Bluetooth technology has been around for over 25 years. These days, wireless connectivity capabilities are so common that you probably don’t even think about them (not like the old days, when ethernet cables were coiled everywhere). So it might be hard to visualize a world in which Bluetooth will revolutionize any technology–but that’s precisely what’s happening with Bluetooth and hearing aids.
It’s all thanks to a new update to Bluetooth’s core technology. Called Bluetooth LE (for low-energy), this new Bluetooth update promises a host of improvements that have accessibility advocates cheering.
Wait, Low Energy Is Good?
If you’re having a low energy kind of day, you’re likely feeling a little lethargic. Maybe it’s hard to focus or you’re trying to ignore a nagging headache; perhaps you’re on your third cup of coffee. In any case, you’re probably not having your best day. So you’d be forgiven for assuming that “low energy” in association with Bluetooth would also be kind of a bad thing.
But that’s not the case. When it comes to Bluetooth, low energy is very good. Under this new paradigm, less energy is required for Bluetooth connections than ever before. (You’ve probably noticed how using Bluetooth can drain your device’s battery in a hurry.)
Because the updated hardware is able to run on less energy, Bluetooth LE frees up more capacity for additional (and truly exciting) capabilities.
What Bluetooth LE Can Do For Your Hearing Aid
Dave has had his hearing aids for a little over a year. Generally, they help him hear wonderfully (and he loves them). But there are some instances when the hearing aids don’t help as much as he wants them to–usually instances involving electronics. Phones, TVs, stereos–essentially anything with its own speaker system–causes an interaction with his hearing aids that degrades the quality of sound.
But thanks to Bluetooth LE, that’s changing. With this new upgraded Bluetooth, Dave can easily have phone calls routed right to his hearing aid speaker. His hearing aids can also connect to his phone for the purposes of listening to his music. When he walks into the doctor’s office or the gym, his hearing aids can connect to the TV via Bluetooth and route the sound right through his hearing aid, with crystal clarity.
New Bluetooth LE Capabilities
More broadly, Bluetooth LE’s new tech capabilities include:
- A longer battery life, which means devices using Bluetooth can do so longer.
- The ability to stream to multiple devices. The television at the gym, for example, can stream sound to multiple different devices (such as your hearing aids) simultaneously.
- Better audio streaming quality, which is essential for hearing aids.
- Smaller batteries. For hearing aid users, this can translate into slimmer devices.
- Access to wireless voice control devices. This used to be rare because Bluetooth required dedicated pairing–only one device at a time. Now you can be passively connected to a device you use less frequently (such as an Alexa speaker).
Coming Soon to a Hearing Aid Near You
Bluetooth LE is scheduled to be rolled out on the newest generation of devices (many are in stores now). Unfortunately, it’s a hardware upgrade as well as a software update, so it’s not exactly backward compatible. To get these new benefits, you’ll need to get a new Bluetooth device (in this case, that’s likely to be a new hearing aid).
You should start seeing Bluetooth LE in hearing aids over the coming year. As developers learn how to take full advantage of these new updates to Bluetooth’s technology, you may even see some additional benefits for hearing aid users as time goes on.
More Accessibility, More Living
The end goal of adding all of this accessibility is pretty simple: to make it easier for those with hearing aids to live their lives uninterrupted. Something like connecting to Alexa may seem trivial at first–until it’s something that causes a headache and interferes with your life.
Bluetooth LE has the potential to revolutionize hearing aids. For someone like Dave, his hearing aids have always performed admirably. With Bluetooth LE, his hearing aids can help him connect to the world in a richer, more profound and inclusive way. Not bad for a technology that’s a quarter of a century old.