Recent announcements by both Apple and Alphabet (the developers of Android) mean that a slew of new abilities for connected hearing aids including hands-free calls will be arriving soon. Up to now, if you wanted hands-free calls with your hearing aids you had to choose a Sonova brand. That is about to change and it will make the next year or so pretty interesting. Sonova has had a bumper couple of years based on the abilities of their Made For Any Phone hearing aids and up to now, had no competition. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in the market. Anyway, you can expect amongst other things, iOS and Android connectivity through Bluetooth LE Audio technology, two-way sound streaming so users can enjoy hands-free phone calls and support for Siri, Alexa and Google assistants. Of course, there is a caveat, you will need a new phone and probably new hearing aids. Let's talk Bluetooth 5.2.
To use the new functions, you will need two things, a cell phone and hearing aids capable of using the protocol. It isn't a simple software update, unfortunately, the new protocol relies on new hardware that most phones and hearing aids might not have available. I think the new More from Oticon is ready for the new protocol, it has one of the newer Bluetooth LE chips on board, but I am not sure about anyone else. I will reach out to some of the brands and update the article moving forward.
The New Functions
As I said earlier, the new protocol offers a host of new functions to Bluetooth hearing aids which include:
- Longer battery life
- Improved sound quality
- Better listening connectivity for public venues, users will be able to stream sounds at public venues like movie theatres, presentations, airports, malls, and more
- Compatibility with a wider range of devices
- Two-way sound streaming so users can enjoy hands-free phone calls
- Television streaming through a Bluetooth-enabled TV
- Support for smart assistants like Siri, Google and Alexa so you can interact with them through your hearing aids
Bluetooth broadcast connectivity
While the hands-free option catches the imagination of many, I think the ability to connect to Bluetooth broadcasts in public venues is perhaps the most exciting thing. Imagine entering an airport, or train station and getting a notification on your phone about a local broadcast? Then just simply click the notification to connect to the public announcements.
This feature will open up a huge amount of possibilities for better access in many venues like museums, theatres, churches and public spaces. It has to be seen as a welcome development for hearing aid users, offering them better ways to interact and enjoy public venues.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next twelve months. The new Bluetooth protocol offers so much and it has been quite a wait to see it come to fruition. Like us on Facebook by clicking the button below to keep up with our latest utterances. Alternatively, if you don't like Facebook, sign up for the newsletter below. It is important to remember, a hearing aid isn't properly fitted unless they do Real Ear Measurement.