Do you know how your Bluetooth works? If you’re anything like we are, you just connect a device and let it do its thing–you don’t really worry about the how and the why. Which means you probably had no idea that there was an entity (the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, or SIG) that sets Bluetooth standards for the world. (it makes sense when you think about it–someone needs to make sure all these Bluetooth devices can actually talk to each other!)
This year, the Bluetooth SIG announced the biggest update to the technology’s parameters in its twenty-year history. What’s especially exciting is that these updates have some pretty positive implications for anyone who happens to wear a hearing aid.
Bluetooth and Hearing Aids
Bluetooth capabilities in your hearing aids are still relatively novel, but it’s a technology that’s already well incorporated into many models. Some of the current benefits of Bluetooth integration include:
- The ability to link your phone to your hearing aids. Holding a phone up to your hearing aid manually can cause significant (sometimes painful) feedback. A Bluetooth connection means you can take calls with no feedback and no problems.
- You can listen to music more easily! It’s hard to have hearing aids and headphones on at the same time (there’s only so much room in your ears). With Bluetooth connectivity, you can listen to your favorite podcast or song through your hearing aid (which makes it a bit healthier for your ears, too).
- With the right app and the right hearing aid, you can adjust the settings on your hearing aid with your phone. This is all accomplished via a standard Bluetooth connection. If you find your hearing aid is adding a bit too much echo to voices or the air conditioner in the background is way too loud (for example), you can adjust the settings on the smartphone app to better calibrate your experience.
What Does the New Update Provide?
This new Bluetooth update is called Bluetooth LE Audio (the LE is short for “Low Energy). Essentially, the capabilities of new Bluetooth devices have been increased while simultaneously lowering energy demands. And hearing aids are no exception. It’s funny–low energy might not sound all that exciting (it’s the kind of descriptor you hope to avoid if you’re talking about a party, for example).
But the truth is that Bluetooth LE has a plethora of features that could potentially be game-changers–both broadly speaking and to users of hearing aids specifically. Some of the new features include:
- Increased battery life: Because they are designed to use less energy (hence the name), Bluetooth LE devices can do more with less. That means your hearing aid battery will last longer, which can be a significant relief when you’re using Bluetooth features (you don’t want your hearing aids to power down in the middle of a phone call or play, for example).
- Broadcasting: Bluetooth LE signals can be transmitted to multiple devices. You may have noticed in the past that Bluetooth devices often “pair.” That’s because the signal could only be shared between a receiver and a transmitter (your phone and your hearing aid, for example). But now one transmitter can send signals to multiple devices. Imagine going to a movie theater that transmits the soundtrack right to your hearing aid! With Bluetooth LE, that could happen.
- High-quality audio: With Bluetooth LE, your hearing aid will be able to receive high-quality audio signals from Bluetooth sources. When the audio is better quality, you’ll have more control over your audio settings and, therefore, the calibration of the amplification from your hearing aid.
Hearing Aid Technology Coming Soon
These new features will be on the market soon. But you’ll need a new, Bluetooth LE-enabled device in order to take advantage of them. Given how many benefits this new paradigm seems to bestow on hearing aid users, there’s little doubt that Bluetooth LE will soon be standard-issue (or near enough to it) on modern hearing aids.
Bluetooth LE marks a significant update to Bluetooth technology–and to the hearing aids that use them. But in many ways, it’s just the beginning. Hearing aids will continue to innovate, bringing ever more impressive technologies to bear on the project of improving users’ quality of life.
And that is music to our ears.