By Paul Harrison, Guest Author
This is the first in a two part series on wireless technology and hearing aids.
With the introduction of wireless technology, hearing aids are now able to do more than ever before. Just making things louder is a thing of the past with new devices containing more and more advanced features with each new generation of hearing aid.
Wireless technology in hearing aids means that they are able to connect both with each other and with a number of different devices using a signal that is similar to the Bluetooth in mobile phones. When the hearing aids work together it is known as binaural technology. With this feature, they can communicate with each other and work together to improve your hearing. There are some binaural features that will analyze your environment, detect which hearing aid is receiving the clearer signal and then transmit this superior signal to the other side. This ensures that you are always getting the best sound available, whatever your environment may be. Binaural microphone applications work in the same way to ensure you hear sounds from all directions clearly but can give priority to speech over background noises.
When most people mention wireless technology in hearing aids, they are referring to their ability to connect to other things. This signal allows the hearing aids to be paired with different accessories that in turn can be connected to your various audio devices.
Each manufacturer has their own range of accessories which can only be used with their own hearing aids. Some require a device called a streamer to be used in addition to the other accessories. This streamer is used to relay the signal from each device into the hearing aids and is often the point of control as well. Some manufacturers use a different or more powerful signal which can send the sounds directly without the need for this additional device.
So what can you connect to?
Many manufacturers now have a device that can be easily connected to most televisions. It is usually a discreet little box that sits by the TV and picks up the sound coming from it. It then transmits the sound into the hearing aids, either directly or through the additional streamer. This can give you the effect of wearing headphones without the inconvenience of actually wearing them. It also allows you to control the volume by adjusting the hearing aids rather than the television. This can be particularly useful if you are not the only person watching, as it means you can watch at your own level without affecting the listening comfort of others. In most cases, if an additional streamer is required, this unit will also act as a charger for it.
Many hearing aid users struggle when using their home telephone for several reasons. Some people find that the conversation sounds muffled and some even report that they often don’t hear it ring. There are now wireless accessories that can help with this by connecting you directly to the telephone. An alert will sound in your hearing aids when the phone rings so you never miss a call and then you don’t even have to get up to answer it. You can answer the call by simply pressing a button on your device and you will then hear the conversation through your hearing aids. This gives you the benefit of a clearer sound and also means that you hear the conversation in both of your ears at the same time. The built in microphone in the device then allows you to enjoy your conversation without having to go to the phone.
These work in a very similar way to the home phone accessories. They allow you to receive alerts when calls come through and then answer the phone without having to remove it from your pocket or bag.
According to YourHearing Wireless, technology is advancing all the time, making it easier for hearing aid users to enjoy things that they previously found difficult or frustrating. Each manufacturer has a different range of accessories so you would need to check to see what is available for your particular hearing aids. There are so many options available today it is possible for everyone to get themselves and their hearing aids wireless enabled.
Stay tuned for part two to be posted in early 2014 which will highlight other types of devices that can connect to your hearing aid and help you hear better.
Paul Harrison has been in the Hearing aid industry for 20 years and in that time has worked at both manufacturer and retailer level before managing his own online hearing aid business www.yourhearing.co.uk which is a national network of local hearing aid audiologists who offer the main hearing aid brands at less than the high street but with the same quality aftercare and warranty.