Giscard Bechara, the Director of Starkey, speaks to Future Tech Magazine about the “world’s first” hearing aid that uses AI and integrated sensors

Please tell us about the ‘Artificial Intelligence’ feature of your hearing aids?
Livio AI is the “world’s first” hearing aid that utilizes Artificial Intelligence and integrated sensors. We have introduced this product earlier this year that can give millions of families in UAE and caregivers peace of mind. This correlation between hearing loss, aging and falling is one reason why Starkey designed the world’s first hearing aid with a fall detection feature. The odds of having hearing loss and falling increase as we age, so having a single device that can help with multiple aging issues, as opposed to a different device for each condition is significantly more convenient and beneficial for users. 

What is so unique about this particular hearing aid and how can it help UAE senior citizens?
If you’re an older adult or care for someone then ‘falling’ is likely to be high on your list of worries. And rightfully so, according to the National Council on Aging, every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall-related injury. 

Fall Alert, a feature of Livio AI, can detect falls and send alert messages to selected contacts. Starkey Hearing Technologies incorporated significant new inventions to avoid false-positives and flag only true falls. Using their built-in 3D sensors, Livio AI hearing aids can detect when a wearer falls, and send alert messages to selected friends or family members. In the UAE, it is estimated that hearing loss affects close to 4% of the population apart from the growing number of undiagnosed cases where people are unaware of their hearing loss challenges.

Furthermore, unlike other fall-detection devices, which hang around the neck or are worn on the wrist, Livio AI benefits from the anatomy and physiology of the human body. During typical, daily activities and instances of falls, muscles in the neck work with the balance system of the inner ear to protect and stabilize the head. Since hearing aids are worn on the head, they are naturally less prone to mistake daily activities for falls than the devices worn on other parts of the body, additionally, the built-in sensors monitor the wearer and are always active

How does this technology actually work? What is the sequence of actions that triggers these alerts?
Here’s how the device works:

  • The hearing aid wearer selects up to three contacts on their smartphone to be notified if they fall.
  • Auto alert feature automatically sends an alert to the contact(s) if the hearing aid wearer falls.
  • The alert contains the GPS location of the wearer.
  • The contact can then immediately call the wearer back to check on them or otherwise get them help.
  • The manual alert feature allows the wearer to simply tap their hearing aid to send an alert for a fall or non-fall related event.

Does Livio AI have any other features especially catering to the Arab audience?
This is the world’s first Healthable that tracks physical activity and cognitive health as measured by hearing aid use in social situations. Livio AI also translates 27 languages including Arabic. We are delighted to add value to the lives of people in the UAE and the Middle East with this state-of-the-art product.

The new Hearing Reality technology provides an average 50 percent reduction in noisy environments, significantly reduces listening effort, while the use of artificial intelligence and integrated sensors enable it to optimize the hearing experience. With advanced environmental detection, geotagged settings, a natural user interface, and now a rechargeable battery option, Livio AI is the ultimate in sound quality, in usability and a multi-functional, must-have device.

Do you have any statistics or studies that you can share with regard to this particular challenge faced by senior citizens?
As per studies, nearly 40 percent of people who live at home after reaching the age of 65 will fall at least once a year. Accidental falls pose a significant health risk to older adults. They often lead to a loss of independence and can abruptly alter the course of one’s life. And people with mild hearing loss are three times more likely to have a history of falling than peers with normal hearing.

World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the financial cost of hearing a loss to be $750 billion every year. On the other hand, untreated hearing loss affects daily life and can lead to social isolation, stress, anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline.

Hearing loss and falling are common side effects of aging. Falls are a leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for elderly citizens worldwide. Starkey has always envisioned a monumental positive impact on society. Livio AI and its fall detection alert feature will not only provide peace of mind to caregivers but could potentially save lives all over the world. 

Are you showcasing the Livio AI’s anywhere in the UAE for the general audience to see?
Starkey will be participating at the ‘AccessAbilities Expo’ that takes place in UAE in November this year, which is the region’s dedicated event, that aims to bring the world’s latest assistive technology products with the goal of enhancing lives of more than 50 million people in the region having disabilities. We will be showcasing Livio AI at the Expo. Livio AI is so much more than just a hearing aid, it is a gateway to better health, wellness and ultimately, a better quality of life, we are also developing some very interesting features to be added to this technology soon.

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