by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man wrote,
I currently have an in-the-ear hearing aid that is not bluetooth compatible, and I need a replacement. I want a behind the ear hearing aid that is bluetooth compatible. I was hoping to find an aid that is around $900.00. The bluetooth attachment adds another $400.00. Could you help me with locating an aid that is adaptable to a bluetooth attachment.
You sure don’t want much do you—a hearing aid for $900.00 with all the bells and whistles attached?
The first hearing aids with bluetooth attachments required a DAI (direct audio input) boot to attach a bluetooth gizmo called the ELI (which stood for “Ear Level Instrument”). Unfortunately, the ELI had a number of drawbacks. First, it was quite expensive. Second, it could only attach to certain makes and models of hearing aids thus limiting its usefulness. Third, it could only work with one hearing aid so you could never have binaural hearing via a bluetooth connection. This was because Bluetooth pairs with the remote bluetooth device—thus one aid pairs with your bluetooth device (phone, etc) and the other aid is locked out. Fourth, it had limited battery life.
Current technology places the bluetooth circuitry in a remote control, not in/on the hearing aids themselves. The remote then “talks” to both hearing aids at once. However, hearing aids that use this arrangement are high end aids and cost several thousand dollars each. At the same time, if you change your aids, you need a new bluetooth remote.
A much cheaper solution (which does my Scottish heart good) is a bluetooth neckloop that can be used with any hearing aids that have t-coils. This way you don’t have to throw out the bluetooth neckloop when you get new hearing aids. Furthermore, you don’t have a “pairing” problem as the neckloop couples to both aids via their t-coils.
What I’d do is keep my options open and get a bluetooth neckloop. That way you can hear with both aids (via their t-coils). The bluetooth “dongle” at the end of the neckloop pairs with your cell phone, MP3 player, etc. This way you are not tied to any brand of hearing aid—just that you need t-coils—which you should get in any case.
Personally, I like the ClearSounds Connect360 Quattro bluetooth neckloop.