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Bluetooth Hearing Aids

Bluetooth Hearing Aids

Bluetooth Hearing Aids

Published on 13/07/2020  |  Updated on 15/10/2020

What is a Bluetooth hearing aid?  How do Bluetooth hearing aids work?

You have probably heard of most of the Bluetooth devices out on the market already, such as Bluetooth headphones, Bluetooth-compatible speakers and Bluetooth keyboards.  What is impressive is the use of Bluetooth within hearing aid technology, which has continued to advance over the past few years - offering consumers flexibility, great connectivity and pairing hearing aids with mobile phones.

Bluetooth hearing aids keep growing in popularity and we believe this will only increase, as technology meets innovation, connectivity evolves, and consumer demands raise expectations.  However, there are a few misconceptions surrounding Bluetooth hearing aids and what this set up actually means. 

In this article, we discuss some of these misconceptions, the key benefits of Bluetooth connectivity and innovative technology of pairing hearing aids with mobile phones - hearing aid friendly mobile phones.

Different types of Bluetooth hearing aids, at a glance:

Historically the concept of Bluetooth hearing aids described only the devices that have a direct connection to a mobile phone to enable audio streaming.  In short, when the industry spoke about Bluetooth hearing aids, they were referring to Made for iPhone hearing aids (MFI).

The Made for iPhone hearing aids came onto the market with Resound’s LiNX platform in 2014 – their first iPhone device.  This was then quickly mirrored by Starkey’s Halo hearing aids and now the industry has seen a sea of change with manufacturers adding to their Bluetooth hearing aid portfolio.

Bluetooth Hearing Aids

What is Bluetooth? What can Bluetooth hearing aids do?

Bluetooth devices transmit radio waves through high-frequency channels to connect to another source.  They are paired with each other to communicate data safely by changing frequency continuously - thousands of times per second.

This clever ‘wireless radio’ technology was developed in 1994 and provided the market with two or more electronic devices being able to switch data between each other wirelessly – using radio waves.  Basically, a wireless communication system between devices.  Even though hearing aid manufacturers saw huge potential and benefits to Bluetooth hearing aid technology over the years, the development hasn’t been plain sailing. 

Originally, the transferred audio wasn’t of great quality and relied on huge amounts of power.  Due to this, most brands opted to design streamers to bridge the gap between connectivity and sound quality – a middleman of sorts.  However, Resound and Starkey kept researching and developing, they stuck with it.  Ultimately, this resulted in both launching the first-ever Made for iPhone hearing aids with a direct connection.  Also allowing you to access the world through your hearing aids using mobile phone features and apps.

Bluetooth compatible hearing aids & hearing aid mobile phone compatibility

Pretty much all hearing aid manufacturers now have Made for iPhone hearing aid models on offer, but it is worthwhile knowing that you may need a connective device – a streamer - for some models for hearing aid mobile phone compatibility.  It provides a reliable connection that is always stable and audio that is of good quality.  Pairing hearing aids and mobile phones seamlessly.

What are Bluetooth hearing aid streamers?

Pretty much all the hearing aid manufacturers have Bluetooth compatible hearing aid streamers unique to their devices on the market.  It ensures low-energy, fast, seamless and steady wireless audio streaming directly to your hearing aids.   Streamers are the 'go-between' from your hearing aids to your streamer electronic device that provide outstanding audio sound to the wearer. 

For instance, the image above shows Oticon's ConnectClip, which acts as a microphone and a combined headset.  It is an intermediate device, which wirelessly connects Oticon 2.4GHz wireless hearing aids through Bluetooth to most mobile phones.  ConnectClip further doubles as a remote/partner microphone for improved one-to-one speech understanding in adverse listening situations.

Bluetooth Hearing Aid Review

Are Bluetooth hearing aids better?

Most consumers would say they were better, even though the Bluetooth connectivity doesn’t ensure better-performing hearing aids.  The real benefit here is the quick connectivity to remote microphones and mobile phones and is, in fact, one of the most popular streamers on the market.  Take for example Starkey’s 2020 Table Microphone Disc, which gave group settings the edge.  By placing the disc in the centre of the table, it will use its eight microphones, to focus on the main voice in your conversation and then stream it directly to your hearing aids. 

