BlueTooth Hearing Aids, Made For iPhone Hearing Aids
Hearing aids with Bluetooth capability have caught the imagination of the buying public in the last few years. However, often people aren't sure what Digital Bluetooth hearing devices are, whether all hearing aids are Made For iPhone and what does Made For Android mean? Finally, what the hell is Made For Any Phone? Let's talk about hearing aids with Bluetooth.
Below you can find a detailed overview of all of the Bluetooth hearing solutions from some of the big six hearing aid brands. First of all, we need to clear up some misconceptions. The concept of Bluetooth enabled hearing aids only covers hearing aids that have a direct connection to a phone for audio streaming. Up to now, when people have spoken about Bluetooth hearing devices, they were talking about Made For iPhone hearing aid technology (MFI). Although with the introduction of the new Marvel by Phonak, I think the mantle of Bluetooth hearing aids will be stolen by Sonova.
Made For iPhone hearing aids were first introduced by GN Resound with their LiNX platform which was their first ever iPhone hearing aid a couple of years ago. They were quickly followed by Starkey, with their Halo Made For iPhone hearing aids. However, while many hearing aids are billed as Made For Android, they are, but not in the same way they are Made For iPhone. Finally, and to confuse you more, Phonak have delivered real Bluetooth hearing aids, that are Made For iPhone, Made For Android and Made For Any Phone.
- What is Bluetooth Technology?
- Bluetooth or MFI, what's the difference?
- What are Bluetooth hearing aid streamers?
- What Made For iPhone Hearing Aids are Available?
- What brands make MFI Hearing Aids
- What Makes a Made For iPhone?
- Are Bluetooth Hearing Aids Better?
- What Brands Have Hearing Aid Apps For Smartphones
- Who Offers In The Ear Made For iPhone Hearing Aids
- Why are Made For Android Hearing Aids Different?
- When can we expect Android Hearing Aid Streaming?
- Can you Connect Hearing Aids to a Computer?
- How do You Connect Bluetooth Hearing Aids to TVs?
- How Do You Pair Bluetooth Hearing Aids to Your iPhone?
- How Do You Pair Bluetooth Hearing Aids to an Android Device?
- Can You Use MFI Hearing Aids For Hands-Free Calls?
- What are Phonak Made For Any Phone Hearing Aids?
- Are Made For iPhone / Bluetooth Hearing Aids any Good?
- What Do Bluetooth Hearing Aids Cost?
- What are The Benefits of Modern Bluetooth Hearing Devices?
- The Brands
So, What is Bluetooth Technology?
Bluetooth was invented in 1994; the technology allows two or more devices to transfer data wirelessly between one another in the form of radio waves, in essence, Bluetooth is a wireless radio. Bluetooth was designed to cater for a cross-platform exchange in communication between electronic devices. In essence, it was first intended to transfer data; it was designed to move files from one computing device to another. It then developed over many years and is most commonly used to transfer audio. It can be found in many electronic devices such as mobile phones and computers. Bluetooth technology is, in fact, a wireless system of communication, a radio, which allows wireless communication between electronic devices.
Many hearing aid manufacturers saw the benefit of Bluetooth technology. However, there were drawbacks. Initially, the audio transferred wasn't very good. It was also exceptionally power hungry. Most manufacturers went down the route of designing their own wireless transmission system. They designed streamers using in-house designed radios that allowed them to avoid the problems with Bluetooth connection. However, both Resound and Starkey stuck with Bluetooth and delivered the first direct connection Made For iPhone hearing aids.
Bluetooth Compatible Hearing Aids, MFI Hearing Aids, What's The Difference
Just because hearing aids have an iPhone app, it doesn't mean they are iPhone hearing aids, confused much? In the hearing aid profession, we suffer from cognitive bias. We forget that you, don't know, what we know. I was surprised recently by a guy who contacted us, in essence, he didn't realise that the Widex Unique was not a Made For iPhone hearing aid, he saw the app and assumed it was.
It isn't, it is a Bluetooth compatible hearing aid via a connective device, in the case of the Unique from Widex, the Com DEX. Many wireless hearing aids are Bluetooth compatible. Oticon's hearing aids before the Opn were Bluetooth compatible, as were Signia's and Unitron's, Phonak's and everyone else's.
They nearly all connected to your iPhone or Android phone through a streamer. They all have iPhone apps that connect to and control the hearing aids via a streamer. So, you need to be clear about what you are buying. This type of set-up may well be the best set-up. The connection is always stable, and the audio quality is excellent. So think carefully about what you want.
