Bluetooth Digital Hearing Aids & 9 Latest Features You Should Know

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Digital Hearing Aid technology has been progressing at a very fast pace. Companies are introducing advanced features offering users an amazing experience. Some of the Digital Hearing Aid features are straight out of Science fiction stories. You can have a conversation with your Bluetooth Hearing aids. Stay connected to communication devices and also get your health monitored. We have covered some of the must have basic features in Digital Hearing Aids in our earlier article. Let us read about the features in the latest Bluetooth Digital Hearing aids offered by the leading Companies.

Bluetooth Hearing Aids blog feature image

1. Bluetooth Hearing Aids

This wireless connectivity feature in digital hearing aids is very useful for users who cannot manage without their Cell phones. Cell phones are part of the working professional’s office routine. Calling up clients or having a conference call with teammates is routine. In a standard Hearing aid, one is unable to hear phone speech very clearly. As the Hearing aid microphone also picks up the surrounding noise. This makes it very difficult to hear the person at the other end. It is almost impossible if one is at a public place with noise all around.

  • Bluetooth Hearing Aids Connectivity

Bluetooth Hearing Aid Connectivity image
Bluetooth Hearing Aid Connectivity

The introduction of Bluetooth Low Energy technology or BLE changed the connectivity equation. With the new Bluetooth consuming less power, the phone can connect to the Digital Hearing aid. Apple was the first to introduce the Made for iPhone Bluetooth Hearing aid. All the major Hearing Aid Companies manufacture Bluetooth Hearing aids compatible with the iPhone. The Halo from Starkey, Linx 3D from ReSound and Beyond from Widex are some of the Made for iPhone Bluetooth Hearing aids.

So far, the Android Phone users could not benefit from this Bluetooth Hearing aid streaming feature. Google’s Android phone operating system has finally caught up. GN ReSound in collaboration with Google has launched the first Bluetooth Hearing aid which connects to Android phones. The Resound Linx Quattro will be the first model with a streaming option from Android phones.

  • Streaming Devices

Streamers were available before the launch of Bluetooth Hearing Aids. Streamers are interfacing devices which make a Non Bluetooth hearing aid similar to a Bluetooth hearing aid. Connect the Television sets, Music systems or iPods to the Streaming device with a connecting wire. The streamers relay to a receiving device which in turn connects to the Digital Hearing aid. Streamline from Signia (Originally Siemens Hearing Aids). Surflink Media from Starkey and TV Streamer 2 from Resound are some of the streamers.

2. Artificial Intelligence in Digital Hearing Aids

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) play an important role in the new scheme of things. AI and ML are playing a role in all spheres of our life. Can Digital hearing aids be far behind? Starkey has launched the Model with Artificial Intelligence. The Starkey Livio AI is a Bluetooth Hearing aid. As per the details released by Starkey. The Livio AI is the first Digital Hearing aid to integrate biosensors and Artificial Intelligence.

New Features in Starkey Livio AI

The Biomedical sensors in the Livio AI are capable of measuring physical activity, calorie burning, heart rate and blood pressure. Some of the latest features in the Bluetooth Hearing aids are very useful.

  • Body Tracking

The Bluetooth Hearing aid connects to the proprietary Thrive App. The App measures the daily activity and converts it into an easy to read Body Score. The App recommends achieving Body Score of 100 to stay fit. The App also provides an overall wellness score to indicate the state of Body and Mind wellness.

  • Brain Tracking

The App also calculates the benefits of using a hearing aid. The app calculates the total usage and the benefits to the Brain.

Starkey Thrive App Screen image
Starkey Thrive App Screen
  • Fall Detection and Alerts

The Livio AI has built-in sensors to detect if the Hearing aid wearer has fallen. The App’s program sends alerts to the selected contacts. A very important and useful feature for senior citizens staying alone.

  • Heart Rate Monitor

The Livio AI will shortly have a Heart Rate Monitor and alert system.

  • Translate Feature

The Livio AI has a translate feature which currently translates into 27 languages. Set your language and the other person’s language. When you speak into the Thrive App, the App will convert your speech into text for the other person. Similarly, the App will translate their speech into your language and display the text. The displayed text is also converted to speech and streamed to your ears.

  • Tap Control

Stop or start the audio streaming to your ears through the Bluetooth hearing aids. You can pause the audio by double tapping the hearing aid to listen to someone talking to you. Double tap again and resume your music listening.

Other features like self-check or self-diagnostics, remote programming, transcription (saving speech to text) and find my hearing aids are very helpful.

3. Internet Hearing Aids

Digital Hearing Aids have joined the IOT (Internet of Things) Devices list. Your Digital Hearing Aids can stay connected to the Internet through an App on your smartphone. The Oticon OPN is the first Internet Hearing Aid. The Bluetooth Hearing aid connects to the App on the phone. The App, in turn, connects to the Internet.

Advantages of Internet Hearing Aids

  • Connect your Bluetooth Hearing Aid to the Doorbell. You will require an Internet doorbell for this purpose
  • Control light switches using your Hearing Aids
  • Serves as a warning system by connecting the Digital Hearing aid to the Fire alarm
  • Stay connected to Social Media by connecting to Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media Apps.
  • Connect to your Mail account and get mail alerts.

Oticon uses IFTTT (If This Then That) to enable the above features. IFTTT is a 3rd party App which triggers the function.

