Time to Read: 15 minutes
Since 1967, Starkey has forged its path in the hearing care industry as a manufacturer that innovates.
The launch of Livio AI in August 2018 introduced machine learning and artificial intelligence into hearing devices in the form of a reinvented hearing aid with embedded sensors, marketed as Healthable Hearing Technology.
In essence, Livio AI is a hearing aid that moves beyond the single purpose of amplifying speech in quiet and noisy environments, and into the health domain of tracking physical activity and social engagement as well as alerting selected contacts in the event of a fall.
The launch of Livio Edge AI in July 2020 continues the tradition established with Livio AI by using artificial intelligence to mimic and, even, surpass human intelligence.
What is artificial intelligence and how is it used in hearing aids?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a program that can sense, reason, act, and adapt. It encompasses machine learning, which has been available in hearing aids for some time now, in the form of acoustic classification of different environments. However, with the introduction of direct connectivity in hearing aids along with Cloud computing possibilities, AI can now be implemented in hearing aids to improve performance and customise personal performance in a way that has never before been possible. Livio Edge AI is the culmination of advanced AI and complex Cloud computing to offer instant optimised adjustments via a feature called Hearing Reality Pro.
What is Hearing Reality Pro?
Hearing Reality Pro (HRP) is an industry-first feature that gives the hearing aid user control using AI and embedded sensors. HRP encompasses a host of different parameters, including acoustic classification where the AI monitors the environment every 6 ms, real-time binaural signal processing, adaptive directionality, and adaptive feedback cancellation as it processes sound in the hearing aid to improve clarity of speech sounds.
However, sometimes this isn’t enough for the hearing aid wearer, and this is where HRP is unique - HPR features Edge Mode which utilises the embedded sensors in the hearing aids to place the power of AI at your fingertips - literally. A simple double tap on the hearing aid alerts the AI to instantly perform an acoustic scan of your surroundings to optimise speech understanding for that environment. Edge Mode is designed for challenging listening environments to optimise comfort and clarity by adjusting hearing aid gain, directionality and noise management. It works well not only in noisy environments, but also for soft or distant speech. Additionally, by placing the technology to employ Edge Mode on the hearing aid itself via the double tap gesture, hearing aid management is easier than ever - no fiddling with on-board controls, and no need to take out your Smartphone to adjust the hearing aid.
What else is new with Livio Edge AI?
Thrive Assistant Voice-Activated Commands
Another industry-first introduced in the Livio Edge AI is voice-activated commands. Once again, a double tap on the hearing aids allows you to control your hearing aids by speaking to them. You can use this to increase or decrease hearing aid volume, mute the hearing aids, or change programs (Starkey call these ‘memories’). You can also set a reminder. Much like setting a reminder on your Smartphone, you can now utilise your hearing aids for this. Voice-activated commands makes controlling your hearing aids easier than ever, as it eliminates the necessity for fiddling with controls or a phone app.
Thrive App Update (for all Livio hearing aids)
Starkey has listened to feedback from clinicians and hearing aid wearers and updated the Thrive app that works with all Livio hearing aids. Its improved design shows a simple user interface that is easier to navigate and provides easier access to memories than its previous version. Basic functionality for adjusting volume, muting, changing memories now has more dedicated space on the screen for easier interaction. The app also shows any paired accessories and can be used to adjust streaming volume and hearing aid microphone volume while using the accessory rather than using the controls on the accessory itself.
For those not familiar with the Thrive App for Livio AI, one of the innovations of Livio AI was the Hearing Healthable feature. The AI and embedded sensors in Livio AI are used to monitor physical activity (exercise, daily steps - similar to a fitness watch but more accurate with the ear-level sensors) and social engagement (time spent listening to speech and listening in complex listening environments). This data is used to calculate a daily Thrive Score, from 0-200.
The reasoning behind the introduction of the Thrive score was due to increasing research showing strong comorbidities between aging and hearing loss. In particular, (untreated) hearing loss is correlated with social isolation, depression, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of falls.