On the other hand, streaming audio from your mobile phone ensures that you can hear and make calls easier and more confidently, as you will always gain from great clarity – without any additional device.

Advantages of Bluetooth hearing aids

You gain from fast, seamless and direct connection to:

One of the main advantages of Bluetooth is how low the energy consumption is, but it hasn't been this way from the beginning.  Hearing aids with past Bluetooth technology consumed too much energy, therefore reducing the battery life of the device and quite an inconvenience for its wearers.  With the introduction of Bluetooth 4.0 -  this innovation, 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.

Oticon ConnectClip

What is the cost of Bluetooth hearing aids and hearing aids compatible with mobile phones?

As I said earlier, although some aren’t - many of the latest hearing aid launches from the main manufacturers are Bluetooth compatible and hearing aids compatible with mobile phones.  It has become rather mainstream, expected and reflects the current consumer demands and behaviours of today - resulting in many Bluetooth hearing aids being no more expensive than ones that aren’t.  Due to the innovation in other features of hearing aid technology – it is no longer seen as a premium type of product.  Therefore, this type of hearing aid roughly starts from £795 - £1895 per aid.

It is also worth noting that you simply might only have to purchase a Bluetooth streamer from your hearing aid manufacturer if you already have hearing aids - to gain from this connectivity and freedom.  We also recommend the rechargeable option, if you are buying a Made for iPhone hearing aid, in order to be able to take full advantage of the direct Bluetooth streaming capabilities.

NHS hearing aids with Bluetooth - Does the NHS do Bluetooth hearing aids?

Whilst the NHS provides a credible hearing health service and some good hearing solutions - they are currently unable to offer Bluetooth hearing aids.  Hearing aids with Bluetooth capability are only available with private hearing care. 

Some useful terms, in regards to Bluetooth hearing aid devices and mobile phones suitable for hearing aids

Bluetooth Hearing Aids Available

Understanding Hearing Aids for Mobile Phones

Unitron Discover - Made for Any Phone Hearing Aid

Bluetooth hearing aid technology for smartphones and mobile phones - Made for Any Phone Hearing Aids

Made for any Phone hearing aids are currently only available from the Sonova Group - who brought you Phonak, Unitron and Audio Nova. The hearing aids with this strategy are Phonak's Marvel and Unitron's Discover models. Offering you the flexibility of having connectivity to any smartphone or mobile phone, whether it's iPhone or Android, with Bluetooth capabilities - for audio and call streaming (and pretty much any electronic device with Bluetooth).

LEARN MORE >>  Made for Any Phone Hearing Aids

Made for iPhone Hearing Aids

Bluetooth Hearing Aids:  Made for iPhone Hearing Aids

This term is acknowledged as both MFI and Made for iPhone hearing aids - which basically means a technology to be paired with iPhones, iPad and iPods. It is a licensed product that is Apple-specific and includes a variety of devices to connect and integrate.

LEARN MORE >> Made for iPhone hearing aids

Made for Android Hearing Aids

Bluetooth Hearing Aids:  Made for Android hearing aids

Before the Android 10, Android developers were having a bit of a problem. They hadn't invested enough time to research, develop and launch hearing aid integration. Android displayed similar features to that of the Made for iPhone hearing aids - but had always needed a streamer, whilst Apple was a direct connection.  All that has changed.

Over the last few years, Google has been dedicated to making Android more accessible to the hearing impaired. The company launched an app called Sound Amplifier - turning your Android smartphone into a hearing aid.

LEARN MORE >>  Made for Android hearing aids

Bluetooth Hearing Aids for 2020

What's new for Bluetooth technology?  What are the best mobile phones for hearing aids?  Here are our top picks so far...

**Customer Note: This article was written in early 2020 and there have been a variety of new aids released since.  We are currently evaluating the new arrivals and we will produce an updated top Bluetooth picks, once the hearing aids have been out longer and fully evaluated**

Starkey Edge AI

#1  Starkey Livio Edge AI 2400

With Starkey Livio Edge AI 2400 you can reconnect with what matters to you.  The Edge offers sleek wireless streaming with accessories so you can enjoy all sounds directly to your hearing aids.  Allowing you to enjoy great sound quality with your favourite TV programmes, music and phone calls.

