Bluetooth technology is limited for hearing aid applications in St. Petersburg, Florida

When discussing hearing aid connectivity; the ability of hearing aids to communicate with each other or another device it’s important to know that some technology used with hearing aids was not designed and developed with hearing aids in mind. Bluetooth is a prime example.

Bluetooth technology is primarily designed around cell phone and computer use. For hearing aids, the size of a Bluetooth receiver, the battery drain, and a delay in processing came into play.

Miniaturization of Bluetooth technology was not a priority. Cell phones and computers have ample room available to accommodate the receivers and transmitters. Hearing aids, however are small and already crowded with internal components (microphone, processing chip, and in most cases, the speaker. An external link such as a boot on the behind-the-ear type of hearing aids was the main mode of connection in the past. Today, devices generally called streamers, are used as a link between Bluetooth devices and hearing aids.

Streamers allow hearing aids to communicate with devices that have Bluetooth technology. Computers, cell phones, mp3 players, and TVs are some of the devices that streamers can communicate with. Generally the streamer and Bluetooth device must be “paired” in order to communicate. This is accomplished by enabling Bluetooth on the device to pair and connecting to the streamer when it is recognized or “becomes visible”. Instructions are provided with devices and available from the tech support department of manufacturers.

A new development, Bluetooth version 4.0, includes a low energy feature which meets the power constraints of hearing aids. This technology is a “power-friendly” version of the open Bluetooth wireless standard and has become popular particularly for monitoring devices like heart rate monitors and fitness trackers. This technology is being used in conjunction with smartphone apps and does away with the need for a streamer accessory. This technology is not yet available for all smartphones. Some newer Bluetooth compatible hearing aids are now able to communicate with the latest iPhones. Compatible technology for iPhone is referred to as MfI (made for iPhone). Ease and convenience of use are making devices like this more popular.

Starkey and Resound hearing aids have FM enabled hearing aids that directly connect to cell phones without the need for intermediate devices such as neck worn streamers. Gardner Audiology patients have had good success with these alternatives to Bluetooth technology.

Call Gardner Audiology at 1-800-27-1182 to talk to an audiologist about wireless hearing aid technology.

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