Hearing Aids and Bluetooth Devices
Hearing aids have come a long way even in just the last 5 years. We have seen hearing aids become smaller, lighter, and built with better features. What many people don’t know is that hearing aids are now manufactured with wireless streaming capabilities. This means that hearing aids can now act as a pair of headphones or a Bluetooth device.
Streaming technology bridges a large gap in normalizing hearing and communication for those with hearing aids. For instance, when a hearing aid user wants to listen to an MP3 player or another personal listening device, in the past, one would have to remove their hearing aids in order to use ear buds or try to wedge a set of earphones atop of their hearing aids. The results were usually poor fit, poor sound or both. Now instead of having to remove hearing aids to put on headphones for personal listening, now you can leave the hearing aids in and they will stream the music directly in the ears.
Another example is phone use. For many hearing aid users the phone is avoided. Hearing loss makes phone conversations difficult due to lack of visual information. Most hearing aid users become frustrated with placing a phone over their hearing aids finding that either fit or sound quality become an issue. Part of the limitation of the phone is that you hold it to one ear. Our brain is wired to hear with both ears and therefore, phone use on one ear puts the listener at a disadvantage. With streaming technology this all changes as streaming devices allow for phone calls to be heard in both ears simultaneously. Due to a technology called Bluetooth, the hearing aid user can answer calls hands-free, wirelessly and listen in both ears.
It is no small feat turning hearing aids into streaming devices. Due to battery consumption and other technical hurdles, manufacturers have developed streaming devices that you wear around your neck or clip near your collar to incorporate streaming to the hearing aids. This allows for 4-6 hours of streaming time without running down the hearing aid battery. The devices look similar to a small phone or a MP3 player and they include the Bluetooth receiver and processor for audio streaming from up to eight paired devices. Devices could include cell phones, landline phone, televisions, laptop computers, MP3 players and more. They employ a standard stereo jack that allows the user to plug into any audio device that accepts headphones. In some instances, the devices are compatible with FM systems and Loop systems which are two types of assistive devices found in theaters, classroom, churches and other public forums.
The cost of adding streaming devices to the hearing aid starts near $300.00 for most systems. The cost will increase if adaptors are needed for the home. Such an adaptor might be needed to modify a television set or a standard landline phone to transmit sound by Bluetooth. There are phones and televisions on the market sold with Bluetooth already installed and therefore would not need additional adaptors. Most modern cell phones have Bluetooth installed as a standard feature.
Hearing aids manufactured in the last 5 years are very likely to be compatible and nearly all hearing aids now manufactured have streaming capabilities. If you would like to learn more about hearing aid streaming devices please schedule a visit for a demonstration.
HearWell Center is proud to provide consultations to discuss phone and device options as part of an assessment for hearing help products. We provide service for most major hearing aid manufacturers.