In November we held two Help in Hearing organised Technology Days at the Harleyford Golf Club in Marlow and the South Bucks Golf Club in Stoke Poges. They were very well attended with a total of nearly 70 delegates in all. It was a rare opportunity to ask questions and have discussions directly with each of the leading hearing aid manufacturers. The main venue area was the focus for companies to exhibit all their ranges and accessories. In a separate room a representative from each of our hearing aid partners gave a talk on different aspects of the market and a glimpse into the future. Today we are showing an extract of the Oticon talk on the future of hearing aids and their app HearingFitness, which you can find below, along with a video Oticon showed on the day.
The future of hearing aids – by Oticon
We know that smartphones, computers and tablets connect to the internet, but did you know that some ordinary everyday devices – such as fridges, washing machines and doorbells connect to the internet too? This is an area of technology called “The internet of things (IoT)”. It’s one of the fastest growing areas of technology and it has been made more popular recently by systems like Hive and Nest that connect your home heating and lights to the internet.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Opn hearing aids are IoT devices too! They work with a cloud-based service called “If This Then That” (IFTTT for short). IFTTT connects processes and services of all kinds of brands that wouldn’t normally work together. For example, IF you’re tagged in a photo on Facebook, THEN automatically save that photo to your DropBox account. How might that work with hearing aids, you ask.
In this example, a visitor presses your internet-connected doorbell. It sends a message to IFTTT, which sends the notification to the ON app on your iPhone. The ON app in turn sends a spoken message to the Opn hearing aids. “Someone is at the door” (or whatever message you like!).
Right now this service appeals most to people that love their technology. But people of all ages can benefit. For example, a young child or an adult with limited dexterity needs help changing their batteries. IFTTT can send a notification (text, email etc) to a parent, relative or neighbour when the batteries run low.
HearingFitness builds on the general major change in the nature of health care – which is transforming from being reactive to preventive. New technologies can be expected to allow our current, largely reactive mode of medicine (where we wait until the patient is sick before responding) to be replaced over the next 10-20 years by a personalised, predictive, preventive, and participatory (P4) medicine. This P4 approach is the inspiration and vision behind HearingFitness.
Participation is key to HearingFitness – the foundation of the other Ps. Clients are given information so that they can better manage and are prepared to make their own decisions. We want to engage and encourage the users to be active partners and involved in their own healthcare.
We want to tailor hearing solutions/services to the client and their environment. Create hearing aids that could potentially adjust themselves not only to the user, but also to changes during the day (e.g. more tired in the afternoon), during the week (such as different needs during the week when at work versus during the weekend), and also over time (for example, if hearing deteriorates). We want to provide personalised support based on the specific user’s hearing aid, preferences, etc. This personalisation reaches its full potential when combined with user participation (which is the foundation). We can then use the information from HearingFitness to better understand behavioural patterns, the contexts in which the hearing aids are most used and how/where do people struggle – all these things are important in order to be able to personalise.
We will know in advance, through big data, what is best for every hearing aid user. 360 million people worldwide with a hearing loss – imagine the potential data sets. Users are profiled into subgroups that share common features. For example, we will know through monitoring when a user is having trouble hearing and the hearing aids provide extra help.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We take a life course approach, with early detection and monitoring over time of hearing and health status. Through combining multiple datasets and applying advanced analytics, it is possible to build profile-specific prevention strategies. For example, the hearing aid user could receive an alert if they are exposed to loud noises that could result in further hearing loss. Thereby the HearingFitness technology can help people to remain healthy late in life.
Hood, L. & Galas, D. (2008). P4 Medicine: Personalized, Predictive, Preventive, Participatory: A Change of View that Changes Everything: A white paper prepared for the Computing
Community Consortium committee of the Computing Research Association.
How HearingFitness works
HearingFitness is a feature in the ON app for smartphones. When a pair of Oticon hearing aids is connected to the app, it gathers data about how the hearing aids are being used and the type of sound environments the person is spending time in.
HearingFitness will combine this information with data from the Health App on the smartphone. The specific data taken will depend on the user’s permission during installation.
Generally, the Health App stores data from apps on the iPhone and Apple Watch. It also works directly with some health and fitness devices. Other devices and data sources (such as HearingFitness) must have a companion app that can access the data and save it to Health App for them.
Initial release of HearingFitness
In the initial release, which came out about 2 months ago, the functionality will appear somewhat simple. But as we gather more data we will introduce more and more useful functions, such as making adjustments to the hearing aids according to the user’s preferences, and notifications with suggestions for taking better control of your health.
When the installation is done, you will be presented with a welcome screen introducing HearingFitness. After pressing ‘Continue’, HearingFitness will open. The first version of HearingFitness will look approximately as shown here. You will be able to see how much the hearing aids are used overall (in hours) as well as how much individual programs are used.
In the upper right corner of the screen, you will be able to set a goal for the hearing aid usage. This goal could potentially be set together with your audiologist at the fitting appointment. In the left corner, you will see if the goal is reached – measured in percent. You will then be able to track usage for the specific day, week or month.
Hearing care is health care
We know from research that ”hearing care is health care.” It is well-documented that hearing well highly influences how healthy we are. With HearingFitness, Oticon aims to involve people in their own hearing care. We want to help them to make smart decisions about their hearing health and get the most out of their hearing potential with the ultimate goal of improving their overall health.*
Watch video: Hearing care is health care
HearingFitness – where to find out more
At Help in Hearing we understand that caring for your hearing health is just as important as caring for the rest of your overall health and wellbeing. By looking after all aspects of your hearing, ear care and hearing protection, we make sure you remain socially active, stay confident in your working environment and ascertain your continuing enjoyment of your hearing health. With our personal and friendly approach we provide personalised hearing care plans offering a continuity of service which is second to none.
Please get in touch to make an appointment for a hearing check-up or to discuss your hearing concerns.
** Extract thanks to Oticon from their talk presented by Alison Stone, Audiologist & Head of Training and Mo Butt, Reg Business Development Manager.