Real time language translation

I was reading a recent article in one of my industry magazines and learned that real time translation of a foreign language through hearing aids will be a reality within the next five years.

Artificial Intelligence or “AI” is speeding up many of these technological wonders. Many cell phones can already translate languages, but only short sentences and words.

Imagine any electronic device that could translate the language you were hearing into your native language in real time! The miniaturization of digital technology makes these steps possible. All these devices now available including hearing aids are miniature computers to process the functions we need and expect from them.

I entered the hearing aid industry just as the digital revolution was beginning. I remember adjusting volume, gain, and feedback on the aids with tiny screw drivers in teeny slots called trimmers. Every day I now do the same tasks through my laptop computer using a wireless connection with the hearing aids.

Now, in addition to providing incredible hearing, aids can do all the things a fitness tracker does on our wrist. Heart rate, the number of steps, the number of stairs, sleep patterns, Global Positioning Satellite information as to our whereabouts, and even fall information can be recorded and sent to emergency services.

Sound overwhelming, or unnecessary?

I understand.

Very few of my patients are interested in these bells and whistles, but as our technological savvy baby boomers, and younger, hit the hearing-impaired lifestyle waiting out there for them, they will want and demand such electronic ability.

Right now, I am thankful that hearing aid research and development has not abandoned the main mission of better hearing. The core idea of what a hearing aid should do has advanced so much in 10 years. The hearing aids of today reproduce sound in crystal clear digital quality and assist in sorting our speech sounds from the clutter of background noise.

I never suggest patients run out and upgrade their existing hearing aids just because new steps in technology arrives, but if you have really old aids or never had them at all, it would be worth having a demonstration at a hearing professional’s office. The most revolutionary technological attributes of coming hearing aids will make their first appearance in the highest priced top technology circuits. It may take another five years before they filter down into the entry price technology.

In the meantime, I will continue to recommend hearing aids that help patients hear better as their primary feature.

Right now, I am wondering how complicated it would be to listen to foreign language in real time through my hearing aids if the speaker couldn’t understand me when I spoke!

Maybe the world is soon to be flooded with languages devices?

I don’t know about that, but I do know my patients (me included) are glad to hear their own language better in real time from their family and friends. If you have the symptoms of hearing loss visit a hearing professional sometime very soon.


Jeffrey L. Bayliff is owner of Hear the Birds Hearing Aid Center, Lock Haven.