So the Thrive score allows the hearing aid wearer to monitor their physical activity and brain health more readily. Additionally, up to 3 contacts can be selected to receive an SMS alert in the event of a fall. This innovation took Livio AI beyond a simple hearing aid and into its own category of Hearing Healthable Technology. Starkey has built further on this concept for Livio Edge AI, by introducing the Thrive Care app.
Thrive Care App
The Thrive Care app was designed with a caregiver and/or loved one in mind. The hearing aid user is in control of who can see their Thrive Score and what data is shared - an invitation needs to be sent via the Thrive App to download the Thrive Care app and access data. This is useful for a hearing aid user suffering cognitive decline, or at risk of falls, or with cardiovascular disease, for examples. It gives the hearing aid user independence, while giving the caregiver/loved one peace of mind and awareness of how their loved one is doing. Thrive Care can be used anywhere to check that a loved one is safe, physically active, and socially engaged. There is no limit on the number of people that can be given permission to view the data.
Hearing Care Anywhere (for all Livio hearing aids)
Hearing Care Anywhere is Starkey’s version of remote support for hearing aid. It is a feature that the hearing specialist previously had to activate while the hearing aid were connected in the programming software. However, in light of COVID-19, the hearing specialist can now send a secure, single-use code to the hearing aid user so that Hearing Care Anywhere can be enabled remotely to access remote adjustments for the hearing aid.
Made for iPhone hearing aids for direct connectivity is not new technology. Starkey was one of the first manufacturers to release this technology with the launch of Halo in 2014. The latter half of 2019 saw direct connectivity extend to some Android Smartphone users, with Google Pixel 3 and 4 phones becoming compatible. As of January 2020, Samsung Galaxy S10 phones also have the capability to stream directly from your phone to your Livio hearing aid. You can find the updated list of compatible Smartphones here: https://www.starkey.com.au/hearing-aids/technologies/livio-smartphone-compatible-hearing-aids
2.4 GHz Custom Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Hearing Aids
Starkey is renowned in the hearing aid industry for their custom products. They developed the first in-the-canal hearing aid in the 1980s, followed in the 1990s by the first completely-in-canal and first invisible-in-canal hearing aids. They continue to lead the industry in 2020 with the first 2.4 GHz Lithium-ion rechargeable custom hearing aid.
The Livio custom rechargeable hearing aid includes all the same features as other Livio products. In addition to this, the rechargeability offers 23 hours of continuous hearing, including 4 hours of streaming, on a single charge, and a quick 3.5 hour charge time. The charger itself is similar to the one already available for the Livio RIC R devices, featuring auto on/off and a new contact charging system with charging posts that are not ear-specific, making management easier than ever.
What technology levels are available for Livio?
Livio Edge AI will only be available at a premium technology level, Livio Edge AI 2400. However, the AI features that were previously only available at the premium technology level for Livio AI will now be available across most Livio technology levels - Livio AI 1200, 1600 and 2000. This means that all Livio AI hearing aids from 1200 technology and up will now have access to the brain and body tracking , tap control (but not Edge Mode) and Hearing Care Anywhere. Livio (non-AI version) will also be available at all technology levels - 1000, 1200, 1600, 2000, and 2400.
The Livio rechargeable custom hearing aid is available in the in-the-ear, half shell and in-the-canal styles in Livio (1200, 1600, 2000 and 2400 technology levels), Livio AI (1200, 1600 and 2000 levels) and Livio Edge AI (2400 only). It comes with the choice of 6 faceplate colours and 5 shell colours so that the hearing device can truly be personalised inside and out.
There are 7 different colour options for the 3 receiver-in-canal styles (RIC R, RIC 312 and micro RIC 312) as well as a behind-the-ear BTE 13 style.
Livio Edge AI offers a new level of personalisation with Hearing Reality Pro featuring Edge Mode, building on an already solid foundation of innovation. Now with Lithium-ion rechargeability available in both receiver-in-canal and custom styles, hearing aid management has never been easier. The unique Thrive and Thrive Care apps, along with Hearing Care Anywhere, allow you to take control of your hearing, physical health and brain health in a way that has never before been possible, following Starkey’s mandate to help people hear better and live better.