Bluetooth Digital Hearing Aids
Bluetooth hearing aids have become very popular in the last few years. The original Bluetooth hearing aids to appear were the Made For iPhone (MFI) hearing aids from Resound. In fact, Resound up to recently have been one of the most dedicated to Made For iPhone. They introduced a full range of models that were MFI, including Behind The Ear hearing aids, Receiver In Canal hearing aids and custom In The Ear hearing aids.
Most of the other brands have only done that in the last few years, some of them still haven’t. In the recent past, we have seen the expansion of MFI across brands and the introduction of Made For Any Phone and Made For Android hearing aids. With all of that, it is easy to become confused about what is exactly what. In this article, I will try and clear up some of the confusion and explain the differences. Let’s talk about Bluetooth hearing aids.
What are Bluetooth hearing aids?
Bluetooth hearing devices are hearing aids that use an onboard Bluetooth radio to connect directly to a phone. While the Bluetooth radio is similar across many of the hearing aid brands, some brands do very different things with that radio. For instance, a Made For iPhone hearing aid will only connect directly to a compatible iPhone or iPad. There are currently two Made For iPhone hearing aids that are also Made For Android. They use slightly different protocols to connect to both types of phones. The Made For Any Phone hearing aids use completely different strategies and they are neither strictly MFI or Made For Android, while being able to connect to both systems and a lot more. let’s take a look at that to make some sense of it.
Made For iPhone
MFI hearing devices have been around the longest, they will directly connect to compatible Apple products. They will allow you to stream audio and calls from iPhones and iPads directly to your hearing aids. They will also directly connect to their accessories such as remote microphones and TV streamers. Most MFI hearing aids at this time will not directly connect to Android phones or any other phone for that matter. Nor will they directly connect to computers or laptops. MFI hearing aids will also not act in a hands-free manner.
Made For Android
Made For Android has only been around a very short time. Resound and Google partnered to bring the system to the world. Resound was the first to introduce the system with their Quattro hearing aids, but Starkey followed quickly with their Livio hearing aids. We expect that to expand across the major brands in 2020. Made For Android hearing aids will only connect to compatible Android 10 powered devices. At present, there are very few, right now, it is the Google Pixel 3 phones and the Samsung Galaxy S10 phones. We expect that to expand in 2020 as well. They will also directly connect to their accessories such as remote mics etc. Like MFI, they will not directly connect to laptops or computers. They also will not act in a hands-free manner, you will need to hold your phone to talk back.
Made For Any Phone
Made For Any Phone is a Sonova strategy, Sonova is a huge concern who owns the Phonak and Unitron hearing aid brands amongst others. The Made For Any Phone strategy is a completely different strategy from the two others. It uses a separate system that will allow it to connect to any Bluetooth enabled device with an audio output. That means any Bluetooth enabled mobile phones, whether smart or dumb, Bluetooth enabled TVs and laptops, computers and tablets. Once it has a Bluetooth radio with an audio output, it will connect to it to stream audio directly to your ears. The Made For Any Phone hearing aids also have their own accessories such as remote mics and TV streamers. Made For Any Phone hearing aids will also act as hands-free headsets. That means you can take your calls from your hearing aids and just talk away. The mics on the hearing aids pick up your voice and stream it back to the caller. No need to pick up your phone.
In The Ear Bluetooth Hearing Aids
It appears that 2020 will be the year of Bluetooth ITE or In The Ear hearing aids. While Resound introduced the Quattro custom range (Made For iPhone and Made For Android) last year. The market seems to be about to explode with the devices. Both Phonak and Starkey have introduced new Bluetooth ITE devices. Phonak with the Virto Black (Made For Any Phone) and Starkey with the new Livio Edge (Made For iPhone and Made For Android). I would imagine that more of the brands will be introducing similar devices across 2020.
What Bluetooth Hearing Aids are Available?
