Bluetooth. What is it? What does it have to do with my Hearing Aids?

Do you use Bluetooth?

That is a question I ask almost all of my patients. The answers vary from “yes, no, what? And I have no idea what Bluetooth is”.

Bluetooth is a name given to a certain band of radio frequencies. It was developed in the 1990 by a mobile telephone company to allow for communication between different electronic devices. The name comes from a 10th century Danish King. The Bluetooth symbol is a modern take on his runic symbol. So that’s what it is. A fancy name for radio communication between electronic devices.

For most people Bluetooth is what they use to talk hands free on their cellphone, but Bluetooth devices range from remote microphones to wireless speakers.

How is Bluetooth used with my hearing aids?

Many modern hearing aids are capable of allowing the user to hear Bluetooth communication directly in their hearing aids. Music, television, telephone and GPS can all be heard directly in the hearing aids. Currently, all Bluetooth enable hearing aids require the use of a separate device to communicate with your electronic devices. Bluetooth has a very high battery drain. As such it would drain the hearing aid batteries much too fast. This is one of the main reasons that a separate device is required. Phonak CompilotOticon’s ConnectLineWidex M-DexResound PhoneclipStarkey Surflink Mobile and Signia’s StreamLine are some of the examples of these devices.

The Starkey Surflink mobile is the only device that is not required to be worn close to the neck. Each of the other devices must be close to the neck to allow for good communication with the hearing aids. In addition, if you are talking on the telephone the neck device is required to pick up your voice to send to the person with whom you are communicating.

The Starkey Surflink mobile communicates with the hearing aids at a greater distance and can be kept in a pants pocket. The microphone of the hearing aid is used for communication with the other person on the telephone. Although the thought of not having to wear a device around your neck is appealing it has been my experience that the neck worn devices provide a more reliable signal.