There is lot of confusion regarding Bluetooth and hearing aids. I’ll
try to clear some of it. There are cases that involve Bluetooth and
hearing aids, but on many cases, they use other technologies and the
term Bluetooth got nothing to do with it.
Bluetooth is nothing but a common RF (radio frequency) protocol, it is mainly used to connect mobile electronic devices to on another. Devices like cellular phone, laptops and wireless headset, for instance, can use Bluetooth. Bluetooth doesn’t require a lot of battery power, so these battery-operated devices can use it. The name Bluetooth is taken from some ancient Nordic king.
One classic usage of Bluetooth is to connect a phone to a wireless headset. Another wide spread usage is connecting a phone to a computer to transfer files or for any other purpose.
Bluetooth got two major advantages for the sake of our discussion:
Therefore, Bluetooth can be a good option if you want to connect your Phone or music player to your hearing aid.
BUT – Bluetooth still needs too much power to run on a hearing aid battery. It would dramatically shorten the life time of the hearing aid battery. In addition, some of the hearing aids are too small to have Bluetooth transceiver inside it.
In order to overcome the battery issue, and still enable you to enjoy the popularity of Bluetooth devices, most of the hearing aid companies developed an intermediary device. This adaptor translates Bluetooth to something the hearing aid can understand.
This intermediate device “talks” Bluetooth on one side with the phone, and it “talks” with the hearing aid on the other side. Typically it uses some unique wireless method that the hearing aid knows how to deal with.
This way, using this middle man, you can connect your phone or your music player to your hearing aids.
Hearing aids companies can use Bluetooth to connect TV to their own adaptors. This is the adaptor that eventually sends the signals to your hearing aid. For instance, some companies come up with this setup (This is just a schematic illustration):
This is an example of using a connector that is wirelessly connected to the phone on one end, and to your hearing aid on the other end. It is all done by radio frequency communication.
Here are some of the devices that the hearing aids companies offer. On most of the cases, the wireless adaptor will function only with hearing aids from the same manufacturer. This is just a partial list.
This diagram is taken from Siemens TEK user manual. It shows the many options the TEK supports. You can see how many Bluetooth options you can use – phone, music or TV. The ‘e2e wireless 2.0’ mentioned on the diagram is the wireless protocol Siemens is using to connect the TEK to your hearing aids.
Beltone sells this device as a simple solution to connect your hearing aids to your phone. You hang it on your shirt, for instance, and it connects to the phone with Bluetooth. It is connected to your hearing aid using Beltone wireless connection.
I write this for the sake of hearing aids users that find themselves confused by all the wireless terminology and misunderstandings. Therefore, I try to keep things as simple as possible and I simplify things to make them clearer. In addition, the discussion here is in the context of hearing aids and hearing aids’ users. I don’t try to cover the entire wireless world here, and therefore, all the data is observed from the angle of a hearing aid user and for his/her benefit.