Starkey Livio Edge AI Bluetooth Accessories

Livio Edge AI Logo

Advantages of Starkey Livio Edge AI

Style:  Unlike the Livio AI 2400, the Edge offers another style - with an in-the-ear custom made option.  Delivering more choice to consumers, as well as the famous Livio AI - in fact, the Edge is the world’s first custom-moulded rechargeable hearing aid.  Now giving you discreet, comfortable and convenient options.  

 

Thrive:  The Thrive Hearing Control app works directly with Livio Edge AI to give you complete control of your hearing aids.  Alter settings easily, quickly adjust volume, create personalised memories and stream music or phone calls with the touch of a button.

Disadvantages of Starkey Livio Edge AI

Assisted Connectivity:  The iPhone connectivity is pretty good - very similar to that of the Resound Quattro.  These hearing aids will directly connect with iPhone, but for all Android smartphones, they can only be paired device using the app if the model is of the older generation.  For instance, Starkey Livio AI allows direct binaural audio streaming from Android and iPhone mobile phones.  Android compatibility is limited to Google Pixel and Samsung 10 operating on Android 10 or later. 

To Clarify:  The Thrive Hearing Control app lets you connect your Livio Edge AI, Livio AI and Livio hearing aids to your Apple and Android devices.

Livio Edge AI

Starkey Livio Edge AI Apple Compatibility

  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone 5s
  • iPad Pro (12.9-inch 2nd generation; 12.9-inch 1st generation; 10.5-inch; 9.7-inch)
  • Pad Air 2
  • iPad Air
  • iPad (6th generation; 5th generation)
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPad mini 2
  • iPod touch (6th generation)

Starkey Livio Edge AI Android Direct Compatability

Thrive Hearing Control app runs on iOS 13 or higher. For best performance, Starkey recommends using the most current iOS version.

Worth noting that when you update the version of iOS on your iPhone, the hearing aids may lose connection.  So you will need to un-pair and re-pair the hearing aids with your iPhone. 

  • Samsung Galaxy S20
  • Samsung Galaxy S10
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • Samsung Galaxy S9
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10
  • Google Pixel 4
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
  • Google Pixel 3a
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
  • Google Pixel 3
  • Google Pixel 3 XL

Starkey Livio Edge AI Android Assisted Connectivity

Starkey's Remote Microphone + accessory is required for the following models:

  • Samsung Galaxy S10e
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8
  • Google Pixel 2
  • Google Pixel 2 XL
  • HTC 10
  • HTC One M8
  • HTC U11 Life
  • LG LV-30
  • Motorola Moto G7
  • Doro 8035

 Signia Styletto

#2  Signia Styletto 7X

Signia Styletto 7X transforms the outdated image of hearing aids into highly sophisticated hear wear. Pure in design, sophisticated in form, with graceful lines and a sleek refined fit - Styletto X is impactful, even before you slip it on.  Signia Styletto X is a Made for iPhone hearing aid.

By combining the state-of-the-art Signia Xperience hearing technology with Bluetooth connectivity for calls, music and high-quality TV sound streamed to the devices, Styletto 7X delivers the most complete hearing experience to match its unique design.

To use these Made for iPhone hearing devices, you need one of these devices:

Advantages of Signia Styletto X

Advanced Charging:  Styletto 7X combines iconic design with innovative charging convenience for the ultimate in wearability. It provides a full days wear including 5 hours of streaming, so you can enjoy your favourite TV shows, films, music and stream calls straight to your hearing aids!  Plus, a 30-minute fast charge provides an additional 5 hours of use on the go - with the pocket-sized charging pod.

Signia Assistant:  Styletto 7X also comes with the artificial intelligence of the revolutionary Signia Assistant – designed for personal support right at your fingertips. The Signia Assistant lives in the Signia app, available for both iOS and Android smartphones. It serves as your very own hearing companion, allowing you to stay fully involved in life in all hearing situations.

 Signia Logo

Disadvantages of Signia Styletto X

Direct Connectivity:  This Signia model is a Made for iPhone hearing aid and pairs to your iPhone - streaming sounds directly to your hearing aids, using the app.  If you are an Android user, you will need an additional streamer to achieve these functions and the Signia App. 