As I said, every major hearing aid brand has launched a range of their own type of Bluetooth hearing aids. Most of them are Made For iPhone, some are Made For Any Phone and a very select few are Made For Android. The full line up of Bluetooth hearing aids is:
- the Livio Edge from Starkey (to be released February 2020)
- the Phonak Virto Black (based on Marvel, to be released February 2020)
- the Oticon Opn S MFI range (new in 2019)
- the Signia Styletto Connect MFI (new in 2019)
- The Oticon Opn MFI range
- the Widex Evoke Fusion 2
- the Resound LiNX Quattro MFI and Made For Android
- the LiNX 3D range from Resound MFI
- the Enzo 3D range from Resound MFI
- the Halo 2 range from Starkey MFI
- the Livio AI range from Starkey MFI and Made For Android
- the Nx range from Signia MFI
- the Xperience range from Signia MFI (new in 2019)
- the Phonak Audeo Marvel Range Made For Any Phone
- the Phonak Bolero Marvel Range Made For Any Phone (new in 2019)
- the Unitron Discover Range Made For Any Phone (new in 2019)
Are Bluetooth hearing aids suitable for everyone?
The short answer is most definitely yes. In fact, I would imagine within a few years it will probably be difficult to get a hearing aid that doesn’t have Bluetooth. The benefits of Bluetooth connection just make so much sense that I can’t imagine why a hearing aid manufacturer or indeed a hearing aid user wouldn’t want it.
How much do Bluetooth hearing aids cost?
Generally, Bluetooth hearing aids are no more expensive than other hearing aid types, you don’t pay a premium for a Bluetooth hearing aid. Our Bluetooth hearing aids range in price from £1100 to £2150. They all come with the same outstanding level of care and service no matter the technology level. Let’s take a look at what is available from the hearing aid brands we provide in Worcester. We also offer Real Ear Measurements with every hearing aid we fit.
Signia Made For iPhone Hearing Aids
Signia originally introduced a single Bluetooth hearing aid as part of their model line up. However, since the Nx platform, most of the hearing aids they offer are Bluetooth hearing aids. Signia hearing aids are Made For iPhone hearing aids. They do not have any Made For Android devices but we expect that to change next year.
Multiple Models, Three Levels of Tech, One New Platform
Signia has both the Nx platform and the Xperience platform available right now. Unfortunately, the new X range does not have any In The Ear hearing aids available, so if you want a custom Bluetooth In The Ear hearing aid, the Nx platform is for you. The same can be said about their fantastic Styletto Connect. With the launch of the Xperience, Signia has introduced just two models across three levels of technology. Again, the levels of technology are named the 7, the 5 and the 3. Let’s take a look at the Xperience and then the Nx.
The Signia devices range between £1400 to £2150 depending on technology level. Our outstanding care and service package remains the same no matter what technology is purchased.
Xperience Hearing Aids
New Model Designs, New App
The Xperience platform offers the new Pure 312 X (with optional T-Coil) and rechargeable Pure Charge&Go X hearing aids in three levels of technology. Both of those hearing aids are Made For iPhone hearing aids. It also brings brand-new, all-in-one smartphone app offering greater convenience for users.
Signia say that the new platform introduces the world’s first combination of advanced acoustic sensors with a built-in motion sensor. The hearing aids will be used to provide a more complete analysis of the wearer’s dynamic soundscape. They say that the new system will allow for automatic adjustments between sounds in front of and all around the wearer for a more personalized listening experience.
Pure 312 X
The new Pure 312 X offers a brand new design with a rocker switch powered by a 312 battery and an optional T-Coil. The receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aid also has Bluetooth® connectivity for effortless streaming of phone calls, music, and TV audio. The optional telecoil will be delivered in the next month or so and it is an inspired design.
While Signia has a fascinating add on telecoil that lives in a battery door, they have now designed a hearing aid case that has the telecoil built into it. It will simply be a case, of changing the case (see what I did there?). Anyway, I think it is inspired. If you purchase a 312 X and then decide at a later stage that you would like to sample the delights of modern induction loops, you simply get a new case put on your existing hearing aid.
Pure Charge&Go X
The Pure Charge&Go X will be available in November 2019, it is a lithium-ion powered rechargeable RIC with Bluetooth connectivity. Signia say that the devices have 20% more charging capacity and are 16% smaller than the previous Pure Charge&Go Nx. It adds up to a svelte and discrete device that offers better battery life even with streaming. Signia have introduced a new inductive charger with a lid to protect the hearing aids as they charge, something that many people had complained about. The charger also works as a dehumidifier and is designed to fit custom ear molds.
