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Wireless Communication – The Next Wave in Hearing Aids

Having just returned from the American Academy of Audiology annual convention, it appears that the latest advancements in hearing aid technology are focused on wireless communication.  However, manufacturers such as Oticon, Phonak, Siemens and Unitron have been offering some wireless accessories for a while.  Later this year, ReSound and Starkey are joining the game – but in a slightly different way.

Wireless accessories allow a person’s hearing aids to communicate with other devices.  For example, most of the wireless hearing aid solutions permit direct communication between the hearing aids and a person’s cell phone.  The phone rings and the sound goes directly into the hearing aids.  No need for a Bluetooth earpiece.  Another popular use is streaming sound from a television.

Thus far, communicating with other devices required the use of a “streamer”, which was usually worn around the neck.  In the case of the television: A box was connected to the TV.  The box would send a wireless signal (via Bluetooth) to the streamer around the neck.  The streamer would send the signal to the hearing aids.

ReSound and Starkey are both introducing “streamer-less” streaming.  The hearing aids themselves can receive the signals directly.  Instead of using Bluetooth, they use 2.4GHz (ReSound) and 900 MHz (Starkey) technology.  They each have a Bluetooth accessory to communicate with cell phones (which is essentially a streamer), but all other communication is done without a streamer.

This opens up a lot of neat communication possibilities for users.  But as an audiologist, it also permits completely wireless programming.  If an adjustment needs to be made.  I don’t even need to touch the devices.  A few clicks of the mouse and the adjustments are made.  Cool.

More details will come forth in the future.  ReSound is hoping to release their products around June and Starkey in the Fall.