A large majority of hearing aids come with some form of wireless technology now. There are proprietary forms but for ease, I’ll refer to them all as Bluetooth.
Bluetooth in a hearing aid means that:
a) the hearing aids can pass information to each other to help you in noisy situations. This is known as Ear to Ear or E2E. It’s normally only on high tech products.
b) the aids can connect directly to compatible mobile phones to stream calls.
c) the aids can connect to various devices such as special landline phones, TV streamers, microphones and computers.
Concentrating on the mobile phone applications, this streaming means that you can hear the speaker in both your ears at the same time, with little to no discernible delay (some are faster than others). This ‘binaural advantage’ means that you pick up more words first time than you otherwise would, and reduces the amount of strain/concentration you need to use to hear the caller. The act of streaming the call also cuts out degradation of the voice signal from it passing over the air, into a receiver, out of a speaker and over the air again. The result is a crisper, cleaner signal. Mobiles have an advantage over landlines in that they carry a full analogue signal (landlines cut off high frequency speech sounds). Finally, it also reduces or eliminates background noise depending on how you are set up.
Hard of hearing people can develop a phone phobia of sorts, deliberately avoiding calls and talking to loved ones because it’s simply too difficult. It’s difficult to place a value on restoring this confidence using Bluetooth, but I can safely say I would not be running my own business without this tech.
Bluetooth has raised the price and increased the size of the average hearing aid as the components required are sizeable, but they are easy to use and reliable. You will also need a relatively recent / high end mobile phone. Early or cheap mobiles are incompatible as the makers don’t let you upgrade the operating system.
Your audiologist can explain all this to you in detail before your purchase. At Hearing and Tinnitus Care, I also provide a one to one training session on how to connect, disconnect and troubleshoot your phone connection, offering fast advice by text or email if you encounter later problems. As with any technology, the aftercare you choose can make a huge difference on how much you get out of the features. I am very much in favour of getting all my customers using the phone - to reduce social isolation and/or improve work pressures. All this is part of the package you pay for with the hearing aids themselves.