8 ways smart devices can help with hearing loss

An emerging world of connected devices is set to change the way we live, bringing added convenience and importantly to life-changing benefits to people’s lives. Oticon had this in mind when it launched Oticon Opn, an internet connected hearing aid. Alongside IFTTT (If This Then That) Opn showcases the potential for smart devices to improve and enhance the lives of those with hearing loss.

Text-to-speech notification for doorbells: There’s somebody at the door – but you may not know that if you suffer from hearing loss. This could result in anything from mild inconvenience from keeping somebody waiting to genuine concern on the part of the visitor. With an internet connected doorbell, creating a link to alert you via your hearing aid with a customised text to speech message means you can move around your home freely without worrying that you’ll miss someone when they come to visit.

Receive email or SMS notifications as carers: If you care for someone with hearing loss – be it a child or elderly relative, you can be on hand to solve one of the common issues that make life difficult. Through IFTTT it’s possible to set up an SMS or email notification if a hearing aid’s battery is running low, allowing you to ensure replacements are available and if necessary, visit the person or let them know that batteries need to be changed.

Automating program selection based on location: If a hearing aid offers a choice of configured programs for different environments – for example at home, at the office or at a restaurant, an IFTTT recipe can automatically switch between these based on GPS location. By setting up commonly visited locations and adding triggers for when your smartphone enters this space, programs can be switched without having to manually configure the device.

Smart security: Modern, ‘smart’ home security cameras can deliver alert emails or SMS messages when movement or sound is detected in the home. The same goes for smart smoke alarms, gas detectors, water leak detectors and window or door entry devices. It’s a straightforward process to create a recipe to deliver a text-to-speech message direct to a hearing aid, allowing someone to immediately make a call, return home, or log in to the camera feed to find out more.

Reassurance for relatives: Relatives of elderly or disabled people with hearing loss will often appreciate reassurance that everything’s ok, perhaps even on a day to day basis. By setting up a simple recipe it’s possible to automate an SMS or email to let a relative know when a specific task is performed. This could be switching on a coffee machine, turning on a hearing aid, or switching on the lights in the bathroom between certain hours in the morning.

Track your loved ones: Smart ‘tags’ or trackers can be bought and used to alert people when they reach a certain geo-location. By creating a simple recipe this could, for example, deliver an audio message to a listening device when a relative is approaching the home or reassurance they have returned home safely. For parents of younger children it could also inform the user that their child has reached school or returned home safely.

It’s good to talk: Speaking on the phone is a common issue for people with hearing difficulties, and though it’s not quite a ‘recipe’ that can be created between smart devices, internet-connected hearing aids can still work alongside a smartphone by porting the audio directly to the listening device. You’ll still need the phone handy to use the microphone, but importantly it will be far easier to hear the person on the other end of the line.

Stay smart: Even benefits that are more centred on convenience can make a difference. By creating recipes with a range of other smart devices around the home they can create an environment where people feel comfortable and in control. You could, for example, create a recipe that tells you that the heating is now on and the house will be warm when you get home, or to let you know that it looks like rain tomorrow. Smart fridges could be programmed to let you know which items of food you’re low on at a preset time each day or you could be audibly reminded of appointments in a calendar. The potential, especially when considering not just the array of smart devices but the various ways they could interact, is vast.



Lu oversees the content for all of the publications within the Rapid Life Sciences portfolio, which includes Digital Health Age, Medical Plastics News, Med-Tech Innovation Magazine and European Pharmaceutical Manufacturer. Reach Lu at lu.rahman@rapidnews.com

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