Published on 13/07/2020 | Updated on 15/10/2020
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Here is our consumer tick list for those who are thinking about upgrading or purchasing Bluetooth hearing aids and some questions you might want to ask your audiologist. We hope you find this criteria useful:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Starkey's Remote Microphone + accessory is required for the following models:
Behind the Ear & In the Ear
Fitting Styles: BTE, RIC, ITE, ITC
Rechargeable models are an additional £100 per aidStarkey Livio Full Range
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.
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.
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.
Worth noting that the Signia App is compatible with Android (Android 5.0 and higher) and Apple (iOS version 9.3 and higher).
After Phonak Marvel, Paradise came along with a new look and new impressive technology and processing chip - PRISM. Combining advanced sound quality, motion sensors, a personable hearing experience and digital solutions along with universal and multiple Bluetooth connectivities and much more.
Using Phonak's Motion Sensors, Paradise can control Bluetooth features with a double-tap of your ear. So you can accept/end calls, pause/resume streaming and ask Google for driving instructions with a simple tap.
In fact, Phonak Paradise digital hearing aids allow for eight Bluetooth-enabled devices to be paired, while two can be simultaneously connected.
Mobile phone compatibility with myPhonak app: Your mobile phone must at least support Bluetooth 4.2 and iOS 12.0 or Android 7.0.
Mobile phone compatibility with streaming wireless calls and music: Your mobile phone needs to, at minimum, support Bluetooth version 2.1, optimally 4.2 and higher.
From a Bluetooth perspective, it works very well at receiving, however, the sound quality experienced by people on the other end of the phone is less good than we have found with people using an external clip-on mic type device, or just speaking into the phone like normal.
Behind the Ear
Fitting Styles: RIC
5 Year Warranty Included. Rechargeable version is an additional £50 per aid.
Below is a list of hearing aid manufacturers that have Bluetooth hearing aids which are compatible with mobile phones. Click on the links to view each product list:
What are the best hearing aid brands? What is their history? Let's take a look...
We discuss the different hearing aid styles, how they work and their pros and cons here...
What should you really be paying for your hearing aids? Find out here...
Do not spend hundreds of pounds without getting a second opinion from us.
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.