The NX Range
I only include mention of the Styletto Connect and the custom hearing aids here, mainly because if you aren’t looking for a custom hearing aid or one of the new SlimRICs, well then the Xperience platform is for you.
The Styletto Connect hearing aid is a discreet device that offers coverage for mild to moderate hearing losses. The charger case is outstanding and it delivers four extra charges for the devices which means you can go away for a long weekend and forget your plug.
Like the original, the receiver is fixed in the hearing aid and can not be replaced in the clinic, it will have to be a factory repair job. That means that you will need to take care of it to ensure it doesn’t fail. Generally, people do not take care of their receivers, we see them failing all of the time through user negligence. They get full of wax and moisture and die.
Three Levels of Tech
The new model will be available across the three usual levels of Signia tech, the 7, the 5 and the 3. If we hear anything else, we will update the page.
The Relevant Power Facts
Signia say that Styletto Connect’s high-capacity power cell will allow for enhanced Bluetooth connectivity. This will enable users to enjoy high-quality, long-lasting stereo streaming of TV audio, music, and phone calls directly to both hearing aids.
They say that you will be able to stream up to five hours per day and still benefit from 16 hours of battery life before needing to recharge. That’s pretty good streaming time and battery life. So for a quick overview:
- Up to 16 hours of battery life with 5 hours of streaming
- Just 3 hours to fully charged
- 30 mins of charging gives 6 hours of use
- Easy wireless charging, drop them in the charger and voila
- Made For iPhone, Direct connection to iPhone
- High-quality audio streaming
- Ultra HD e2e and Bluetooth connectivity
Audeo Marvel Hearing Aids
Made For Any Phone Hearing Aids
Phonak introduced the Marvel platform to the world at EUHA 2018 (biggest hearing aid conference in the world), and it is a pretty fantastic hearing aid range. The Marvel is a Made For Any Phone hearing aid. It uses the Bluetooth headset protocol which means a direct connection to any Bluetooth enabled mobile phone or audio device. Initially, the Marvel range was available in the Audeo type which is Phonak’s Receiver In Canal style of hearing aids. However, they have now introduced the Bolero, which is their BTE hearing aid range and the Virto which is their ITE range.
Phonak Marvel Prices
The Marvel devices range between £1100 to £2150 depending on technology level. Our outstanding care and service package remains the same no matter what technology is purchased.
The Marvel hearing platform is a multi-functional and feature-rich hearing aid range which streams audio to both ears. Here’s a quick rundown of what the Marvel platform offers:
- Stereo Bluetooth streaming: Stereo streaming from any Bluetooth enabled device, that means iPhone, iPad, laptops, computers, Macs, Android phones, Windows phones, hell any Bluetooth-enabled phone.
- Real Hands-free calling in stereo: Like the Audeo B-direct, the Marvel offers true hands-free calling from Bluetooth-enabled phones and VOIP services like Skype, except, to both hearing aids.
- TV Streaming: Marvel can stream directly from Bluetooth-enabled TVs, and can also stream from the Phonak TV Connector accessory.
- Rechargeability: They say both Marvel rechargeables will deliver a full day of hearing aid use from a single charge.
- Remote adjustments: Marvel hearing aids can be adjusted remotely by your hearing expert.
- New App Eco-System: Brand new apps to make life easier and engage the consumer in the process.
- RogerDirect: This is really fascinating, for the first time, users will be able to stream from Roger devices directly to their hearing aids.
- Full Phonak Feature Set: Unlike the Audeo B-direct, the Marvel devices will not be hobbled, they will offer full and up to date inter-ear features.
Marvel Audeo Range
The Marvel Audeo range is made up of five Receiver In Canal hearing aids of which two are lithium-ion powered rechargeable devices. You can see an overview of them in the image below. Our advice would be to go with the rechargeable hearing aids as we think they offer the best experience. All of the devices are available in the 90, 70, 50 and 30 levels of technology.
Bolero Marvel Range
The Bolero Marvel range consists of just two hearing aid models, The Bolero Marvel M and the Bolero Marvel PR. Both devices really only cover hearing losses up to moderate to severe.
