Oticon Alta

Hearing Aids and Bluetooth Technology

Contributed by , director of Healthy Hearing

Hearing aids of the past often limited the wearer’s access to many personal audio devices such as mobile phones and music players. For example, in order to use a music player while jogging, the hearing aid wearer had to remove his hearing aids to accommodate a pair of earbuds. However, today’s wireless hearing aids make it possible for the hearing impaired individual to connect with personal electronic devices and stream signals directly to the hearing aid through the use of Bluetooth.

What is Bluetooth?

Hearing aids can connect to Bluetooth devices via an intermediary device.
Bluetooth and hearing aids work together and
can be paired with numerous devices. 

 

Developed through collaboration of leading technology firms, Bluetooth is a wireless communication platform that allows for the transfer of data between two or more electronic devices. The technology uses radio waves set to a high frequency to transmit data without interference or security risks. A wide variety of products incorporating Bluetooth connectivity have been developed, including mobile phones, music players, computers, tablets and televisions.

Are there Bluetooth hearing aids?

A full implementation of the Bluetooth standard requires a greater power supply than can be generated within the small footprint of a hearing aid battery, so “bluetooth hearing aids” are not currently on the market. However, manufacturers of wireless hearing aids long ago created a clever solution for accessing this prevalent wireless standard. Wireless hearing aids can use compatible assistive listening devices, often called streamers, to provide a communication link between the wireless technology in the hearing aids and any Bluetooth-enabled device. More recently, Apple has patented a specific Bluetooth connectivity with hearing aids so that certain hearing aids can communicate directly with the iOS platform that runs iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. This technology is designed to allow the devices direct connection without extreme stress on the battery power. Several hearing aid manufacturers have released hearing aids that implement this Bluetooth technology, marketed as Made for iPhone™.

How does Bluetooth work with wireless hearing aids?

An intermediary device picks up a signal from Bluetooth and then communicates it to your hearing aids giving the user Bluetooth hearing aids.
A streamer can connect 
your wireless hearing aids 
to many devices.

During the initial consultation about hearing aids with a hearing care provider, patients should discuss their needs for wireless connectivity. If there is a desire to connect with a mobile phone, tablet, computer, music player or other Bluetooth-enabled device, the hearing care provider will recommend a set of wireless hearing aids and if appropriate, a compatible streamer. The wireless hearing aids can either be paired directly to an Apple device (if labeled as Made for iPhone™) or be paired with the streamer, and then the streamer can be paired with external devices. When it’s all set up, the streamer will pick up the bluetooth signal from your phone, for example, and send it to your hearing aid via an FM signal or electromagnetic field, depending on the manufacturer’s design. Usually the streamer is worn around the neck or placed in a pocket for hands-free operation. 

What are the benefits of streaming via Bluetooth?

Although you often must carry an additional device in order to access your mobile phone or music player, a streamer provides many opportunities that were previously unavailable to a hearing aid user.

Personalized listening experience

The audio signal can usually be set to stream to one or both hearing aids and the streamed signal can be amplified and shaped to match the hearing aid’s personalized settings. The volume of the stream may be controlled by the streamer or the hearing aids, depending on the manufacturer’s design. In the case of a music player, the hearing aids can become a set of wireless earbuds. For a phone, it may be desirous to stream the signal to just one hearing aid so as to keep the other one accessing the other sounds in the room. This hands-free solution sure beats trying to position the mobile phone receiver close to the hearing aid microphone!

Multiple connections

Multiple devices can usually be paired to one streamer, so you can easily switch between different devices. For example, you can be connected to your mobile phone while you’re streaming a movie from your tablet. The streamer is able to interrupt or pause the audio from your tablet in order to bring you the audio signal from an incoming phone call. 

Remote control of your hearing aids

Commonly, there are also capabilities for remotely changing the volume or program from the streamer. This is especially useful if your hearing aids are too small to accommodate external controls.  

Standard protocol

Last but not least, Bluetooth is an electronics industry standard protocol. It’s not unique to a particular hearing aid or hearing aid manufacturer, so there is uniformity in the way that it works across all devices. The platform has been tested and refined already, as it’s been in use for many years in the mobile phone industry. As stated above, the Bluetooth connection is secure and there’s no interference.

Bluetooth streaming with hearing aids

Bluetooth is today's cutting edge technology

Bluetooth-enabled streamers are assistive listening devices that have greatly elevated the hearing aid wearing experience. It’s an example of using today’s wireless hearing aid technology in a smart way that truly provides convenience for the individual with hearing loss.  

To stay connected to your network of friends and family, talk to your hearing care professional about wireless hearing aids, Bluetooth streaming and Made for iPhone™ hearing aids.

References

  1. What is Bluetooth technology?, Bluetooth, http://www.bluetooth.com/Pages/what-is-bluetooth-technology.aspx
  2. Overview, Oticon ConnectLine, http://www.oticonusa.com/product-showcase/connectivity/connectline/overview.aspx
  3. Bluetooth hearing aids could take off with baby boomers, PIoneer Press, http://www.twincities.com/business/ci_25426767/connecting-hearing-aids-iphones-could-add-cachet-aging

This content was last reviewed on: July 1st, 2014

Preferred Hearing Professionals Near You

Jeffrey H. Aroesty MD, PC

400 Valley Rd Ste 105
Mount Arlington, NJ 07856

Click Here for Details

Total Hearing Care - Hillsborough

311 Courtyard Dr
Hillsborough, NJ 08844

Click Here for Details

ENT and Allergy Associates, LLP - Bridgewater

245 US HWY 22 W 3rd fl
Bridgewater, NJ 08807

Click Here for Details