What is Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is a word that gets casually inserted into many technology conversations, and as audiologists what we do is talk technology, all the time! We are guilty of assuming that everyone understands what Bluetooth technology is, and why they should be so excited that hearing instrument technology is capable of delivering you this cool feature. So, an explanation is warranted.
Bluetooth is simply short-range wireless communication that allows electronic devices to connect, without cables. By short-range we generally mean up to 10 m. If there are solid obstacles between the two communicating devices then this range will be reduced. Likewise, with significant electromagnetic activity within your environment, you might find that the signal is disrupted. If you’re super keen to find out lots about Bluetooth, you can find out more here.
I first wrote about Bluetooth technology in hearing instruments in 2017, explaining it was a relatively new development within hearing aids. Well, that was five years ago now, so this technology has been well and truly tested and refined over that period.
What can it do for me?
We get asked this all of the time. Good question!
Bluetooth can allow your mobile phone to talk to your hearing instruments. There are two aspects to this:
- You can install an app within your phone that can control your hearing experience. The app works as a remote control, but it’s pretty sophisticated. The app allows you to adjust volume (of course), in both aids together, or individually, if you need that. You can alter many aspects of the way your hearing aid is working, such as the frequency response, how much noise is being cancelled, or how specific any beam-forming is. You can design your own programmes and use them again and again, or keep refining how they work. You can set up cleaning reminders, and look at your wearing statistics. The app also allows you to have an appointment without actually coming into the clinic! We call these “remote appointments”, and you can find out more about these here.
- Sounds that are produced by your phone can be sent directly into your hearing aids. This includes text and email alerts. You can go for a walk and listen to a playlist or podcast. You can take a bikeride and have Google give you directions as you ride. The feature most people rave about is having a phonecall being heard through both hearing aids. The nice thing about this is that you don’t even have to have your phone in your hand (just within the Bluetooth range), as you can answer the phonecall by touching your hearing aid, and the microphones on your hearing aids pick up your voice and transmit it to the caller.
Most hearing instruments can be paired simultaneously to multiple Bluetooth devices. Other examples of devices you might want to pair with are your laptop, or tablet. If you watch media such as Netflix through these devices, once you pair your hearing instruments to your device you already have your wireless headset, customised to your hearing loss. This will make skype calls easier too. The skies are the limit! Whatever you use your laptop or tablet for, the sounds can be transmitted to your hearing instruments.
If you wish to purchase a TV connector (they cost $295), then you can stream the signal from your television directly into your hearing aids. Our clients who have bought a TV connector are thrilled at the improvement in sound quality they get from the Bluetooth signal. In fact, many of our clients who bought one, have gone on to purchase a second one for a different device (they also work on audio systems).
Is it expensive?
In a word, no. Bluetooth is now in almost every hearing aid. The exception is the very tiny ones that sit deep within the ear canal. These ones are too small for the Bluetooth technology to fit within them. Even if they could fit in those types of aids, the ear canal would reduce the range within which the signal could be received.
How do I activate and deactive Bluetooth?
We will pair your hearing instruments to your phone while you are in the clinic. But, you still need to know how to pair your hearing instrument to your phone yourself because sometimes, for various reasons, this pairing is lost. You may also have other devices you wish to pair to.
We have provided full instructions on how to do this here.
There will be times when you won’t want to hear the notifications and calls that are coming from your phone. For example, if you are in a meeting, or at the theatre. In those cases, simply go to your phone settings and turn Bluetooth off. When you wish to receive the notifications again, simply turn Bluetooth back on, and the pairing will still be there.
Are you missing out?
If your current hearing aids don’t have Bluetooth technology, and you’d like to give it a try, please get in contact. We almost always have the latest hearing aids available for loan so you can experience them for yourself. You can phone Helen on 09 309 1018 to make an appointment, or book online.