Bolero Marvel M
The Bolero Marvel M is a pretty discrete mini BTE with a multi-functional button, not unlike the button used on the Audeo. The M can be fitted with a slim tube (which you can see above) or an ear hook for traditional tubing and ear mould. The M will cover hearing losses down to 75 dB in the low to 95 dB in the high frequencies.
That, of course, depends on configuration, with the slim tube fitted, that reduces to 80 to 85 dB in the high frequencies. The M has all of the features of the Marvel platform with a direct connection to any Bluetooth mobile phones and Roger devices. However, the M does not have a telecoil onboard so a connection to a Loop System is out. The device will be available in the four levels of technology, the 90, the 70, the 50 and the 30
Bolero Marvel PR
The Bolero Marvel PR is slightly larger than the M, but it is still relatively discrete. It uses the same multi-functional button as the smaller M. The PR is a lithium-ion powered rechargeable hearing aid can be fitted with a slim tube (which you can see above) or an ear hook for traditional tubing and ear mould. The PR will cover hearing losses down to 80 dB in the low to 100 dB in the high frequencies. That, of course, depends on configuration, with the slim tube fitted, that reduces to 70 in the low and 90 dB in the high frequencies.
The PR has all of the features of the Marvel platform with a direct connection to any Bluetooth mobile phones and Roger devices. It also has a telecoil onboard so it can be used to connect to a Loop System. Phonak say that you will get a full day of use out of one charge and use time is similar to the Audeo. The device will be available in the four levels of technology, the 90, the 70, the 50 and the 30
Opn S Hearing Aids
Oticon released the new Opn S platform in March 2019, initially, the Opn S is available in four models and three technology levels. The devices are internet-enabled and Bluetooth enabled just like the previous and original Opn. Oticon has made the Opn S even better with new and upgraded features which build upon the original.
Opn S Prices
The Opn S devices range between £1400 to £2150 depending on technology level. Our outstanding care and service package remains the same no matter what technology is purchased.
Made For iPhone
While the Opn S is a Made For iPhone hearing aid range only at present, we would expect Oticon to introduce the Made For Android feature sometime in 2020.
The Opn S models include three Receiver In Canal hearing aid models of which one is powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable power pack and a Behind The Ear hearing aid model. All of the models are available across the three technology levels and the RICs in particular are very discreet.
Powerful Enough For Every Hearing Loss
The beautiful MiniRITE devices can use four different receiver power levels meaning that they offer a discreet option for every hearing loss
Opn Xceed Hearing Aids
Oticon introduced the Xceed range of hearing aids in August 2019. The Oticon Xceed range is built on the new Velox S platform that powers Opn S. They are the first power hearing aids from Oticon that offer their outstanding OpenSound Navigator (OSN), which they say offers more access to speech with less effort, and their new OpenSound Optimizer which helps to deliver more amplification without whistling.
With 146 dB SPL and 87 dB full-on gain, Xceed and Xceed Play are the world’s most powerful hearing aids. The addition of the underlying OSN technology will give people with severe to profound hearing loss the opportunity to assess how it works for them. The OSN technology by Oticon is said to work “ultra-fast to constantly analyze, prioritize, and preserve speech from all directions while significantly reducing noise.”
Results from an independent study show that OSN technology in Xceed improves speech clarity by 10%, reduces listening effort by 10%, and increases short-term recall by 15% for patients with severe-to-profound hearing loss.1. Xceed Play with OSN provides up to 20% more speech cues for children with severe-to-profound hearing loss, without the high risk of feedback.2. When extra help is needed, patients can activate OpenSound Booster using the Oticon ON App.
Made For iPhone Power Hearing Aids
The Xceed Power hearing aids join a very exclusive group of direct connection Made For iPhone power hearing aids. They will enable power users to connect directly to an iPhone® and connect to any modern smartphone via the ConnectClip to stream sound hands-free to both ears. With the Oticon ON App, patients can regulate volume, change programs, or simply turn off their hearing aids with complete discretion. While the Xceed is a Made For iPhone hearing aid range only at present, we would expect Oticon to introduce the Made For Android feature sometime in 2020.
The Xceed range consists of two traditional Behind The Ear hearing aid models, a smaller Super Power device and a larger Ultra Power device. Both of them have telecoils onboard, IP68-certification for water and dust resistance, and push buttons for easy control.
