You may already own some Bluetooth headphones, a Bluetooth-compatible speaker, and a Bluetooth keyboard. But it’s the use of the technology in hearing aids that has really gotten the attention of users in the past few years. For those who are curious about the benefits of Bluetooth technology for hearing aids, as well as the types and models available, then read on.
Bluetooth-enabled devices send radio waves across high frequency channels to connect to one another. One Bluetooth device is paired with another device to allow them to' speak to each other' or communicate information. Bluetooth is a quite safe transfer method. This is because paired devices change the frequency constantly, thousands of times per second in fact.
One of the advantages of Bluetooth has been its relatively low energy consumption, but it still consumed too much energy on devices with small batteries like hearing aids. Although commonplace in headphones and portable speakers, Bluetooth direct connectivity in hearing aids was previously not available primarily because of power limitations, and required a wireless accessory for communication with mobile phones or smart devices.
Bluetooth version 4.0 does, however, contain a low energy function that meets these hearing aid power limitations. This technology, as well as the rise of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, are the reasons why direct connectivity Bluetooth hearing aids are now becoming more widely available.
Whether you are streaming to your iPhone directly or using a streamer to access your smartphone, there are several advantages of using Bluetooth technology with your hearing aid.
Perhaps the most important advantage is being able to stream phone calls directly into the hearing aids. The lack of visual indicators, occasional inadequate telephone connection and background noise can make phone calls challenging for those with hearing loss. This is the reason why so many believe they are unable to talk on the phone.
However, receiving the phone signal directly from the phone to your hearing aids with no intermediate accessory can make phone calls much easier to understand, and much more convenient to receive.
Bluetooth technology can also enable you to connect directly to your IPhone, laptop or tablet. Catch up with your favourite shows or podcasts directly into your hearing aids, without the need to take them out. Most Bluetooth hearing aids also come with a smartphone app which makes it much easier to control the volume.
You can also connect your hearing aids directly to your TV, enabling you to watch TV with the family at a volume that suits you. And because the audio is streaming directly into your hearing aids, your family can continue watching TV at their own volume.
As consumers of smartphones, Bluetooth headphones and speakers, we tend to assume that Bluetooth compatibility means you can connect directly with the device. This is not always the case with hearing aids. To help clear this up, here are the three main types of Bluetooth hearing aids out there.
Audio content can only be streamed via a connective device with Bluetooth compatible hearing aids. These hearing aids are usually connected via a streamer to your iPhone or Android phone. The streamer receives your phone's Bluetooth signal and sends it through an FM signal or electromagnetic field to your hearing aid. The streamer is commonly worn around the neck or put in a pocket. It is able to stream any kind of audio content into your hearing aid receiver.
Many people mistakenly believe that Bluetooth compatible hearing aids can directly connect to their smartphone, without a streamer. This misconception might stem from the fact that these Bluetooth-compatible hearing aids usually have iPhone apps that enable you to control the hearing aid’s volume. But just because a hearing aid has an app, it doesn’t mean it offers direct Bluetooth connectivity. If you’re looking for that, then keep reading.
Generally speaking, when individuals talk about Bluetooth hearing aids, they're referring to the hearing aids which connect directly to Apple’s IPhone, also called Made for iPhone hearing aid technology (MFI). These are pretty much the only hearing aids that can directly stream your telephone calls and content without any other streamer or peripheral device needed.
Some Bluetooth hearing aids are currently available that work with Android directly. These hearing aids, like the Audio B-direct, enable you to take phone calls on an Android phone hands-free. However, most of these Android-compatible hearing aids are unable to stream podcasts, music and movie content, unlike the hearing aids that connect to Apple’s IPhone.
One of the few hearing aids currently on the market in 2019 that is able to stream content and phone calls to IPhone and Android phones alike is the Phonak Marvel. Using Bluetooth, it can connect directly to any smartphone and can stream any audio you want. This sector of the market is developing rapidly, so don’t be surprised if you see a few more Apple/Android compatible Bluetooth hearing aids in the near future.
Bluetooth in hearing aids is becoming more widespread as it continues to rise in demand. Fortunately, prices have also fallen and Bluetooth compatible hearing aids are only a little more expensive than regular hearing aids. You might simply have to purchase a Bluetooth streamer from your hearing aid manufacturer if you already have hearing aids.
Although Bluetooth 4.0 is technically ‘low powered’, it is still a heavy drain on disposable batteries. It’s recommended to go rechargeable if you are buying a Made For iPhone hearing aid or the new Marvel hearing aids, in order to be able to take full advantage of the direct Bluetooth streaming capabilities.
Read Next: Rechargeable Hearing Aids
When we refer to a product as 'New', we mean that the product is new to the market.
When we refer to a product as 'Superseded', we mean that there is a newer range available which replaces and improves on this product.
When we refer to a product as an 'Older Model', we mean that it is has been superseded by at least two more recent hearing aid ranges.