Listen Up: Using AI to Build Personalized Assistive Hearing Devices

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A new partnership between Google and an Australian hearing coalition is using machine intelligence to improve the customizability of hearing aids and cochlear implants.

EARLIER THIS YEAR, Cochlear, the manufacturer of cochlear implants, announced a collaboration with Google and Australian Hearing Hub members, the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), Macquarie University, the Shepherd Centre, and NextSense. The aim is to improve existing hearing-assistance technologies, like hearing aids and cochlear implants, and to develop new solutions for folks experiencing hearing loss.

There’s a growing awareness that it’s important to protect our hearing. Nevertheless, the world faces a hearing loss crisis. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.5 billion people worldwide live with hearing loss today (430 million with disabling hearing loss), but it predicts that by 2050, those figures will grow to 2.5 billion and 700 million, respectively. 

By bringing together expertise and resources from across the spectrum of hearing research, technology, academia, government, and health care, this partnership hopes to make real breakthroughs in hearing technologies over the next few years. 

Complete Customization

Although every person with hearing loss is unique, the industry has a one-size-fits-all approach with most hearing aids. Experts and people with hearing loss have long been calling for a more personalized approach. Google hopes to bring its AI and machine learning expertise into play.

“The idea is to be able to customize the experience for each person, and for the environment they are currently in,” explains Sam Sepah, lead accessibility research product manager at Google.

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