LiNX Quattro Hearing Aids
Resound introduced the Quattro range in 2018 and initially, the range consisted of just two Receiver In Canal devices. However, in August 2019, they expanded the range to include four new custom In The Ear devices. The Quattro range is built to be Made For iPhone as well as Made For Android. With the introduction of Android 10 on September third 2019, the Quattro range is the first hearing aid range to support audio streaming of calls and media to Android phones. Initially, that feature will only work with Google Pixel 3 phones and Samsung Galaxy S10 phones that have been updated to Android 10. However, we would expect the feature to be available on more and more handsets over 2020.
LiNX Quattro Prices
The Quattro devices range between £1400 to £2150 depending on technology level. Our outstanding care and service package remains the same no matter what technology is purchased.
A quick run-down of the salient points:
- The Quattro range is available in three technology levels
- Quattro devices are now both Receiver In Canal devices and In The Ear Devices
- All of the Quattro devices are Bluetooth direct connection hearing aids
- The devices use a brand new chip platform
- The chip has 100% faster processing than 3D
- The chip has 100% additional memory over the 3D
- Resound are using a new way of handling directionality inputs
- They have introduced a redesigned wireless radio with extra signal strength
- They have extended the bandwidth of the devices giving extra high-frequencies
- They have increased their dynamic input range, calling it industry-leading
- The Quattro range has an outstanding Lithium-ion rechargeable device available
- The rechargeable hearing device will deliver 24 hours of use with 50% streaming on a three-hour charge
- The Lithium-ion devices will deliver 30 hours of use without streaming on a three-hour charge
- The Quattro range offers the first-ever Bluetooth direct connection Completely In Canal hearing aid ever
An Outstanding Lithium-ion Rechargeable Made For iPhone Hearing Aid
The Quattro rechargeable hearing aid is an outstanding rechargeable hearing aid. It offers an amazing amount of power and the recharger case is one of the best available. Resound have redesigned the wireless radio used in the Quattro platform and they say that it is more powerful than ever before. That translates into pretty stable connection to the iPhone and Android phones. Although Resound has used the chip upgrades to improve power consumption, a rechargeable option allows you the comfort of never having to worry about hearing aid batteries. The device shown above is the rechargeable option, but they are also offering a traditional hearing aid battery model which is based on the LT-62 using a size thirteen battery.
Traditional Zinc Air Powered
The LT-62 is a traditional zinc-air powered device that takes a size 13 battery. It has a telecoil onboard and offers a multi-functional button which acts as volume control and programme button. The device is water-resistant. This might be the device for you if you want an on-board telecoil receiver.
Resound say that the new power management system will increase the battery life of the 62 type device by 20%. We reckon that most modern 13 battery hearing aids will offer you about 5 to 7 days of use. You will be lucky to get much more than that.
The new Mini RIE 61 is a very discreet device powered by a 312 battery. It doesn’t have a telecoil but it does offer the multi-functional button which acts as volume control and programme button.
Behind The Ear Hearing Aids
Resound have also introduced three BTE hearing aids to the Quattro range the BTE 67, the BTE 77 and the BTE 88.
BTE 67: This is a wireless Made for iPhone BTE that can be used with a thin-tube or standard BTE tubing and mould. This device has a push-button, volume control and telecoil. It uses a size 13 battery.
BTE 77: This is a wireless Made for iPhone BTE that can be used with a thin-tube or standard BTE tubing and mould. This device has a push-button, volume control and telecoil. It also offers Direct Audio Input, which means it will accept an audio boot. It uses a size 13 battery.
BTE 88: This is a wireless high-power Made for iPhone BTE. The device is fitted with a push-button, volume control and telecoil. It also offers Direct Audio Input, which means it will accept an audio boot. It uses a size 13 battery.
Custom Hearing Aids
The custom hearing aids appear to be working out well. While normally with new technology we would expect teething problems, ReSound have been offering Made For iPhone custom hearing aids for a long time. The CIC is not a typical CIC size, generally, most of them have been closer to the Mini In Canal size you would expect from other manufacturers.
Premium Plus Price Point
Resound have not introduced the devices as a replacement for the LiNX 3D, rather, they have introduced them as a new premium price point above the LiNX 3D 9 and 7 and 5. With the expansion of the Quattro range to now include custom hearing aids, they will be more attractive to more people.