4. Tele-Audiology – A Helpful Digital Hearing Aid Feature

Tele-Audiology image
Tele-Audiology for patient support

Internet use is spreading rapidly. Every device or apparatus from a washing machine to home security is now connected through the internet. Audiological consultation has evolved from a face to face meeting to online consultation and Hearing aid fitting.

The basic Tele-Audiology method is in existence for some years. The Bluetooth Digital hearing aid connects to the smartphone. The Audiologist remotely tunes the hearing aid through the App in the smartphone.  Small adjustments and reprogramming is possible without the user visiting the Audiologist.

Tele-Audiology has gone a step further. Now almost everything is possible without stepping outside the house. Lively Hearing Aids based in New York is one of the Companies offering end to end Audiology solutions.

  • An online App on the Company’s website conducts the Hearing loss test.
  • Select a suitable Hearing Aid
  • Receive the pre-programmed Hearing aid
  • Contact Support for adjustments

5. Rechargeable Hearing Aid Feature

Changing Batteries is a cumbersome routine. The senior citizens with unsteady hands are dependent on others for this. Inserting the small batteries in CIC and IIC Hearing aid is difficult for a person of any age. The latest offering from the Companies has the Rechargeable Hearing Aid feature. Do read this article on Hearing Aid Batteries.

The Dutch company Widex has gone a step further and has announced a Fuel Cell technology feature. Fuel cell technology is the first in class Digital Hearing aid feature. As per the information released by Widex, this digital hearing aid does not require electricity.  So no searching for sockets to recharge if on the move.

The smallest commercially available fuel cell fits into the Digital hearing aid. A refill unit contains Methanol. The Methanol reacts with the air inside the fuel cell to produce electric power. This 20 seconds process will supply power to the Hearing aid for 24 hours. The Widex EVOKE rechargeable hearing aid will be available before the end of 2019.

6. Water Proof and Dust Proof

Water and Electronics do not get along. All electronic devices need protection from water and dust. The humidity and dust damage the delicate miniature circuits inside the Digital Hearing aids. Exposure to water, humidity and dust can lead to malfunctioning of the Hearing aid.

Earlier, the manufacturers had a Nano coating on the Hearing aid body. The coating made the Hearing aid shell smooth and slippery. The water falling on the Hearing aid rolls off and does not enter the gaps in the Hearing aid body.

The manufacturers have now gone a step ahead of Nano Coating. Selected manufacturers are selling Digital Hearing aids which are safe under water.

Digital Hearing aids are now available with IP rating. IP rating or Ingress Protection rating is an international quality standard. The number indicates the IP rating.

  • IP67
  • IP68

Digital hearing aids marked as IP67 can resist water up to the depth of 1 metre for 30 minutes. IP67 also indicates 100% dust protection.

Similarly, IP68 can resist water up to the depth of 1 metre for 60 minutes. Please read this article on Protecting Hearing Aids from rain and water to know more.

7. External Accessories for Bluetooth Hearing Aids

Thanks to Bluetooth Hearing aids, connecting to external devices has become easy.

  • Digital Hearing aids can now connect to Amazon Echo and other AI assistants through the smartphone App.
  • Bluetooth Hearing aids streaming makes watching television or listening to music an enjoyable experience.
  • Remote Mic is a useful accessory if you are attending a lecture, place the remote mic near the speaker. The remote mic pairs to the Bluetooth hearing aid for clear listening. The ReSound Multi Mic has a range of 80 feet.
  • The remote control helps to change the program or the volume settings. The Hearing aid user does not have to struggle with the tiny buttons.

8. Automatic Program Change

The programs of the Digital Hearing aids are for different situations or surroundings. Normal settings are Speech in Noise, for use when one is outdoors. Speech in Quiet, when one is at home or in a silent environment. A Telephone Mode, when one wants to talk on the phone. Digital Hearing aids have a push button to enable the user to change the program. At times this is inconvenient as one has to struggle with tiny push buttons. Very small In the Ear Digital Hearing aids do not have any buttons or control. One has to buy a remote control to make changes.

The latest Digital Hearing aids automatically change the setting without the user having to do so. The built-in software detects the situation and does the needful. The hearing aid also change to telephone mode as soon as the phone is close to the ear.

9. Invisible Digital Hearing Aids

There are vanity issues and stigma attached to the use of Hearing aids. A Hearing aid user thinks that he or she will be considered as deaf or old if seen using hearing aids. Strangely, it’s not the same with spectacles. Our hearing ability and eyesight weakens with age. Users can now choose small Invisible Hearing aids which are practically invisible. Please note that the digital Hearing aids style or the type has to be carefully selected. The style of the Hearing aid should be as per the user’s lifestyle. Select the size and the shape of the Hearing aid according to the lifestyle and budget.

Use of Hearing aids has a lot of advantages. Untreated Hearing loss leads to depression and other health issues. Do recommend the use of Hearing aids for a better lifestyle.

About the Author
Amrik singh aroraAmrik Singh Arora is the founder of EarGuru-the Ear Health Blog. An Engineer by qualification, he has over 20 years of experience in manufacturing and sales of Hearing aids, Audiometers and Assistive listening devices. He was the Secretary of the Hearing Association of India from 2013 to 2017 and was last associated with Starkey India as a Director-Business Development.

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