Over the last three months I have been seeing an audiologist to buy and finely tune hearing aids (another sign I am getting older). It started with a set of hearing tests (you basically have to listen to a variety of frequencies at different loudness and signal the audiologist when you hear the sound) and then with the tuning of the hearing aids. Subsequent visits (basically once a week) led to fine tune the hearing aids, each time increasing their amplification of specific frequencies and testing the effect on my hearing (you need to get used to the amplification and going one small step at a time makes it easier).
There is also an app that I downloaded on my smartphone to control the hearing aids but I was told by the audiologist not to tweak the frequencies amplification, since that is a complex task better done in his lab.
To enjoy this I had to pay some 6,000€. Now I saw that the FDA in the US has approved over-the-counter hearing aids that can be tuned by the user. At CES Eargo showcased a pair of such hearing aids and basically at the same time Sony has announced a set of hearing aids that can be self-tuned. Part of the tuning process is managed automatically through software in the smartphone. Both the Eargo and the Sony are selling at a fraction of the cost I paid, and it makes sense since you no longer need the sequel of visits to the audiologist.
I take this as an example of a change in the making in healthcare. During the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen testing shifting from healthcare centres to people’s home, a do-it-yourself testing.
Personal digital twins will become healthcare assistants, chatbots will be using AI to learn their user and over time are likely to become even more “sensitive” to their user condition than the physician and, when in doubt, will call the physician to take over.
This is part of a general trend in healthcare towards both personalised care and de-.localised care (meaning that there is no need -in most situation- to see a doctor, to go to a healthcare centre). The time of (assisted) DIY healthcare is approaching fast.