What are Bluetooth hearing aid streamers?
All of the hearing aid brands have Bluetooth compatible hearing aid streamers. As I said before, streamers are the unique devices built by each hearing aid manufacturer to ensure stable, low energy, wireless streaming of audio to their hearing aids. Usually with outstanding audio quality. Why would you not want them?
What Made For iPhone Hearing Aids are Available?
Initially, both iPhone hearing aids were Receiver In Canal hearing aid types. GN Resound updated their LiNX with the LiNX 2 platform which was a full range of hearing aids including In The Ear and Behind The Ear hearing aids. While the platform had ultra small CICs, they weren't, in fact, compatible with iPhone connection, so you could say it was a bit of a con. Starkey upgraded their platform as well, launching the Halo 2 and more recently the Livio. They kept to RIC devices only. Nearly every hearing aid brand has launched a Made For iPhone hearing aid or aids plural. The full line up of Bluetooth hearing aids is:
- the Philips Hearlink range (new in 2019)
- the Oticon Opn S range (new in 2019)
- The Signia Styletto Connect (new in 2019)
- The Oticon Opn range
- the Oticon Siya range
- the Zerena range from Bernafon
- the Viron range from Bernafon (new in 2019)
- the Widex Evoke Fusion 2
- the Widex Beyond Fusion
- the LiNX Quattro from Resound
- the LiNX 3D range from Resound
- the Enzo 3D range from Resound
- the Halo 2 range from Starkey
- the Livio AI range from Starkey
- the Pure 13 BT from Signia
- the Nx range from Signia
- the Xperience range from Signia (new in 2019)
- the Phonak Audeo Marvel Range
- the Phonak Bolero Marvel Range (new in 2019)
- the Unitron Discover Range (new in 2019)
What brands make MFI Hearing Aids
The thing was that MFI hearing aids caught the imagination of the broader tech community and users. They are popular hearing solutions; in fact, they seem to have seeped into the wider consciousness. Inevitably, the other hearing aid manufacturers began to take notice. Oticon, Signia and Widex have all launched their own iPhone hearing aids. Phonak also introduced their very own system, but it is different from everyone else. The full range of brands with MFI hearing aids are:
What Makes a Made For iPhone?
There is a real difference between MFI hearing aids and Made For Android, MFI hearing aids are designed to work very closely with Apple's operating system. They will connect directly to Apple Phones and iPads without the need for any intermediary device. In other words, audio from the phone or the tablet can be directly streamed to the hearing aids, that means phone calls, music, audiobooks and podcasts in stereo and to both ears.
iPad hearing aid compatibility
Any hearing aid that is billed as Made For iPhone will be iPad compatible. But you need to ensure it is genuinely Made For iPhone like the LiNX 3D, the Halo 2, The Signia Pure BT, the Oticon Opn, the Bernafon Zerena, the Widex Beyond or the new Nx range from Signia.
Are Bluetooth Hearing Aids Better?
Yes, I would have to say Bluetooth hearing aids are better. While the Bluetooth connectivity does not necessarily make your hearing aids perform better. The direct one of the benefits of Bluetooth hearing aids is connectivity to remote microphones and mobile phones allows you great benefits. For instance, using a remote microphone in a noisy situation will let you hear your companion in a much clearer manner. Streaming audio from a mobile phone will allow you to make and receive calls easier and with more confidence that you will hear the person at the other end. All of this is delivered without you having to wear any ancillary device, just your hearing aids. The benefits of Bluetooth hearing aids include:
- Direct connection to remote microphones
- Direct connection to TV streamers
- Direct connection to iPhone hearing aids
- Stereo audio streaming for both phone calls and music or media
What Brands Have Hearing Aid Apps For Smartphones
Nearly every hearing aid manufacturer has hearing aid apps for both iPhones and Android phones. While once the iPhone hearing aid apps tended to offer more functionality than the Android hearing aid apps, that has changed. For instance, the Widex App for the Beyond, the Signia App for the Nx and the Resound App for the LiNX 3D and Quattro offers pretty much the same functionality across the different Smartphones. Up to now though, they have been limited by the fact that there is no direct streaming from Android phones.
Who Offers In The Ear Made For iPhone Hearing Aids?
