Wireless connectivity for hearing aids

22.09.2014
Photo: Smartphone with different apps

New global Bluetooth standard to support connectivity of hearing aids with a variety of mobile devices; © Detlef Krieger/panthermedia.net

Wireless connectivity allows people to connect their hearing aids with a wide range of mobile devices which have become an essential part of modern life – from MP3 player to TV and mobile phones – and to stay connected to the audible world around them.

However, there are still limits to overcome: the tiny batteries used in hearing aids, additional accessories required to connect hearing aids to mobile devices and the fact that you are bound to one brand due to the lack of a global Bluetooth standard. To solve these restrictions, the world’s leading hearing aid manufacturers have joined forces with the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), mobile phone and TV producers to develop an ultra-low power non-proprietary solution that will be part of a new Bluetooth specification. This solution will allow hearing aid users to wirelessly receive stereo music and voice from their phones, TVs and music players, providing extra clarity in everyday environments.

"To allow hearing aid users to fully benefit from the possibilities that wireless technology has to offer, it is important that we connect to all kinds of mobile devices," says Soren Hougaard, The European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA) secretary general. "In order to achieve this goal, we are working on a standard every consumer electronics manufacturer can implement. This becomes even more important if we consider that, in the near future, this technology could also be installed in cinemas, schools and public places to improve the lives of people with hearing loss in even more listening situations."

Tomorrow’s hearing aids won’t just be about sound. The first manufacturers have already started to incorporate health and activity sensors into earbuds, providing athletes with information about their body whilst they are on the move. Such capabilities could become part of many ear-worn products, providing a comfortable and inconspicuous way of checking our health at the same time as enhancing our hearing – all wireless. These new features may help encouraging more people to start wearing hearing aids at an earlier stage of hearing loss, providing benefits to them, their family, friends and colleagues.

In March 2014, EHIMA announced a new partnership with the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). The partnership aims to develop a new Bluetooth standard for hearing aids, while improving existing features, and creating new ones such as stereo audio from a mobile device or media gateway with Bluetooth wireless technology. This new standard will allow manufacturers to meet the challenging power requirements of hearing aids, which have to operate with sub-miniature batteries while offering a range of new use cases.

REHACARE.de; Source: European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA)

More about EHIMA at: www.ehima.com