Bluetooth Hearing Aids
Bluetooth is a non-proprietary wireless protocol, meaning that any manufacturer can employ the technology in their devices. Different versions of Bluetooth hearing aids have been rolled out through the years, improving reliability and power consumption over time. The technology is now reliable enough that it can be used all day in a set of rechargeable hearing aids without draining too much power.
Bluetooth allows you to take the audio from one source or another and send it directly through your hearing aids, rather than having a separate device amplify it through a speaker. In the latter case, the microphones in your hearing aids have to pick the signal up again, at which point distortions will likely have been introduced by the other reproduction system (the speaker), the room or space you are in, background sound, etc. In essence, Bluetooth allows you to get much cleaner audio directly into your hearing aids!
But that’s not all. Hearing aid manufacturers now offer smartphone apps for their hearing aids. By connecting wirelessly via Bluetooth to your smartphone, you can use these apps to control your hearing aids’ volume, programming profile, and more without even having to touch them directly! Some manufacturers even offer the ability to connect to your care provider directly through the app, allowing you to take a hearing test or have your programming adjusted via telehealth, without needing to visit your care provider in person.
Made for iPhone
Apple has been at the forefront of utilizing Bluetooth connectivity to pair with hearing aids. All the major hearing aid brands have models available with the “Made for iPhone” designation, allowing them to connect easily and directly to Apple devices.
The Android market is more diverse than the Apple product line, but Google has developed a technology similar to the “Made for iPhone” designation that allows Android devices running version 10.0 or higher to connect directly to hearing aids, as well. This technology may not work across all Android devices, so if you are looking at new phones and expecting to connect to your hearing aids, pay attention to whether the specific phone is compatible.
For decades, telecoils—or “T-coils”—were the only way to connect to hearing aids. By switching on the T-coil in your aids, you can bypass the microphones and utilize an analog wireless receiver, like an antenna, to pick up a signal being generated through a telephone speaker or a “loop system.”
Loop systems are common in public spaces like houses of worship, theaters, lecture halls, museums, and more. A loop system is simply a loop of wire that runs around the perimeter of a space, and is connected to something like a stereo amplifier. When you are inside the loop, your hearing aids will pick up the signal being transmitted and provide it with excellent clarity.
While some have said that Bluetooth is taking over and T-coils are now a “dead” technology, we don’t believe this is the case. They are both very functional for different situations, and the T-coil has the advantage of being a simple, analog technology that does not require you to “pair” your device to any one source. It’s more like a radio, that simply picks up whatever is within range.
A robust connection setup should incorporate both T-coils and Bluetooth connectivity, though not all hearing aid wearers may require both, or either. At Heritage Hearing Service, we’ll work with you to determine which features will be useful to you in your hearing aids, and won’t try to sell you on any features or accessories that you are unlikely to use.
More and more models of television are also incorporating Bluetooth technology. This will allow you to connect your hearing aids directly to your television, to provide adjustable volume on the audio directly from your hearing aids. If your television does not support Bluetooth directly, all the major hearing aid manufacturers offer a “TV adapter.” You can plug this device into the audio outputs of your television—or stereo system, for that matter—and then establish a Bluetooth connection to the adapter to receive the audio from your television.
If you have questions about Bluetooth and hearing aids, or want to schedule a hearing test, contact Vital Hearing today!