on the screen that you can read. This combination makes it possible to use virtual assistants even when hearing loss is an issue. 

Hearing Aid AI

AI is not only used by virtual assistants, however. The latest hearing aids use AI to create a better user experience and to respond to changing conditions in ways that you don’t need to manually control. In the past, hearing aids were cumbersome devices that required manual adjustments. If you found yourself in a noisy room, you would have to take your hearing aids out, adjust the volume by hand, and reinsert those devices. Today, many hearing aids use Bluetooth connectivity to wirelessly connect with an app on your smartphone. When you find that the audio settings in a room are suboptimal, you can open your app and adjust those settings until you find the right combination for your needs. In addition to connecting with apps, your aids can also use AI to find the right setting for the space. Many hearing aids can automatically detect the sounds in a room and use digital signal processing (DSPs) to adjust to your needs. If background noise is too loud, these aids can automatically reduce those sounds, and they can also enhance the sound of a voice that is closest to you. Beyond these functions, the latest hearing aids use AI to connect with health data, sync with music, notifications, and other audio, and many other algorithmic functions. 

If you are interested in integrating your hearing aids with any of these AI features or virtual assistants, the first step will be to get a hearing test to make sure your aids are compatible with your needs. Once we have determined that your hearing aids are suited to you, we can see what features are available. If you find that your aids are no longer meeting your technology needs, we can also talk with you about the alternatives that are available on the market. Getting connected to the latest features can improve your life and bring a fresh perspective on the world. Though a few find these features to be complicated, most people enjoy using these new technologies to enhance the experience of the sounding world.