For some time now, hearing aids have been able to connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. This technology is referred to as ‘Made For iPhone’ as it was developed with Apple. This allows the hearing aid user to hear all audio from their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch directly into their hearing aid and adjust the sound to suit them. This means having conversations on your phone can be made much easier as well as listening to music and watching your favourite shows.
Some hearing aid manufacturers have now also developed Bluetooth connection devices so that you can connect to any mobile phone, smartphone and tablet that has Bluetooth, rather than just Apple devices. Just like the Made For iPhone hearing aids, the user is able to adjust the sound of their hearing aid themselves using a corresponding app. The app allows you to easily adjust the sound to whatever environment you are in.
Internet connectivityAs well as connecting via Bluetooth to smart devices, a hearing aid developed by Oticon called the OPN is also able to connect to the internet through a network known as the ‘Internet of Things’. The Internet of Things is a system where individual devices connect and communicate to each other through the internet. One example is the Hive system developed by British Gas, which allows you to switch on your heating from an app on your phone. One of the companies that provide this network is called IFTTT (If This Then That), and this is how the OPN connects to the internet.
So what are the advantages of having your hearing aid connected to the internet?
You can connect almost any device to the internet these days. The most popular devices are things like the Hive heating system, kitchen appliances such as fridges and kettles, as well as security cameras and doorbells. A lot of these devices use sound to alert you that something is happening, and so for someone with hearing loss, these can often be quite easily missed. By having a hearing aid that is connected to these devices, any alerts can be sent directly into the hearing aid so that you can always be alerted to what is happening around you. So for example, if the doorbell rings, you would get an alert straight into your hearing aid to tell you that someone is at the door. Or if your oven timer has gone off, you would get a notification to tell you that your food is ready.
Tele-audiologyHow we access healthcare is something that is going to rapidly change over the next few years. With increasing pressure, technological innovation is key to ensuring that people still have access to healthcare as and when they require it. Hearing aid services have already started to move away from their traditional roots within hospital departments into easier to access local services. However, most appointments are still during the working week, often making it difficult for people to easily access.
The technology to update the settings of devices remotely (from a distance) has been around for a while. For example, fitness trackers have had the ability to update settings and transfer information from apps to the tracker for some time now. Hearing aids are now also using similar technology to update hearing aid settings by an audiologist remotely. The ReSound LiNX 3D hearing aid allows the person wearing the hearing aid to send their audiologist a real-time snapshot of difficulties that they are experiencing through the hearing aid app. The audiologist can then remotely adjust the hearing aid, and the hearing aid wearer can “sync” the new settings to their hearing aid at their earliest convenience. This not only makes it easier to access your audiologist without having to miss school or work, it also means that you can send real-time information about your difficulties.
Hearing aid batteriesMaking rechargeable batteries powerful enough to get through a whole day from an overnight charge, but without making them too large and bulky, has been quite a big challenge for some time. However, this is only one of the obstacles. Having the battery built into the hearing aid means that any repairs required would involve sending the whole hearing aid back for repair. With developments in rechargeable battery technology, there are now more and more rechargeable hearing aid options coming in that can significantly improve things for those people who struggle with the fiddly task of changing batteries.