What is a Bluetooth hearing aid and how can it make your life easier?
Bluetooth hearing aids are nothing new, but maybe you’re not entirely sure what these wireless hearing aids are and what they can do for you. Here’s what you need to know about Bluetooth in hearing aids, and why it can make your life easier.
Living with a hearing loss
But first let’s clarify what Bluetooth is.
Bluetooth is a communication technology that helps connect two or more electronic devices wirelessly within a short range, so they can exchange sound or information. It uses high-frequency radio waves to share the information, and it’s completely safe and secure.
Bluetooth is used in many modern electronic devices, which means lots of your devices can communicate with each other. Electronics manufacturers like Samsung and LG even produce refrigerators that will communicate with other devices through Bluetooth.
Bluetooth in hearing aids
Bluetooth technology is a little bit different when it comes to hearing aids. Because for small devices that don’t have a lot of battery capacity, but have to be on most of the time, classic Bluetooth just takes too much energy.
That’s why these small devices use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE for short), which is designed to provide reduced power consumption while maintaining communication range and making sure that the sound isn’t delayed. BLE was introduced in 2004 and is used for many things, including heart rate monitors, smart watches – and hearing aids.
Also, hearing aids are a special breed of device because, very often, people use two hearing aids instead of one. This means there are two devices (instead of one) that need to communicate with each other while also connecting to another Bluetooth device. That means you need two Bluetooth channels, and BLE is also the solution to that challenge.
How does Bluetooth work?
A Bluetooth hearing aid can communicate with different electronic devices, including your smartphone, which you can use as a control for your hearing aid.
If you have a hearing aid with a Bluetooth 2.4GHz connection, you’re in luck. A few years ago, Apple introduced “Made for iPhone” technology, where users can stream sound straight from any iOS device like their iPad or iPhone to their 2.4GHz-connected hearing aids.
But does that mean you can’t stream audio from your TV or your Android-operated Samsung phone, even though you have a 2.4GHz hearing aid? Not quite. You just need an assistive listening device to help you stream.
This device (called a streamer) is usually worn around the neck, depending on where you want to stream from. If you want to stream from your TV, for instance, the device will most often be physically connected to your TV, receive the TV sound and stream it to your hearing aid.
The hearing aid industry is currently working on finding a solution for Android systems so that users can stream audio directly from their Android phones as well.
What are the benefits of streaming via Bluetooth?
With Bluetooth you get a more personal listening experience. For instance, you’re able to control the TV volume for your hearing aids separately from the volume on the TV (good news for your family and friends!). You can stream sound to one or both ears, listen to music and talk on the phone with sound being sent straight to your hearing aid. This way the sound you hear will be less prone to distortion; it’s generally easier to hear, and sound becomes more personalised.
If you’re into electronics and gadgets, you’re a good candidate for a Bluetooth hearing aid. But if you prefer to keep your electronic devices as simple as possible and to not have to manage them, you may find a Bluetooth hearing aid to be more of a burden than a relief.
How do I set my hearing aids up for Bluetooth?
Like other devices in your home, such as your cordless phone, Bluetooth uses a 2.4GHz connection to exchange data or communication between devices instead of using a cable.
The first thing you need to do (after turning on your hearing aids, streamer, and the devices you want to connect to) is to pair the devices – that is, make sure they can communicate! Your hearing care professional can help you get started, or you can find an online guide to pairing devices, like Apple’s guide: “Made for iPhone”.
How is Bluetooth different from Wi-Fi?
Bluetooth is made for wirelessly connecting two or more devices within a short range, while Wi-Fi will connect your device to the internet from anywhere. Lots of electronic and domestic devices can be controlled through Wi-Fi, and this is called the Internet of Things (IOT). For instance, you can control the heating in your house or when your washing machine should start. Bluetooth is a good way to connect to the devices you’re close to in that moment. It uses less power than Wi-Fi and is cheaper to implement.
Are Bluetooth hearing aids easy to use?
Yes and no. If you’re used to using different electronic devices, you’ll have no problem managing Bluetooth hearing aids. Talk to your hearing care professional to learn more about what would suit your needs.
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