Like all other technology, hearing aids have evolved over the years. They’ve become smaller (with some invisible options even available), have better noise reduction features to work harder in background noise, improved speech enhancement for a clearer sound when listening to a conversation, better features to help you locate where sounds originate from, and most hearing aids are now compatible with Bluetooth-enabled devices.
What Bluetooth compatibility in hearing aids means is that sounds from your mobile phone, computer, MP3 player or iPod/iPad and TV can be streamed directly to your hearing aids. Basically, anything that has Bluetooth can work. This can greatly improve the sound quality and your ease of listening, as the sound goes directly into your hearing aids, rather than being subject to poor speaker sound quality and poor room acoustics for examples. For mobile phone calls, sound being streamed to both ears simultaneously can enhance the sound quality, as two ears are better than one.
This technology has been around for a number of years already. How Bluetooth works with your hearing aids is that a third party accessory will connect to your Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone or other device, and send the signal via Bluetooth to your hearing aids. Sometimes this accessory needs to be worn around your neck as a means of transmitting the signal to your hearing aids, and sometimes if just needs to be near you for this to work (ideally within 50-60cm of your hearing aids for the most reliable signal). The accessory will also double as the microphone to pick up your voice when using it with your phone, so you wouldn’t want it to be too far away from you anyway. It’s subject to the usual Bluetooth restrictions, i.e. the Bluetooth device you are streaming from needs to be within 10 metres of you, preferably in clear line of sight, or you can expect the signal to be intermittent.
When this technology was first introduced, the Bluetooth accessory for your hearing aids only had the one function – to stream the Bluetooth signal to your hearing aids. The last few years have seen these devices evolve to include other functions as well, the most useful being a remote control function for your hearing aids (no fiddling behind your ears to adjust the settings or volume).
However, while the idea of hearing phone calls, music or TV directly through your hearing aids is a great one, not everyone is keen on the idea of having to carry around an additional device or, in particular, having to wear said device around your neck. This is where technology is currently evolving in the hearing aid industry.
Currently only available from two hearing aid manufacturers, GN Resound & Starkey have recently launched hearing aids that can stream Bluetooth signals directly WITHOUT THE NEED FOR AN ADDITIONAL ACCESSORY. No more wearing something around your neck or carrying an additional device around – just use your hearing aids.
There are some limitations in this, as it’s still new in the hearing aid industry. Firstly, these hearing aids are only available in one style (receiver-in-canal), so if you’re after something that sits in the ear only, you might have to wait a little longer. Secondly, both manufacturers’ devices are only compatible for streaming Bluetooth from Apple devices, and specific ones at that.
GN Resound launched the Linx hearing aid in March 2014. It’s available in 2 different technology levels – Linx 761 (advanced) and Linx 961 (premium). It is currently compatible for direct Bluetooth streaming with iPhone 5C or 5S, iPad 5, iPad Air (4th generation), iPad mini with Retina display, iPad mini and iPod touch (5th generation) that are using iOS 7 or later.
Starkey’s made for iPhone Halo hearing aid was launched in May 2014. They offer this hearing aid in 3 technology levels – Halo i70 (standard), Halo i90 (advanced) and Halo i110 (premium). Halo is designed to work with iPhone 4S, 5, 5C or 5S, iPad Air, iPad (4th generation), iPad mini with Retina display, iPad mini and iPad Touch (5th generation) using iOS 7.1.
Both hearing aids use an app (Resound Smart and Starkey TruLink), which allows you to adjust your hearing aid programs and volume. Another exciting feature of these apps is that you can save preferred volume settings to specific locations and, using the GPS capability in your phone, the hearing aids will automatically change to these settings whenever you’re back in the same location. Additionally, if you misplace your hearing aids, you can also use your phone’s GPS capability to locate your hearing aids (provided the batteries are still running or, if not, you can track the last known location when the batteries were working).
With technology like this emerging in the hearing aid industry, the hearing aid user has more control over their hearing aids than ever before. There are some more features available in these hearing aids, so if this sounds like something you’re interested in, contact Value Hearing to book your free comprehensive hearing aid assessment and get started today.