Up to 2018, GN Resound was the only hearing aid brand to offer custom Made For iPhone Hearing Aids. However, that has changed radically. Oticon, Bernafon and Signia now also offer Made For iPhone custom hearing aids. There is one addendum, most of the brands are only Bluetooth enabled down to Mini-In-Canal models. However, in September 2019, ReSound introduced the first ever Bluetooth enabled Completley In Canal hearing aid. It remains to be seen though exactly how small the devices are.
Why are Made For Android Hearing Aids Different?
Made for android hearing aids up to recently, have not been integrated into the Android system, the developers of Android had not invested time in hearing aid integration. That is the real difference between MFI and Made For Android, while the features are always similar, as are the apps for both operating systems. Connection to Apple is direct, connection to Android up to 2019 has always needed an intermediary streamer. With the introduction of Android 10 in September 2019, that has all changed.
When can we expect Android Hearing Aid Streaming?
We have it already with the introduction of the Phonak Marvel which will allow calls and audio to be streamed in stereo from any Bluetooth enabled phone including Android devices. While they work with Android, they are not Made For Android per se. The LiNX Quattro is the first ever Made For Android hearing aid. Since September 3rd and the release of Android 10, LiNX Quattro hearing aids will now connect directly to to Google Pixel 3 and 3a phones. The streaming experience is excellent and I have found it to be very solid and reliable. While initially, it is just the Quattro and the Pixel 3 range, we expect to see it expand to other hearing aid brands and phone brands through 2019 and 2020.
Can you Connect Hearing Aids to a Computer?
While this can be done with many modern hearing aids, it is usually only through a streamer device. However, with the advent of the new Made For Any Phone hearing aids from Phonak, you can now connect hearing aids to a computer. Phonak Marvel hearing aids will connect to either Macs or Windows devices directly. You will be able to hear music or talk on Skype, Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts, all without a streamer.
How do You Connect Bluetooth Hearing Aids to TVs?
Most Bluetooth hearing aids (with the exception of the Phonak Marvel) will not connect directly to a Bluetooth enabled TV. The Phonak Marvel will, but don't do it; it will eat your batteries. All Bluetooth enabled hearing aids will connect to a TV through a TV streamer. Every hearing aid brand has one, and the latest TV streamers are a direct connection device (streams TV audio direct to your hearing aids) and straightforward to set up and pair.
How Do You Pair Bluetooth Hearing Aids to Your Phone?
The process to pair hearing aids is pretty simple, but it differs from iPhone to Android phones, so let's take a look at each one in turn.
How Do You Pair Bluetooth Hearing Aids to Your iPhone?
The process to pair an Apple device isn't hard, you need to know where to look to do it. Usually, the app that accompanies the hearing aids will have clear instructions at first run. Pairing the hearing aids is beneficial because when you pair a Made for iPhone hearing aid to your iOS device, audio from your iOS device goes to your hearing aid. If you turn off your hearing aid, you need to reconnect it when you want to use it with your iOS device again.
To pair your hearing aid with an Apple iPhone or iPad, follow these steps:
- Open your hearing aid's battery doors.
- On your iOS device, tap Settings > General > Accessibility > Hearing > MFi Hearing Devices.
- If Bluetooth is off, turn it on under Devices.
- Close your hearing aid's battery doors. Your iOS device will search for your hearing aid.
- Under Devices, tap the name of your hearing aid.
- Tap Pair when you see the pairing request on the screen. If you have two hearing aids, you'll get two requests. The pairing could take up to a minute.
You can start using your hearing aid when you see it under Devices with a check mark. Control on Lock Screen will be on. Leave it on to control your hearing aid from the Lock screen (using the Accessibility Shortcut) and from Control Center.
Pairing With More Than One Apple Device
When you pair your hearing aids with more than one iOS device, the connection for your hearing aids switches from one device to the other when you use audio. The connection also switches when you receive a call on your iPhone. If you make changes to your hearing aid settings on one device, they're sent to your other iOS devices.
To pair with a second iOS device, follow these steps:
- Make sure all iOS devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network and signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID.
- Follow the steps for how to pair your hearing aid above.
How Do You Pair Bluetooth Hearing Aids to an Android Device?
The process to pair an Android device is pretty simple, you need to know where to look to do it. Usually, the app that accompanies the hearing aids will have clear instructions at first run. While you won't be able to stream audio from your Android device yet, pairing the hearing aids is still beneficial. It will allow you to use the accompanying app and will give you better control over your hearing aids.
- Go to the Android phone’s home screen and tap on the “Settings” icon.
- In the settings menu, tap on the Bluetooth icon.
- Tap on the slider button to turn Bluetooth on.
