Digital systems are undoubtedly the future, and glimpses of what is to come are already emerging. A hugely important step forward was taken in March 2014 when it was agreed that a new Bluetooth standard for hearing aids was to be developed to allow Bluetooth technology to send sound signals directly to hearing aids.
This means that before long, hearing aid users will have massively more scope to use smart phones, tablets and other devices to control the sound they hear as they move from one listening environment to another.
This will build on the small number of hearing aids that are already available and which can already receive Bluetooth signals. These are the so-called ‘made for iPhone’ hearing aids. They have been developed to be compatible with a specific Bluetooth frequency.
The vast majority of digital hearing aids, however, cannot yet receive a Bluetooth signal directly. Instead, the signal has to go into a small phone-sized receiver device (commonly known as a 'streamer') and then be ‘forwarded’ on to the hearing aids. The receiver has to be compatible with the hearing aids i.e. it has to be the right accessory for that particular make and model of hearing aid.
Only a few ‘made for iPhone’ hearing aids exist currently because of the challenges of creating a hearing aid to receive a Bluetooth frequency.
Building on the telecoil
The objective is for world-wide standardisation so hearing aids are all developed to use the same Bluetooth sound signals/frequencies. Currently, the only standard for wireless reception of audio signals in hearing aids is the telecoil, a technology developed in the 1950s (this is what is meant when people talk about a T-setting or Loop Setting).
The new Bluetooth standard will pave the way for digital technologies to replicate and improve on the solutions provided by the telecoil – but probably not until after 2020.
What do others think?
Use the Rate & Review Access Tool to discover how other people are getting on when they visit public venues and establishments.
You can share your own experiences too.
Ideas for Ears will encourage service providers to read what’s said and to take action based on the reviews you leave.
Advice & training
Ideas for Ears works with service providers of all kinds:
- Assess and advise on hearing needs of customers and staff
- Install and maintain assistive listening systems
- Train staff in the use of equipment and provide them with skills and confidence to engage effectively with people who have hearing difficulties
For your personal use
To find out more about the sorts of technologies, gadgets and equipment you might wish to have for your own personal use, see Solutions for You.