One of the things I always tell people when I’m trying to convince them of Receiver in the Ear hearing Aids over completely in the canal hearing aids is that I believe within 5 years everyone will be wearing receiver in the ear hearing aids and they will be known as smart ears. With new hearing aids able to stream your phone calls and your music while giving you spatial cues without feeling blocked off I think the technology already exists for normal hearing wearers to enjoy wearing hearing aids.
But I don’t have hearing loss so why would I wear a hearing aid I hear you say? Good point. My belief is that the hearing aid element will just be turned off and the great functions will be left for normal users to enjoy. Like I said with all this streaming going on we are making a step closer….
Well up step Starkey to bridge that gap between hearing aid and personal in ear assistant even further!
Heart rate monitoring anyone? How about an alert on your phone when your mum or dad has fallen? Or how about you speak to me in French or 28 other languages to be precise and my hearing aids will translate what you’re saying into English! YES REALLY!! I mean who wouldn’t want a pair right! No more roast beef in a French restaurant when I actually ordered frois gras!
So it would be fair to say that the new Starkey Livio AI (Artificial Intelligence) is a very appealing hearing instrument. Ok so I may not find much use for the translation function in Motherwell, Hamilton, East Kilbride, Uddingston or Bothwell but I will definitely find it useful as I jet of to my holidays in Belgium or France.
Its easy to get stuck on the fact that this hearing aid can translate foreign languages but it can do so much more. Starkey have also leaned towards health tracking.
Starkey have recently had a management shake up and part of that was to bring in new people with new ideas. People who work in different fields and who will look beyond just a hearing aid.
Starkeys new Thrive APP is a piece of kit that connects your hearing aids to your phone and then give you so much functionality to monitor your health. It basically uses all the best bits from wireless functionality, fitness apps and streaming combines them all sprinkles a little artificial intelligence and then produces a truly immersive hearing and wellbeing experience.
The Thrive app from Starkey was developed not only to monitor your physical health think fitbit and steps etc but its designed to help your cognitive health. This is key. Cognitive health is very important particularly with hearing loss. We now know that untreated hearing loss can lead to rapid cognitive decline and higher risk onset of dementia.
The physical side of Thrive will monitor your health through your hearing aids and your ears. It will measure things like steps taken, your activity general movement etc. It will then score you out of 100.
The cognitive element of the Starkey Thrive app will monitor the benefits to your brain by using the Starkey Livio AI hearing aids. Starkey have been pioneers of changing the way hearing aid manufacturers talk about hearing health, hearing loss and the hard of hearing. They have moved the conversation and the research towards cognitive decline through hearing loss, dementia and hearing loss and loneliness and isolation through hearing loss. There website is a great place to explore especially if you are a loved one trying to understand hearing loss.
So with that in mind Starkey will monitor your situational use, your daily wear times, are you active listening what types of environments are you in. It will then give you a cognitive score out of 100.
Starkey have also fitted this hearing aid with an accelerometer that will notify by text if the hearing aids have moved in an irrational way. For example if your mum lives in Coatbridge and you live in Bellshill and your mum has not been keeping well lately. If Mum has a fall then the hearing aids detect the unusual movement and send a text to you in Bellshill. You can then phone mum right away and check she is ok. This can apply to carers and in the future critical care workers.
Probably the part of the Starkey hearing aid that’s going to get all the attention and why not. Basically how it works is – You’re in an Italian restaurant, there is plenty in Lanarkshire especially Bothwell & Uddingston! The waiter comes to take your order and you say speak to me in Italian. The waiter obliges. The hearing aids will pick the language up send it to your phone and the phone will show you the words in English. At a recent Starkey event I asked does it have a lag time? I was assured its instantaneous. The only drawback is it does not translate your English back into Italian. If you want that to happen you’ll need a spare phone and an extra pair of Starkey Livio AI hearing instruments.
Fine Tuning – You have the power!
The thrive app will allow you to fine tune your own hearing aids. If you find yourself in a difficult situation let’s say Costa Coffee in Uddingston and you cant hear for all the noise. Open up the app adjust the volume, noise cancelling treble etc find what works and save the programme ‘Costa Uddingston’ your hearing aids will remember this personal preference and give you the option to use it again next time you are in. It does this using Geo tagging. Basically sensors and memory in the hearing aid communicate with geo positioning systems to store and remember the setting in that space in time.
Okay besides all the fun stuff do they actually work? Are they smaller than Halo? Will they connect to any phone or tablet?
The short answer would appear to be yes. They are already available in the US and seem to be gathering some great reviews. One could be cynical and say that’s because they’re a US company but I’m sure hearing aids don’t fall into the current brand of US nationalism under President Trump!
The hearing aids will come with new binaural compression algorithms meaning the hearing aids will talk to each other faster and better. This means the aids will work together and make decisions to help you hear better in noise and help you localise.
Starkey will join Gn Resound and Phonak with the ability to contact your hearing professional have some adjustments made without even stepping foot in the hearing centre. This seems to be where the future of hearing care is leaning towards and personally I think it is a great addition especially when you think of all the remote parts of Scotland that are difficult to service. That being said if your mum is in a home in Strathaven and you can’t get to your hearing clinic then this feature will help you get attention almost immediately.
So pretty much every hearing aid can now stream calls or music from your phone to your hearing aids. Whether this is direct streaming for Iphone to hearing aids or streaming from any phone to hearing aids or even using an intermediary streaming device such as a connect clip its becoming pretty standard. The goal really is any phone without a streaming device in the middle. Does the Starkey Livio achieve this? Well I asked Neil Pottenger UK marketing director and he said absolutely yes. This is a great move for Starkey because they really delivered with HALO only for everyone else to over take a bit but this will put them back in the game.
Alexa compatible – Their is also a rumour that the Starkey Livio hearing aids will connect to your Alexa. Now if your like me you love your Alexa. I have 5 of them dotted all round the house but if you wear these Starkey hearing aids your Alexa will now be mobile in your ears while connected to it wherever your alexa is.
Another streaming addition will be find my hearing aids. Again this is quite standard with GN Resound and Oticon but Starkey are now catching up. Personally I love this feature as I myself left a pair of hearing aids in a restaurant while out in Hamilton! No worries just logged in from my phone from the comfort of my home in Motherwell and I was able to locate them there and then! Brilliant ( I don’t personally wear hearing aids I was just trying some out took them out for dinner and left them on the table)
If the excitement of Starkeys Marketing Director Neil is anything to go by then this is going to be a brilliant hearing instrument. Personally I can’t wait to fit them @ Lanarkshire Hearing Centre. I can see it now, Rocco’s in Hamilton or the Bombay Cottage just before a show in Hamilton town hall, no no please ask me what my order is in Italian or Telugu!
Keep your ears to the ground for the Latest tech news @ Lanarkshire Hearing Centre
Steven Ross (MSHAA, RHAD)
58 Cadzow Street,