- Open both of your hearing aid battery doors for 5 seconds then close the battery doors (this puts it into pairing mode).
- If you have rechargeable devices with no battery door, put them in the charger for five or ten seconds and then take them out, this will put them in pairing mode
- On the Android phone, you will now see a message, “Available Devices.” If you don't, click scan for available devices.
- The name of your hearing aids should appear on the screen. Tap on both of them to select and pair them.
- A connection beep will be heard in the paired hearing aid.
- Your Android phone should now be connected to your hearing aid.
Can You Use MFI Hearing Aids For Hands-Free Calls?
We were asked this question recently, and the answer is no, none of the Made For iPhone hearing aids can be used for genuinely hands-free calls unless you use a streamer. The only hearing aids that can be used at present for truly hands-free calls is the Phonak and Unitron Made For Any Phone hearing aids.
What is Phonak Made For Any Phone Hearing Aids?
Phonak (one of the biggest hearing aid brands) felt some pressure from shareholders to introduce MFI hearing aids and spoke about moving forward with the devices in late 2017. The rumour mill worked hard on this one, and it said that the devices might not be just Phonak's first ever MFI technology, it was expected to be the first ever Made For Android hearing aids? That indeed proved to be the case, but it isn't quite that simple, it is, in fact, the world's first ever true Bluetooth hearing aid. While initially there were limitations with their system, the new Marvel MFA hearing aids do away with those completely. The Marvel hearing devices will connect to any Bluetooth enabled mobile phone using the Bluetooth classic protocol and stream audio and calls. More than that, it will also connect to Bluetooth enabled computers, laptops and even TVs.
Are Made For iPhone / Bluetooth Hearing Aids any Good?
I will say, that some Made For iPhone hearing aids have some problems with connectivity. They drop their connection to the phone quite a lot, therefore irritating users and causing some real problems for hearing aid manufacturers. The real issue is that Bluetooth is inherently unstable, or at least it was. It has got better, but it can still be problematic. The other factor is that the connection to the hearing aids is managed by the Apple system, which can be a bit rubbish at times.
These types of hearing aids are just getting better and the direct connection devices offer so many benefits over and above simple connection to a mobile phone. The other thing is that most of the hearing brands have moved towards these types of devices because they have been so successful. So yes, they are a good choice.
As time has passed and IOS has been updated, the problems with Made For iPhone hearing aids have receded somewhat, but still not gone away. Again, the issues here are Bluetooth, so we will probably never get away from them entirely. My thoughts on it are that the problems are worth the benefits, if however, you aren't very tech savvy, the difficulties might drive you mad. The easiest fix for all problems seems to be to forget the devices, restart your phone and then re-pair them. Generally, that fixes all issues.
What Do Bluetooth Hearing Aids Cost?
In essence, the majority of the latest hearing aids from the big manufacturers are Bluetooth enabled. While it is true that not all of them are, many of the devices are. That basically means that Bluetooth enabled hearing aids are no more expensive than non-Bluetooth enabled devices. It is not seen as a premium type of device anymore, they have become pretty much mainstream. In many cases, we have put aggregate pricing on the hearing aid details on Know. They are based on what we can find out in each marketplace.
We would expect most modern Bluetooth hearing aids from the leading hearing brands to retail from £800.00 to £2200.00 in the UK depending on the Practice and location. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from €1000.00 to €3000.00 in Ireland. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from $1000.00 to $3200.00 in the USA.
What are The Benefits of Modern Bluetooth Hearing Devices?
One of the significant benefits of modern direct connection hearing aids is the direct connection to ancillary devices. Resound has for years had hearing aid accessories that just connected directly to their hearing aids without any intermediary device. Many people love the idea of a remote microphone or TV streamer that just connects without them having to wear a streamer around their neck. I never really understood it, at least not until I used the Bernafon Zerena and the multifunctional SoundClip-A in the remote mic function.
My experience was outstanding, the ease of use also struck me. I just had to turn it on and ask my companion to clip it to their shirt. I can see why only having to worry about one small device makes people happy. Most of the modern direct connection hearing aids now offer this function, the TV streamer and multifunction sound clip devices all seem to be made by the same manufacturer for the different brands. Resound still provides the most varied direct connection accessory range though.
Use A Damn Streamer!
