We live in a world where making connections through mobile devices is really important and that’s especially true for hearing aid wearers. There’s lots of talk about connectivity but how do you know your hearing aids will work with your mobile phone or tablet?
Until quite recently, it was almost impossible to get hearing aids to work directly with mobile phones and tablets. This meant you had to remove your hearing aid to listen to music through an earbud or you could only connect your hearing aid to the telephone through a telecoil.
Now, most modern hearing aids are fully compatible with mobile phones and tablets but there are some things you should know before you buy hearing aids or your next mobile device. For starters, many people find the unnecessary jargon around innovative technology frustrating and difficult to understand. And that can make it harder to get the right device for your lifestyle.
Maybe you’re not sure what Bluetooth is or what HAC stands for or what the M or T rating on your phone is. Maybe you don’t know whether you need a streaming device to connect your hearing aids to your phone. If that’s you, then you need to read this article.
Benefits of connectivity
Being able to connect your hearing aids to your mobile devices can make your life so much easier. Reliable connectivity with multiple devices such as phones and tablets provides real benefits in terms of:
When you have a direct link between your hearing aids and your mobile devices you can enjoy superior sound quality and total control of your listening experience. Adjusting your hearing aids or monitoring battery life and a myriad array of other functions are simply a swipe away.
And answering calls and understanding phone conversations has never been easier. Innovative features such as WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts) also make your life a whole lot safer. You can rest easy knowing that you’ll receive all the critical local and national emergency warnings in time.
Text Telephone (TTY compatibility) is an increasingly popular feature with many modern hearing aids. TTY provides a real-time text transcription of what the speaker on the other end of your phone conversation is saying.
Phonak’s ‘my-Call-to-Text’ app is just one example of how this modern technology can transform your life. No longer do you need to wonder whether your takeaway order has been understood correctly. No longer will your phone conversations end in a tangle of crossed wires.
A telecoil (or T Coil) is a wireless antenna that allows some hearing aids to connect with telecoil equipped devices such as telephones or TVs. In most cases the telecoil automatically switches off the hearing aid microphone so that you hear the direct sound transmission from the device without interference from external sources.
But you may require hearing aids that are flexible enough to keep up with changing listening environments and your busy lifestyle. Fortunately, modern technology is providing hearing aids with the ability to help you manage and respond to those ever-changing demands.
Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity provides an industry-wide standard for connecting to smartphones, iPads, TVs and other entertainment devices. Bluetooth technology provides a more flexible approach to connectivity than a telecoil can.
Bluetooth technology allows you to connect to multiple devices at the same time. This means you can switch from watching TV to answering a call without needing to manually change to another device.
Bluetooth connectivity also allows you to connect your hearing aids to Smart technology in your home including thermostats, doorbells, lighting, and smoke detectors. When you’re thinking about buying new hearing aids or a new phone, check they’re Bluetooth compatible.
Is your device compatible?
Although most modern mobile phones are compatible with hearing aids, not all mobile devices will partner equally well with your hearing aids. To check this look on the packaging or in the manual for the phone’s HAC (Hearing Aid compatible) rating.
You’ll usually see this as an M and a T rating. The M rating indicates how well the phone will work with your hearing aid’s microphone. The T rating is a marker of how well the phone will work with the T-Coil in your hearing aids.
The higher the number the better. Compatible phones will usually have M and T ratings of around 3 or 4. If you’re in the hunt for a new phone only choose phones with combined M and T ratings of 6 or higher. Government regulations increasingly recognise the need for phones to demonstrate acceptable HAC levels. You can check out the HAC levels of any new device here.
The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association also suggests that you avoid phones made with metal cases as these may cause more signal interference with your hearing aids.
iPhone or Android
Most hearing aids are now compatible with both Android and iOS systems. Phonak Marvel was one of the first hearing aids to feature direct connectivity with iPhones. Other manufacturers such as Widex, Signia, Oticon, and Bernafon now also offer easy connectivity with both Android and iOS devices.
Separate streaming devices such as Signia’s easyTek or Oticon’s connectline enhance the connection between your hearing aids and a wide range of devices including TV, tablets, and phones. You can go wireless using Bluetooth technology or insert a jack for connecting to older devices that lack wireless capability.
Streaming devices allow your phone to act as a remote control so you can adjust the volume on your hearing aids or the TV or computer instantly and easily. This kind of connectivity is all about discrete convenience and ease.
There are so many ways that hearing aids can significantly improve your life. And the ability of modern hearing aids to work with your phone, tablet, and other mobile devices can transform the way you interact with people and your environment.