A term that is bandied about when discussing modern hearing aids, BLUETOOTH HEARING AIDS (that use a short wave radio signal to link to external devices) fall into 2 main categories.
1. Those that need you to incorporate an additional body-worn streaming device. These might be smaller, with many in-the-ear versions available. These will typically allow you to stream music and TV into both ears, take calls in stereo with any smartphone and usually necessitating your voice being picked up by that extra device.
Example models that are still completely relevant today are: PHONAK AUDEO B90-10, PHONAK AUDEO B Rechargeable, OTICON OPN*, RESOUND LiNX 3D*, WIDEX EVOKE*
(*when used with an Android phone)
2. And those that don’t. The majority are ‘made for iPhone’ an use Apple’s protocol for the streaming of music and calls binaurally (in stereo). So in most cases, it is required that you own an iPhone to access these features (Examples: OTICON OPN, RESOUND LiNX 3D, WIDEX EVOKE). They will interact with an Android, but only with an additional device. This position is unlikely to change anytime soon.
The odd one out is the PHONAK AUDEO B90 DIRECT. It performs a couple of functions without a body-worn device – they are single-ear hands-free calls through the majority of modern phones (please ask our advice before buying a new smartphone for this model!) – that is you can press a button on the hearing aids and both the caller’s voice and yours are relayed through the one hearing aid. Very clever. And TV streaming to both ears (with the aid of a tiny box plugged into your TV).
TWO MADE FOR iPHONE HEARING AIDS THAT FIT ONLY IN THE EAR? The RESOUND LiNX 3D does, and the new OTICON OPN ITC launching in October 2018 does too. However, these are ‘canal sized’, easily visible from the side (and not CIC or IIC invisible models).
Much less commonly used, but still using Bluetooth:
3. A T-coil hearing aid i.e. none of the above – perhaps an NHS aid, perhaps quite an old hearing aid? – so long as it has TELECOIL (also known as LOOP, T-COIL) can utilise a neckworn loop device that can then link to another Bluetooth device, such as a mobile phone.
Many happy users do not even use Bluetooth functions, and that’s ok. However most hearing aids will have this function added on within 2 years.