Why connect your hearing aids to the Internet?
Although just a few years ago, connecting your brain to the internet sounded like science fiction, today hearing aids do just that. This technology is improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss. Being “online” provides an integrated experience for hearing aid users where sound waves stream into your inner ear canal and ultimately your auditory cortex via the auditory nerve.
First of all, when we talk about connecting hearing aids to the Internet, we’re not really talking about Googling things. We’re really talking about integrating hearing aids with other things.
The range of internet-connected devices is expanding all the time. While you may be wearing a health-monitoring wristband (such as a Fitbit), consumers may be unaware of the broad array of options. Many of today’s cars, washing machines and coffee makers can connect to the “Internet of Things.”
This has come to be known as the Internet of Things (IoT). And as more and more common electronic devices become internet-enabled, we can connect them in intelligent ways. This includes recent hearing aids.
Of course, one of the most enjoyable benefits of hearing aids is how much more richly you hear music. Did you know that you can stream music from your smart speaker (like Amazon Echo, HomePod, Google Home)? Now your family doesn’t have to say, “Can you turn that racket down?!” You can hear your favorite music and at your ideal volume.
If both your doorbell or garage door and your hearing aids are internet-enabled, you can connect them!
This means you can hear a gentle chime in your hearing aids when someone is at your door – even if you’re in the garden or another part of the house.
If hearing loss previously prevented you from hearing the doorbell, guess what? This advanced feature means you can hear the doorbell from further away – and even hear it where others can’t.
Actually, if you have internet-connected light bulbs and electric sockets, it’s easy to set up rules that automatically connect these to your hearing aids. These home features are not difficult to obtain if you don’t already have them.
You can even set it up so that when you get into bed at the end of the day and turn your hearing aids off, you can program to automatically switch off the main light in your bedroom.
In the morning, you can set your coffee machine to start when you put your hearing aids on when you wake up! What about a refrigerator that tells you if the temperature rises too high? Need a gentle voice to remind you to take your medication? Internet-connected devices are making options that seemed unthinkable easy to enable. Plus, because hearing aids sit discreetly in your ears, others don’t need to know about them.
We encourage you to experiment – and some have fun! Test out what you can connect to – your TV, your cell phone, or even try new music, “Siri, play a new release.” Small connections like these can help to automate parts of life. Like robotic vacuum cleaners, today’s hearing aids offer added convenience to our busy lives.
Is it easy to connect and manage the connection between hearing aids and other devices? The answer is YES.
It starts by going to a website called IFTTT.com. IFTTT stands for IF This Then That (IFTTT). It refers to rules: if this happens, then make that happen. You can also download the app. On IFTTT.com, you make a new rule, such as: If my football team scores a goal, read out: “Your football team has scored!”
Then IFTTT takes care of it. It’s easy to make up rules.
IFTTT.com has a variety of rules that already exist called Applets. You can browse through popular ones that other people have made, and then use them. Or you can make your own very easily.
You could use IFTTT to give you a ping in your hearing aids when you receive an SMS message. Or use Google Maps to track your location and automatically select the mode you normally use when you get there, such as your work programme. IFTTT can whisper a reminder of a birthday into your hearing aid.
> Go to IFTTT.com
In order for your hearing aids to work with IFTTT, you actually connect your hearing aids to a smartphone via Bluetooth®. Then the smartphone then makes the connection to the Internet.
Released in 2016, Oticon Opn™ hearing aids were the first to use this IFTTT capability. Here, the connection to the Internet happens via the company’s Oticon ON App. This app interfaces with IFTTT.com.
> This video explains how to connect Oticon Opn to the Internet
Although internet-connected hearing aids are new, they mark the start of data-driven hearing care. For the first time in history, there is rich data about people’s actual hearing, so we can understand how people use their hearing aids in different situations.
Imagine if your hearing care expert could plug into the Internet to see your hearing use, and then adjust your hearing aids to help you get the very best from them.
Internet-connected hearing aids are also the start of a larger trend. As more people take advantage of using personal technology such as mobile phones in new ways, researchers are creating new ways to integrate technology to our lives. The options are nearly limitless. Eventually you may be able to use real-time translation of other languages directly in your ear.
Technology is also becoming wearable. Many people rely on smartwatches, exercise trackers, and health monitors to learn more about themselves. By combining data from these different technologies, experts will be able to see relationships such as how your hearing performance correlates with your stress levels, and suggest actions you could take to reduce them.
With a detailed understanding of each person’s individual health, personalised healthcare becomes a real possibility – and Internet-connected hearing aids can be a vital link in the network.