Connectivity for Hearing Aids
If you’re looking for new hearing aids, you might have read some of the reviews for the latest Bluetooth hearing aids or MFi hearing aids (made-for-iPhone). You might think of it as a gimmick, but Bluetooth technology can actually be quite beneficial. It provides greater flexibility for you to make adjustments right from your phone and makes phone calls more convenient. But there’s also a lot more to connectivity features, and big differences between Bluetooth hearing aids and MFi hearing aids. And some of these connected hearing aids can even be adjusted by your audiologist remotely through your phone, saving you a trip to the office.
Until recently, most people used a telecoil, or t-coil, to hear the telephone on their hearing aids. The Hearing Loss Association of America has a good brochure on their website explaining what a t-coil is and how it works. You might notice that without a t-coil it becomes hard to separate the phone sound from other background noise in the room. That’s because all the sound is coming through the same source – the microphone.
Your t-coil picks up electromagnetic signals from the phone instead, so you can listen with less noise interference. The problem there is that t-coil sensitivity and transmission vary so much between devices. So you might have trouble finding the “sweet spot” where you get a nice, clean sound from the phone. You might also get electrical interference from other sources like computers and lights, which creates a buzzing sound in the hearing aid.
How Wireless Connectivity Helps
When you have a direct wireless connection between two devices, there is no need to find a “sweet spot”. There is no more electrical interference from other sources. Your devices are paired together using a digital handshake, so they only communicate with each other. That allows Bluetooth hearing aids and MFi hearing aids to deliver a nice, clean, and intelligible sound from the paired phone.
The first direct wireless connections between hearing aids and phones were with MFi hearing aids. The consistency of iPhone software and hardware across devices, and its use 2.4 GHz pairing, enabled direct wireless pairing in a small package with less battery drain than was available with Bluetooth.
MFi hearing aids have some advantages beyond wireless streaming. Your hearing aids can detect their location on your iPhone’s GPS locator, so if you lose your hearing aids you can go back and find them. Your iPhone will also tell you how much battery life you have left in your hearing aids. Your iPhone can be used a remote control to change volume, programs, and other options in your hearing aids. If you have tinnitus, you can use the wireless streaming function to listen to tinnitus maskers.
Some makers of MFi hearing aids include…
Bluetooth Hearing Aids
MFi hearing aids offer lots of great options, but what if you don’t have an iPhone? Bluetooth hearing aids have you covered! These hearing aids can wirelessly stream calls from any Bluetooth phone – Android, flip phones, you name it. There are, however, a few limitations…
Your Bluetooth hearing aids will only stream phone calls, so you won’t be able to stream music or other audio. They’ll also only stream phone calls to one ear at a time. They have some apps for your smart phone that may still provide some features discussed about MFi above.
Makers of Bluetooth hearing aids include…