Hearing aid technology is quickly progressing and has made significant advancements within the last few years, including the recent introduction of Bluetooth technology. Just as you can connect your cell phone to your car radio, you can now connect your hearing aids to any number of devices to help you hear your best in every situation.
Bluetooth technology allows you to use your hearing devices, such as Oticon OPN hearing aids, as more than just a hearing amplifier. You can use them as a device to optimize your hearing – whether in the car, while watching TV or talking to friends and family using Skype or Facetime.
What is Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is a technology that was developed for the purpose of transferring data between two or more electronic devices, including text, photographs or audio data. Bluetooth uses high-frequency radio waves to send information from one device to another, without the use of wires. Because of the pairing between the two devices, the information is locked between them so your information is safe and secure.
What are Bluetooth hearing aids?
Bluetooth hearing aids are hearing devices designed to connect to your other Bluetooth compatible devices. Some Bluetooth hearing aids use an accessory called a Streamer, such as Oticon ConnectClip or Phonak ComPilot, to facilitate the connection between the Bluetooth enabled device and the hearing aids. However, Apple products (iPhone, iPad, iPod) can connect to some hearing aids directly, with no intermediate Streamer. Many manufacturers have released what are called Made for iPhone hearing aids, providing Apple users the ease of direct communication between their hearing aids and their Apple products. For Android users, a Streamer is required as an intermediate device to help the communication process. Streamers come in many different shapes and sizes and allow for the connection between your hearing aids and devices such as your cell phone, MP3 player, computer or tablet.
What can you do with Bluetooth hearing aids?
Bluetooth hearing aids are becoming more popular and common since Bluetooth technology can perform many different functions. Below is a list of technologies that may be available for your hearing aids.
Cell phone connectivity
Cell phones are by far the most common use for Bluetooth hearing aids and for good reason. For starters, most Bluetooth hearing aids have an application that you can use to control your hearing aids, such as Oticon ON app or ReSound Smart3D app. Applications are a wonderful tool that allows you to perform essential tasks including increasing or decreasing the volume on your hearing aids, changing the pre-set programs in your hearing aids, and some even have a “Find my hearing aid” locator feature to locate your hearing aids if they are lost! This can be an essential component for those who are nervous about losing their hearing aids.
Connecting to your cell phone using Bluetooth has many benefits. Either using a Streamer or an iPhone with a Made for iPhone hearing aid, you can now take phone calls using your hearing aids as earpieces. This will allow you to hear whomever you are speaking with through the hearing aids instead of using your speakerphone or struggling to adjust the phone to the microphone on the hearing aid. If you have two hearing aids, you can hear the speaker on the phone through both ears. This is a great solution for those with binaural hearing loss, as hearing with two ears will always be better than hearing with one!
Besides standard phone calls, Bluetooth hearing aids also allow for you to stream other sound sources as well. You can stream music and other audio from your cell phone, tablet or computer. This includes Skype and Facetime, which means you can hear your face to face conversations with your friends and family through your hearing aids as your own personalized headset.
Many manufacturers offer other devices that can connect to your hearing aids, such as Oticon TV Box or Phonak TV Connector, which streams the sound from your television to your hearing aids. Simply connect a small box to your television and you can stream the sound from your television to your hearing aids. This is a great solution for those who are having difficulty hearing the TV even with hearing aids, or who have family members who are bothered by the high volume of the TV.
When in very difficult listening situations, such as in a loud restaurant or in a meeting, some people can struggle to hear even with their hearing aids. Luckily with the introduction of Bluetooth technology, your Streamer or iPhone can often be used as a microphone and can be worn by the person you are trying to hear. This microphone will amplify their voice over other sounds surrounding you, making it easier to hear them.
Things to consider when using Bluetooth hearing aids
While Bluetooth technology is an incredibly useful tool, there are a few small things to take into consideration before deciding if Bluetooth hearing aids are right for you.
Battery drain is by far the most important thing to consider when purchasing Bluetooth enabled hearing aids. Due to the increased workload of your Bluetooth enabled devices and hearing aids, you can expect to run through the power of the batteries faster. Typically you will need to replace the batteries in your hearing aids more often and charge your phone more frequently. Be sure to ask your provider if they supply a warranty that includes batteries. Many providers will include batteries in your warranty, sometimes up to three years!
As with all Bluetooth devices, occasionally there can be interruptions in the connection between the hearing aids and other devices. While this is becoming less of an issue with the increasing advancements in technology, it will be important for you to know how to disconnect and reconnect your hearing aids to your phone or Streamer. Be sure to ask your provider for detailed instructions on how to pair your hearing aids to your devices, so you can be comfortable doing so on your own whenever you need to.
Overall, Bluetooth hearing aids with their associated accessories like streamers are making the lives of those with hearing loss easier than ever. Bluetooth hearing aids allow hearing aid users to stay connected with friends and family, without the struggle of not being able to hear. The options can seem overwhelming at first but once you have learned all the things you can do with Bluetooth technology, you may regret not having Bluetooth hearing aids sooner! For more information on Bluetooth technology or to discuss which options are best for you or your loved ones, contact a local hearing healthcare professional near you.