For instance:

  • Telephone - Stream calls directly into your hearing aids from your iPhone.  You will need a StreamLine Mic for Android phones.
  • Music - Stream your favourite music straight into your hearing aids from your iPhone device.  Again you will need StreamLine Mic to do this if you have an Android phone.
  • TV - StreamLine TV is a great accessory for your iPhone if there are more than one hearing aid users in your family or group gathering.  You don't need an app for this, however, you might want to use the Remote Control on the app to adjust volume easily and remotely.  StreamLine TV is not compatible with Android phones.

Worth noting that the Signia App is compatible with Android (Android 5.0 and higher) and Apple (iOS version 9.3 and higher).

Signia Styletto X

 Discover more about hearing aids with Bluetooth below

A quick reference to more information on Bluetooth hearing aids

What mobile phones are compatible with hearing aids?

Below is a list of hearing aid manufacturers that have hearing aids which are compatible with mobile phones.  Click on the links to view each product list:

 

Read Next

What are the best hearing aid brands? What is their history? Let's take a look...

>>  Hearing Aid Brands

We discuss the different hearing aid styles, how they work and their pros and cons here...

>>  Hearing Aid Types

What should you really be paying for your hearing aids?  Find out here...

>>  Hearing Aid Prices

Examples of Bluetooth Hearing Aids UK

£1695
per aid
£3295
per pair
£1695
per aid
£3295
per pair
Tech Rating:
£1695
per aid
£3295
per pair

Behind the Ear & In the Ear
Fitting Styles: BTE, RIC, ITE, ITC

Rechargeable models are an additional £100 per aid

Starkey Livio Full Range

Behind the Ear & In the Ear
Fitting Styles: BTE, RIC, ITE, ITC

Rechargeable models are an additional £100 per aid

Starkey Livio Full Range
£1695
per aid
£3295
per pair
£1695
per aid
£3295
per pair
Tech Rating:
£1695
per aid
£3295
per pair

Behind the Ear
Fitting Styles: RIC, BTE

5 year warranty included.  Rechargeable version is an additional £150 per aid.

Oticon OpnS Full Range

Behind the Ear
Fitting Styles: RIC, BTE

5 year warranty included.  Rechargeable version is an additional £150 per aid.

Oticon OpnS Full Range
£1695
per aid
£2695
per pair
£1695
per aid
£2695
per pair
Tech Rating:
£1695
per aid
£2695
per pair

Behind the Ear

Fitting Styles:  RIC

4 Year Warranty Included. Rechargeable at no extra cost.

Signia Xperience Full Range

Behind the Ear

Fitting Styles:  RIC

4 Year Warranty Included. Rechargeable at no extra cost.

Signia Xperience Full Range
£1695
per aid
£2895
per pair
£1695
per aid
£2895
per pair

 

Behind the Ear and In the Ear
Fitting Styles: RIC, BTE, ITC, ITE, CIC, MC  

5 Year Warranty Included. Rechargeable £50 extra per aid.

Widex Evoke Full Range

 

Behind the Ear and In the Ear
Fitting Styles: RIC, BTE, ITC, ITE, CIC, MC  

5 Year Warranty Included. Rechargeable £50 extra per aid.

Widex Evoke Full Range
£1695
per aid
£2995
per pair
£1695
per aid
£2995
per pair
Tech Rating:
£1695
per aid
£2995
per pair

Behind the Ear
Fitting Styles: RIC

5 Year Warranty Included. Rechargeable version is an additional £50 per aid.

Resound ONE Full Range

Behind the Ear
Fitting Styles: RIC

5 Year Warranty Included. Rechargeable version is an additional £50 per aid.

Resound ONE Full Range
£1695
per aid
£2895
per pair
£1695
per aid
£2895
per pair
Tech Rating:
£1695
per aid
£2895
per pair

Behind the Ear
Fitting Styles: RIC

5 Year Warranty Included. Rechargeable version is an additional £50 per aid.

 
 
Phonak Paradise Full Range

Behind the Ear
Fitting Styles: RIC

5 Year Warranty Included. Rechargeable version is an additional £50 per aid.

 
 
Phonak Paradise Full Range
This article was written by Paul Harrison

Meet Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert

Managing Director & founder of Hearing Aid UK, with over 20 years of audiology experience and a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists Council (BSHAA) between 2015-2020.

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