Posted on Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Powerful Accessories for Hearing Aids

Hearing aid technology has been vastly improved since the early days of horn and trumpet. With all these advances, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of the many accessories available for connecting hearing aids to modern conveniences. Connecting today’s spiffy devices and electronics with your hearing aids eliminates the background noise in home, car, and office--similar to someone without hearing loss using ear-buds, headphones, or Bluetooth headset to eliminate these noises.

You can connect your hearing aids to iPods, DVD players, televisions, cell phones, computers, and GPS.

Hearing aid accessories come in all sizes and one of the larger is a home induction loop. People Hearing Better has investigated loops systems before and the advances being made around the country with Let's Loop America. Loops are used in public buildings, churches, and airports to connect directly to hearing aids simply by flipping a switch on the hearing aid. This same kind of technology can be used in the home. A home loop system can be paired with your hearing aid, so that you can listen to television or DVD player. Looping your home—or family room involves, in part, taking a bit of wire, much smaller than the cable used to connect many televisions, and placing it around a room. This hidden wire creates a magnetic field that allows the transmission of a signal from these devices directly to your t-coil equipped hearing aids.(60% of today's hearing aids are equipped with a t-coil)

Bluetooth technologies can stream data from iPods, GPS, computers, and entertainment systems like DVD or television.

There is a lot of hullabaloo about Bluetooth technologies these days, and they do offer some promising advances. Bluetooth technologies can stream data from iPods, GPS, computers, and entertainment systems like DVD or television to a small device worn around the neck. This device in turn wirelessly sends the signal to the hearing aid, so that background noise is eliminated.

There are many different brands of “streaming” devices on the market.

The Oticon Streamer is a hands free, wireless technology that allows hearing aids to be paired with work and entertainment devices by connecting to the Bluetooth technology in the hearing aid. Phonak’s iCube also wirelessly streams data from a computer, Ipod, or other technologies to your Bluetooth hearing aids. These devices and others also connect to cell phones. They all work in a way that is similar to the Bluetooth in a car audio system, but instead of playing the conversation through the car speakers, it delivers it directly into the hearing aid. Many of today’s cell phones, like the new iPhone 4 (GSM model) with iOS 5 and iPhone 4 (CDMA model) are compatible with Bluetooth technologies.

Bluetooth devices aren’t necessary to pair your hearing aid with a cell phone.

There are laws that make it necessary for cell phone makers to provide phones that are compatible with all hearing aids, but some cell phone carriers do have a more efficient delivery system for all hearing aids. As the FCC points out, “…it is easier to meet hearing aid compatibility standards on systems that use a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) air interface (including Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel) than on systems that use a Global System for Mobile (GSM) (such as AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile) air interface.

Nokia has introduced a wireless loops system for people with t-coil equipped hearing aids. Its, “induction technology enables acoustic background noise to be filtered, which greatly increases speech discrimination.” There are also other cell phones that connect to hearing aids that don’t have Bluetooth or require a t-coil.

Ask your wireless provider about which models are best matched with your hearing aid.

Though today’s technologies often compensate for the noise in an environment automatically, users also like to have the ability to adjust the hearing aids manually. The easiest way to do this is through a remote. As Dr. Peggy Sheets pointed out in her Hearing Well newsletter, “Microphone technologies are better than ever before! There are technologies that offer an optional remote for setting the directionality of the microphones to whichever direction you would like.” A remote control gives greater freedom. Phonak said their myPilot allow users, “To have full and discreet control on the current settings of hearing aids at any time and any place.” Phonak also makes a remote that looks and acts like a watch!
Phonak Watchpilot2Phonak Watchpilot2

Too cool, James Bond would be impressed.

The ability of today’s hearing devices to interact with new technologies allows hard of hearing people to enjoy the same devices as everyone else without distracting background noise.

If you’re uncertain about how to sync your hearing aids with other technologies you should speak with your audiologist or other hearing health professionals. People Hearing Better will continue to explore options like these available for hard of hearing people, so make sure to check back here regularly. And if you know of any other new devices, please email dstewart@ahhanet.com!

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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