How an Apple Watch can help with hearing aids and hearing loss
Vibrating alerts, easy volume adjustments, and more
If you’re tech-savvy, you probably follow the latest trends regarding hearing aid technology, including Bluetooth hearing aids. Bluetooth hearing aids have significantly improved the hearing experience for millions of people, thanks to their ability to wirelessly connect to smartphones and other smart devices. Some people with hearing challenges use Apple Watches to access more features to enhance their hearing aid experience.
While you may already be familiar with the Apple Watch, there are a few features you can benefit from with your Bluetooth hearing aids (or cochlear implants) without needing your smartphone.
Here’s a look at what you can do by pairing your Bluetooth hearing aids with your Apple Watch.
What you can do with your Apple Watch that won’t require your phone
With your hearing aids and Apple Watch, you can access several helpful features to enhance your accessibility—especially if your hearing aids come with a corresponding hearing aid app.
Listed below are some notable features to check out.
Haptic is the word for vibration or tactile sensations emitted from an electronic device. The smartwatch offers users the ability to turn on haptic alerts, which can be a benefit for people with hearing aids. According to a 2023 literature review from Sensors (Basel), haptic devices transfer information to the user using stimuli that emulates or changes the response of sensory organs (e.g., ears, eyes, nose, tongue, and skin).
“With [an Apple Watch], users can receive vibration-based alerts for different notifications, enabling individuals with hearing difficulties to stay connected without relying on audible cues,” said Carl Borg, tech enthusiast and the founder and Strategist of CleverFixes.
Some of the notifications you can receive with haptic alerts include:
If you want to adjust the intensity or frequency of the taps, you’ll need to use your phone to access the Apple Watch app’s settings.
Need to adjust the volume of your hearing aids? You can do so with your Apple Watch. Simply click on your hearing aid app on the home screen of your Apple Watch, and use the dial on the side of your watch to change the volume.
Another helpful feature is the ability to change between different audio, such as music, podcasts, videos, etc., without needing your phone. “Depending on the capability of your hearing aids, you might also be able to switch between different listening programs or settings directly from the Apple Watch,” said Peter Byrom, an audiologist and owner of Peter Byrom Audiology. Typically, premium Bluetooth hearing aids will have this Apple Watch feature. You can check out Apple’s Made for iPhone list of compatible hearing aids to determine if you have an advanced model that works with Apple devices.
If you need to quickly chat with a loved one, you can access the Walkie-Talkie feature through your Apple Watch. This fun feature allows you to use your watch like a real Walkie-Talkie. You’ll open the Walkie-Talkie app on your watch, press a button to talk and release it to listen. Both participants will need a Bluetooth connection. Unlike typical walkie-talkies, this app has an infinite range, so the person doesn’t need to be close to you for it to work.
AssistiveTouch is an Apple Watch feature that allows you to perform certain actions by hand gestures. If tapping the watch’s face or button is a challenge, this feature can make it easier to use this smart device. If you have a physical disability or mobility challenges, accessing apps or performing actions on a tiny watch screen may be difficult, so this feature can make it easier to use this smart device.
Here are some of the actions you can do with AssistiveTouch:
Environmental sound measurements
The surrounding environment can become so noisy, causing temporary or permanent hearing loss, known as noise-induced hearing loss. Thankfully, the Apple Watch offers an app that warns users of a loud environment, similar to decibel meter apps.
“The Noise app on the Apple Watch allows users to understand the sound levels in their environment and helps safeguard against potential hearing damage,” explained Borg. "The Noise app will measure sound levels throughout the day when you’re wearing your watch.”
After three minutes, your Apple Watch will notify you if a sound is beyond the average noise level or decibel (dB). You can go through the Apple Watch app on your phone to adjust the noise threshold or dB levels to your preference.
Fall detection and emergency services
According to a 2023 study from Geriatrics and Gerontology, hearing loss among adults may be associated with a higher risk of falls. With this in mind, the Apple Watch offers fall detection and emergency services that can be paired with your Bluetooth hearing aids.
“It offers features like fall detection and emergency SOS, which can automatically send alerts to designated contacts or emergency services if a fall or emergency situation is detected,” explained Melissa E. Heche, AuD, with New York Speech and Hearing.
Don’t ditch your smartphone just yet
Here are some limitations of using your Bluetooth hearing aids and Apple Watch without your phone.
Not every Bluetooth hearing aid will pair with an Apple Watch
“While the Apple Watch seamlessly integrates with most Bluetooth hearing aid models, the device may not support advanced features offered by some hearing aids, such as directional microphones and noise reduction,” said Borg. Check with your hearing aid provider to see if they can pair with your Apple Watch.
You can’t pair your hearing aids and Apple Watch without your smartphone
You’ll need to pair your Bluetooth hearing aids and Apple Watch with your phone before they can be used without your phone. Download the app for your hearing aids to your smartphone to access the features on your Apple Watch.
If you need assistance pairing your hearing aids and Apple Watch, you can contact the manufacturer of your hearing aids or schedule an appointment at the Apple Store’s Genius Bar for assistance.
Apple Watch provides limited access to features on your hearing aid app
Your Apple Watch may have only some of the features on your smartphone app. “While the Apple Watch can control volume and programs on hearing aids, it typically cannot adjust these parameters as finely as dedicated hearing aid apps on a smartphone,” said Borg.
Investing in an Apple Watch can boost your Bluetooth hearing aid experience. Be sure that your hearing aids will pair with the smartwatch, and don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from a loved one, hearing care provider or Apple representative to learn all the features an Apple Watch can offer for your hearing.
“The Apple Watch’s convenience, accessibility enhancements, and health-monitoring capabilities make it a commendable companion for individuals with hearing difficulties,” added Borg.