LiNX 3D Hearing Aids
The LiNX 3D hearing aids were launched in 2017 and at the time, they offered the pinnacle of Resound technology. The LiNX 3D also offered a whole new way to experience hearing care. The original ReSound LiNX allowed users to adjust their own settings as they went, but with the LiNX 3D, they could request assistance from their mobile app, and their hearing professional could make all the adjustments necessary.
The ReSound LiNX 3D includes GN Hearing’s 5th generation 2.4 GHz wireless technology and 3rd generation binaural directionality. They say it provides users with “clear, natural sound, exceptional speech understanding and the best sense of where sounds are coming from.” There are eleven different hearing aid models in three levels of technology.
- It is up to 50% better at identifying speech across various environments
- It enables users to hear up to 80% more of the sounds around them, and
- It enables users to understand up to 40% more speech in noise
When connected to the brand new apps that have been designed for iPhone and Apple Watch, users will be able to access custom control features for the hearing aid. There is also built-in guidance steps to understand both the hearing aids and the software, there is also coaching assistance to get the most out of the hearing aids. When compared to competitors, the company said that the ReSound LiNX 3D and companion app are up to 50 percent better at identifying speech across various environments, enable users to hear up to 80 percent more of the sounds around them, and enable users to understand up to 40 percent more speech in noise.
Resound Enzo 3D Hearing Aids
Resound launched their latest hearing device for people with severe to profound hearing loss in 2017. They have updated Enzo Made For iPhone (MFI) Bluetooth hearing aids with their new 3D platform which brings all of the benefits of that new system to this market. Those benefits include better spatial awareness and much better speech understanding in noise. With Made for iPhone® technology, you can stream phone calls, music and more from your iPhone, iPad® or iPod touch® directly to your hearing aids. If you have an Android or any Bluetooth-enabled phone, you can still stream calls, music and more with a discreet ReSound Phone Clip+ wireless accessory.
Vibrant and crystal clear sound
Like the LiNX 3D range from ReSound, Enzo 3D hearing aids come with the superior sound quality of Surround Sound by ReSound. They work together, continuously exchanging data about your sound environment for optimised performance. The hearing aids are available in three levels of technology, the top of the range 9, the 7 and the 5.
Two Models, Huge Power
There are two hearing aid models in the range both of which are Behind The Ear hearing aids and both of which are extremely powerful. The BTE 88 is the smaller of the two and takes a size 13 battery. The BTE 98 is larger but takes the 675 battery that many people with this hearing loss are used to.
The 98 is also more powerful than the 88, although not by much. However, Resound say that the 98 will get twelve days of use on the 675 battery, that’s fantastic battery life for a smart hearing aid.
Starkey Edge AI
A Rechargeable Bluetooth In The Ear Hearing Aid
Since lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aids were introduced in 2016 many people have wondered if the technology would transfer to In The Ear (ITE) hearing aids. While there have been plenty of rumours about the different hearing aid brands working on the devices, we haven’t seen any introduced up to now. In February 2020, that will all change with the introduction of the new Starkey Edge AI range. For the first time, we will have a lithium-ion powered rechargeable ITE.
Half Shell Model?
The device is a half-shell device but that does depend on the size of the ear canal and ear. It is a dual-mic custom device with a push button. The faceplate is raised in the middle with the charging contacts. While the image shows a black device, it will be available in the more traditional colours as well.
Made For iPhone, Made For Android
The devices are Bluetooth enabled and will offer a direct connection to both iPhones and some Android 10 phones. That means direct audio streaming and call audio from those phones without any intermediary streamers.
Making a custom hearing aid rechargeable has been technically difficult, the main issue has really how are you going to charge it. Obviously, Starkey has solved the issue and this will be the first-ever lithium-ion powered custom hearing aid. They say the lithium-ion cell will give you 23 hours of battery life between charges.
Blurring The Lines
Starkey has been blurring the lines between Hearables and Hearing Aids for a while now. The introduction of the lithium-ion powered Bluetooth ITE (In The Ear) device certainly does that. In fact, I think it is the first device from the hearing aid industry that can be firmly called a Hearable.