Hearing Loss Technology: The Good and Bad

Is anyone frustrated by their Bluetooth devices and accessories designed to help those with hearing loss? Currently many hearing aid manufacturers offer made-for-iPhone hearing aids and accessories while others offer a connector device to pair hearing aids and Cochlear Implants with non-Apple and other Bluetooth products such as smart phones, computers, televisions, etc. The ability to stream sound directly to hearing aids or cochlear implants has been a small miracle to those in the hearing loss world. Television adaptors, mini mics, and made-for-iPhone aids and accessories and other assistive listening devices, are paving a hearing opportunity for those dealing with hearing loss. I, as a hearing loss advocate, rely on a variety of assistive devices to hear. When in use, I can now enjoy listening to music and television programs in addition to attending concerts and socializing in noisy cocktail parties.

Six years ago, I cheered when purchasing my first pair of made-for-iPhone ReSound Lynx aids. Once my hearing aids were paired to my cell phone, I made calls to family and friends to validate my renewed ability to hear on the phone. I relished the idea of pairing my hearing aids to my iPad, which also opened a world of hearing options for me. Later, when I switched from Resound to the Oticon OPN, I discovered additional advanced circuitry which allowed me to hear streamed music, television programs, and telephone calls better than I had with my ReSound hearing aids. Hearing aid and assistive listening device technology and competition continue to provide ongoing advancements unlike we have ever seen, or heard, before.

Despite all the technological advancement to help those with hearing loss, the assistive listening devices can have drawbacks and limitations. I have personally found my own assistive listening devices frustrating and restrictive due to the inability to link my hearing aids to only one Apple or non-Apple product at a time. In other words, every time I want to connect my iPad, I must turn off Bluetooth on iPhone, thus creating a hearing gap, or periods of time, when I’m unable to take telephone calls. In speaking with my audiologist about my desire to use multiple devices to stream simultaneously, he suggested I keep my hearing aids connected to my phone during business hours and link to alternate assistive listening devices in the early morning or evening, outside business hours. There are times when I still opt to hook up to another product during the day for a limited period of time, but overall, this solution has worked for me to date.

In the latest issue of Hearing Life Magazine, Barbara Kelly, the Executive Director of Hearing Loss Association of America, wrote an article about her experiences visiting The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. She spoke of the many advances in hearing technology for those who wish to hear and came away from the convention amazed with the number of devices available for varying levels of hearing loss. She noted in her article that “it is the human connection we crave. We are not meant to live alone in a world without sound. As humans we are not destined for isolation. We are destined for hope.” What a lovely sentiment, hope. I hope that hearing technology will continue to improve.

I believe that someday, someone will invent that one device which will eliminate the need for cochlear implants or hearing aids. I trust that soon we will be able to connect our hearing aids to multiple devices all at one time. For today, though we may be frustrated by the imperfections of the connectivity between hearing aids (or cochlear implants) and other devices, I remain grateful for all the advanced options that allow everyone who is dealing with, or suffering from, hearing loss, to participate in life.