My own bias has always been towards hearing aids that can connect via a streamer device. I know the streamer is a pain in the ass, but, it will supply an outstanding and stable connection. You have to hear your favourite music via a Com Dex and a set of Widex Uniques to believe the quality. Although the LiNX 3D is no slouch delivering the very same through a Phone Clip. I tested a set of Halo 2 devices recently with an iPad and some favourite music and to be honest, and I was pretty impressed. More on that later in the blog.
In finishing, Made For iPhone is pretty damn cool. However, there are some issues with dropped connections. Resound, and Starkey don't seem to have as many problems with that. With some manufacturers, it seems to be more of an issue. Wireless hearing aids are just as cool, and the connection tends to be more stable. That there are the facts, choose your weapon of choice
let's take a look at what is available:
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Real Ear Measurements Are Essential For Hearing Aids
Gold Standard Fitting
Real Ear Measurements, REMs or Speech Mapping are imperative for best practice hearing aid fitting. It is our best advice to you, to find a hearing care provider who does offer them when you are purchasing. Ask any provider you deal with, do they offer probe tube measurements, if they say no, tell them you will go somewhere else.
Philips Hearlink hearing aids
Hearlink is the name of the new hearing aid range from Philips. Not the entire range will be Made For iPhone, but the three Receiver In Canal devices, the behind the ear device and one of the in the ear models will be able to directly connect to Apple products.
Five Technology Levels
The range will be available in five technology levels which is not unlike the Bernafon set up. The top three levels will have the premium features available in differing parameters. The bottom two technology levels use the same chipset but will have more basic features. The features themselves are interesting.
Key Philips Features
They say that their new entry into the hearing aid market uses two key technologies - SoundMap and SoundTie. SoundMapis the management system of the devices and creates the sound of Philips HearLink. It amplifies voices and makes them clearer in difficult environments by reducing the noise. It also ensures that the sound details are audible. SoundTie is the name of the connection technology they are using, it connects Philips HearLink hearing devices and their users to the outside world. It makes activities like watching TV easier and more enjoyable. SoundTie also provides intelligent interaction with smartphones and helps HearLink users stay connected with distant friends and family.
Hearlink Mini RITE
Small and sleek Made For iPhone RITE instrument with size 312 battery that fits discreetly behind the ear. This hearing aid can have different speakers for mild to severe hearing losses. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
Hearlink miniRITE Prices
We would expect the Philips Hearlink miniRITE range to be sold at prices from £700.00 to £2200.00 in the UK depending on the level of technology. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from €800.00 to €3000.00 depending on technology level in Ireland. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from $1000.00 to $3200.00 depending on the level of technology in the USA.
Lithium-ion Made For iPhone rechargeable RITE instrument with a lithium-ion power pack. Fully charged within only 3 hours and providing a full day of use. This hearing aid can have different speakers for mild to severe hearing losses. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
Hearlink miniRITE-TR Prices
We would expect the Philips Hearlink miniRITE-TR range to be sold at prices from £700.00 to £2200.00 in the UK depending on the level of technology. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from €800.00 to €3000.00 depending on technology level in Ireland. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from $1000.00 to $3200.00 depending on the level of technology in the USA.
Discreet Made For iPhone RITE instrument with size 312 battery, telecoil and double Program Button. This hearing aid can have different speakers for mild to severe hearing losses. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
Hearlink miniRITE-T Prices
We would expect the Philips Hearlink miniRITE-T range to be sold at prices from £700.00 to £2200.00 in the UK depending on the level of technology. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from €800.00 to €3000.00 depending on technology level in Ireland. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from $1000.00 to $3200.00 depending on the level of technology in the USA.
Hearlink BTE PP
Full-featured powerful Made For iPhone BTE instrument with size 13 battery, telecoil and double Program Button. This hearing aid style is most commonly used for severe to profound hearing losses. It’s powerful and easy to handle. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
Hearlink BTE PP Prices
We would expect the Philips Hearlink BTE PP range to be sold at prices from £700.00 to £2200.00 in the UK depending on the level of technology. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from €800.00 to €3000.00 depending on technology level in Ireland. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from $1000.00 to $3200.00 depending on the level of technology in the USA.
Hearlink In The Canal (ITC)
Offers many options for individualization including Program Button and Volume Control. It is likely that this device will be a Made For iPhone hearing device. This in-the-ear hearing aid offers many options for individualization and is suitable for mild to severe hearing losses. The device will be available in five levels of technology.
From £700.00 to £2200.00 in the UK depending on the level of technology. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from €800.00 to €3000.00 depending on technology level in Ireland. We would expect the range to be sold at prices from $1000.00 to $3200.00 depending on the level of technology in the USA.