I like to think about and have written about the future of hearing aids and I was navel-gazing during the week. I have been thinking about the widening of the use case of hearing aids. Hearing aids help you hear, but the purpose is to help you communicate. My thoughts strayed to how that ability to communicate could be widened. It also occurred to me that you wear your hearing aids all day, why couldn't that fact be used to make your life better? Let's navel gaze together.
Wake Up, Hearing Aids, Get Moving
A busy day ahead, hit the floor of the bedroom running as you do. Put my hearing aids on and they turned on my radio downstairs, notified my coffee machine to start brewing, the lights in the bathroom and kitchen to turn on.
Bob Gave Me My Day
I call him Bob, don't know why, but hey, you got to call him something right? Bob, the virtual assistant in my hearing aids gave me a rundown of my day, first appointment in Dublin 15 at 09:30. Meeting Tom and Stacey, current travel time 30 minutes. Plenty of time to become human.
Bob and Shirley
Bob tells me that Shirley has sent an activity report, "Shirley" is what my Mother calls her assistant. We have been worried about Mam, she needs to go into a home, but she isn't having it. The hearing aids we got her are designed to carefully track her ongoing health, movement, temperature and pulse rate.
Shirley is set up to notify us all if there might be a problem, she is also set up to send us daily reports on activity. Shirley will notify us immediately if Mam takes a fall or isn't moving around much so that one of the family can head over to see what is happening.
Sitting down to my coffee Bob tells me the M50 is a disaster, what's new? I need to leave now to make the appointment and he has given me a new route. Not too familiar with the route but Bob gives me turn by turn guidance so I get there without a hitch.
Meeting Run Down
Bob gives me a quick rundown of the LinkedIn profiles of Tom and Stacey, telling me Stacey has just been promoted. The meeting goes well with Bob chirping in towards the end to tell me my blood sugar is a bit low. Well Bob, if you hadn't interrupted breakfast it wouldn't be.
With the meeting finished I ask Bob for the nearest cafe, he finds the best reviewed one nearby and gives me turn by turn guidance. He also informs me that an email has just come in and my next appointment is cancelled. He then tells me that swearing is impolite.
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You Are Really Fat!
While walking from the car to the cafe he tells me I am a fat bloke who doesn't get enough exercise. Sorry, I paraphrase, what he says is that I have just taken 1000 steps so far today and on current projections will miss my target. Same thing really.
He informs me that my resting pulse rate has increased over the last four weeks and my activity levels have fallen. So back to the gym for the fat lad. I ask Bob to call Richard on his mobile, hands-free calls directly from Bob are pretty sweet, I can't remember the last time I used a phone for anything?
With the call over, I get Bob to read my emails to me and dictate responses. As usual, he edits out the curses, helping me hear, making my day easy and making me civilised! Wonders will never cease.
End of The Day
I tell Bob that I am going home and he uses IFTT to turn on the heating and start the coffee pot again. As I drive up to the driveway Bob turns on the front light so I can get my damn key in the door. Bob says he can open the door using the electronic catch release applet on IFTT but hey, I like keys!
As I enter I ask Bob to turn the kitchen TV on and start the oven. Dump my stuff in the hall grab some coffee and take a seat. Bob announces to me that he has grabbed the latest marketing podcast I listen to so I tell him to play it.
Relaxing with coffee, a podcast and Bob, what more could a body ask for?
Futuristic? Not Really
Sound futuristic? It actually isn't, there are many services right now that will allow you to go through your day in this manner, of course, they aren't centred in and controlled by a hearing aid, but what's to stop us? In fact, Oticon introduced IFTTT integration with their latest hearing aids.
So technically, having your hearing aids turn on your lights, radio and coffee pot is available to you right this minute. Here is what I said when they were first launched.
Oticon and IFTTT opens up whole new future for the benefits that hearing aids will provide for users
Right now, Signia takes information from accelerometers to change how their hearing aids are working, why couldn't we integrate that sensor with a hearing aid to always have access to movement data? It would ensure that we knew if an elderly relative was moving around enough. More importantly, it would tell us if they had fallen.
Turning Your Hearing Aid Into a Phone
Where do we go from here, what's possible and what's probable? Mobile phone chipsets are getting smaller and lighter, memory is also getting smaller, lighter and cheaper. Bolting on, or overlaying Android over one of our DSP OSs is possible, if not probable just right now.
But as things change and with concerted R&D, that will change. The movement of mobile phone software and app integration is towards making the phone the central source of all personal information and daily updates.
Integrating that type of system in an ear level always on device would make life easier for the people who wear hearing aids. Back to what I have said before, hearing aids are really about communication, that is the heart of what they do.
Yes, they correct hearing loss but they do so to aid communication. I think that all of us in the hearing aid business are beginning to understand that better. So how far away is Bob? I don't know, I feel that he is probably at least five to seven years away, the question is, would you want him? Mail us at email@example.com with your navel-gazing ideas.
By the way, if anyone is working on Bob right now, I want in on the Beta testing.
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Posted by Geoff
Geoffrey (Geoff, anything else makes him nervous) Cooling has been involved with the hearing aid industry for over ten years. He has worked in private practice dispensing hearing aids and as a manufacturer's rep. He has written two books and they are both available on Amazon. He loves technology, passing on knowledge and is legendary for many other things, primarily the amount he curses, his dry and mischievous sense of humour and his complete intolerance of people who are full of themselves. Please feel free to connect with him
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