Hearing Aids - Digital Hearing Aid Features, Options and Bluetooth

There are many options for hearing aids today and it can be confusing for a person to pick and choose among them. A hearing aid is only successful if it is matched to the lifestyle of the patient, not just the hearing loss itself. To navigate successfully through all of these features, it is crucial to have a qualified Hearing Professional assist you in the selection of the most appropriate hearing aids. Here are a few features that are growing in popularity and will help to resolve some of the issues hearing aid users have been complaining about for a long time.

Open fit (OTE)
This style of hearing aid has been around for several years now and has quickly become the most popular style of hearing aid on the market. If a new hearing aid model is released, it almost always has an open-fit version. High-frequency hearing losses were very difficult to fit with traditional custom aids or the standard Behind the Ear. With an open fit hearing aid, the canal is barely covered by a small thin dome that lets in sound naturally while amplifying only the sounds you have difficulty hearing, mainly in the high frequency range. The occlusion/plugged up sensation is now gone with open fit devices. With CRT (canal receiver technology) hearing aids, a wider range of hearing losses can now be fit with the availability of “power” receivers. Due to their small size, open fit hearing aids are the most cosmetically appealing.

Remote controls
One of the problems with small custom or open fit hearing aids is that they may be too small for a volume control and/or push button (to manually change the listening programs). This isn’t a problem if you like the automatic volume control or program changes that some models offer. For those who want more flexibility and control over their hearing aids, remote controls are available through several manufacturers. They can fit on your key chain, in your pocket, and even double as a watch. Data-Logging

Data-Logging
is one of the bigger breakthroughs experienced in the industry the past few years. With data-logging, the hearing aids actually record how you use the hearing aids AND the different listening environments in which you are exposed on an everyday basis. This gives the local Professional strong objective data to further customize the hearing aids for you as you progress through the trial period. Before data-logging Hearing Professionals had to frequently make educated guesses about how to fine-tune a person’s hearing aids when they came in with complaints.

Self-Learning
Self-learning usually works in conjunction with data-logging. With this feature, the hearing aid learns and applies your volume changes and preferences for various listening situations. A manual volume control or remote is necessary to have access to this feature. Over time, it will learn to adjust the volume automatically in different listening environments so that you won’t need to. So by having this feature, you will not need to make that extra trip to the Hearing Professional’s office to turn down or turn up the loudness.

Moisture Resistance
Moisture is the #1 cause of hearing aid repairs. It comes from a variety of sources – rain, humidity, condensation, perspiration, earwax, etc. Moisture resistant features for hearing aids are designed to minimize the effects of these various moisture sources, but it does not make the hearing aid waterproof. You cannot shower or swim with hearing aids. Even if you live in a dry area, you are still prone to moisture buildup. This feature is often on newer models that came to the market in 2007 and on. Depending on the manufacturer, a moisture resistant hearing aid either has 1) a coating on the case of the aid to allow moisture beads to roll off; 2) a sealant protecting the internal components of the device; 3) a special microphone covering, and/or 4) a barrier over the speaker inside the ear canal . If used in conjunction with a dehumidifier, such as a Dry and Store, the need for repairs can be reduced.

Wind Noise Management
Hearing aid manufacturers are now able to control a peak in the frequency response when wind noise is present blowing over the microphone. This feature has evolved to the point that the wind noise can now be reduced without diminishing the quality of the speech signal. This feature would be recommended to anyone that spends a significant amount of time outdoors. It is available in almost all premium models and some mid level technology as well.

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Bluetooth and Hearing Aids

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.

Since it is digital, the audio signal is not subject to the same sources of signal degradation that sometimes compromise the quality of analog (FM, AM or inductive) transmissions. In an analog signal path, electrical noise from a variety of sources is amplified along with the signal. In contrast, a digital Bluetooth signal is extracted from the noise; it alone is transmitted and amplified, while noise is rejected.

The low-power design of Bluetooth transmission systems has two advantages. One, it minimizes battery consumption for portable devices. Secondly, it places an intentional limit on the range of transmission — the most common version has a range of 10 meters — which helps to avoid interference among nearby devices. At the same time, walls and other obstacles have a negligible effect on Bluetooth transmission.

How does Bluetooth work with hearing aids?

This is relatively new area for hearing aids to evolve. For starters, it is important to note that no hearing aid currently designed has Bluetooth technology integrated into its design. Options or accessories have to be purchased with hearing aids for it to receive a Bluetooth signal. With the proper accessories and properly equipped hearing aids, a consumer can run a Bluetooth signal through their hearing aids.

A hearing aid has to have one or both of the following components to work with Bluetooth:

  1. A Telecoil – This is essentially a small magnet inside a hearing aid that receives signals from telephones or other devices. Most Bluetooth accessories communicate with the hearing aids through either a magnetic loop worn around the neck or using different magnetic coupler laying against a BTE hearing aid.
  2. Direct Audio Input (DAI) – this option is almost exclusive to standard BTEs and allows for connection with FM systems and other options. This is the most expensive way to use Bluetooth in conjunction with hearing aids.

Bluetooth options are somewhat limited at the moment, however, the options available do work well. Cost can range from about $100 for universal devices limited to cell phone use only to a $750 option that is hearing aid brand specific that doubles as a remote control, Bluetooth receiver, and television transmitter. The systems using DAI and FM receivers can easily approach $2,000, but their multi-use functions are numerous and well worth it for the right person.

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Hearing Aids

To download a Free Hearing Aid Buyer's Guide, click here. For more information about hearing loss and hearing aid help, please contact us at 1-800-866-6240 or email us.