What Is Bluetooth?
Over the past few years, more and more hearing aid manufacturers have introduced hearing aids that are able to receive Bluetooth communication from cell phones, computers, and MP3 players. Let’s take a look at the various aspects of how this technology works, and what to look for in Bluetooth-compatible hearing aids.
Bluetooth: What Is It?
First, what is Bluetooth? Bluetooth is an international wireless communication protocol. It includes software and hardware, which allows secure, two-way audio or data streaming between Bluetooth devices such as computers, mobile phones and PDAs. Bluetooth devices send data and voice in a clean, clear, digital format up to 10 meters. The low-power design of Bluetooth transmission systems has two advantages. It minimizes battery consumption for portable devices. Also, it places an intentional limit on the range of transmission (10 meters) which helps to avoid interference among nearby devices. With hearing aids, the Bluetooth signal is picked up by the added accessory (see below) and fed into the hearing aids by a wireless transmission process.
Another term often used for this technology in hearing aids is wireless. So if you read about a hearing aid that has "wireless technology" or "wireless features," they are describing the same kinds of features.
From the looks of things, in the near future we will have access to hearing aids that are able to connect wirelessly to your electronic devices without the use of any other accessories. At this point in time, though, any hearing aid on the market with Bluetooth technology requires the use of a separate accessory to make use of these streaming features.
Each manufacturer offers a different accessory to be used with their wireless hearing aids. For example, Phonak has the ComPilot, while Siemens offers the Tek or miniTek devices with their wireless models.
As with any hearing aid purchase, the most important thing to accomplish is to make sure the hearing aids will provide the necessary benefit for your hearing loss and lifestyle. The Bluetooth device will provide limited benefit if you don’t have the best possible hearing solution for your unique needs.
If you are considering a new hearing aid with a Bluetooth accessory, another thing to consider is that several states and municipalities have enacted laws that either restrict or prohibit the use of a cell phone while driving, unless you have a hands-free device (like a Bluetooth-enabled hearing aid). Distracted Driving Laws vary from state to state, so be sure to find out what the laws are in your neck of the woods.