Hearing aids that have the capability of Bluetooth technology have been rising in popularity and there are certainly many advantages of using these devices. When we first began discussing Bluetooth hearing aids wiht our patients there was a fair amount of skepticism involved. But when they began to see the nature of the tasks that could be achieved using this method, things became clearer to our patients. By pairing the hearing aid with another Bluetooth enabled device, our patients can carry out a whole host of tasks wirelessly and without using any hands as well.
Uses of Bluetooth in Hearing Aids
By enabling the Bluetooth connection on the hearing aids, you can pair up the device with a mobile phone, a home phone, a TV, a radio, an Apple iPod or any other MP3 player or any other device that is able to connect to a Bluetooth network. This will give the wearer of the Bluetooth hearing aids access to the device that is generating the audio (signal) and they will be able to hear that audio (signal) straight through on their hearing aids.
Just as important as the Bluetooth-capable hearing aids is a “gateway” device that needs to be in close proximity to the wearer of the Bluetooth hearing aids at all times. The gateway unit receives the signal from the audio device (cell phone, MP3 player, etc.) and sends it directly to the hearing aids. One manufacturer, Oticon, sells a device known as a “Streamer” which acts as the gateway. The device is worn around the neck and it works on rechargeable batteries. Other manufacturers have similar devices as well. Phonak uses the iCom, Unitron uses the uDirect and Siemens has the Tek. Many of the gateway units have microphones on them as well. Therefore when worn the gateway is worn around the neck, the user can not only listen to their cell phone conversation through their hearing aids, but the gateway will pick up your voice as well making your cell phone conversations truly hands-free!
Technology Moves On!
Being able to listen to your cell phone through your hearing aids has been a tremendous benefit to hearing aid users. But the hearing aid manufacturers didn’t stop there. Today users have the ability to listen to their television through their hearing aids as well. Typically a small device is connected to the television through the audio out plugs on the back of the television. In the same way as with the cell phone or MP3 player, the signal from the television is sent via Bluetooth technology to the gateway which in turn streams the sound directly to the hearing aids.
Connecting your Bluetooth hearing aids to these devices is quite simple. The first step is for your Audiologist to pair the hearing aids to the gateway. Typically this is done by connecting the hearing aids and the gateway to a computer in our office. Once this is completed, the user can then pair their cell phone, MP3 player, etc. to the gateway unit. This can be as simple as pressing a button on the gateway and entering an access code.
The usefulness of Bluetooth hearing aids is unquestionable, and there are many people who suffer from hearing loss who can be helped by this technology. The ability to sync so many different devices to hearing aids wirelessly is quite phenomenal and should be considered by any hearing aid user.