Hearing Aids: Cutting the Cords and Wires
By Elizabeth Brassine, Au.D., Hearing Services of McKinney, Collin County LIVING WELL Magazine
In my 22 years as an audiologist, one lecture sticks out in my mind – “The Human Cochlea and Mother Nature’s Other Dirty Tricks.” This talk discussed how distance was the enemy to the hearing impaired. The concern is that higher pitched sounds (like s, th, sh), which give us our meaning to speech, deteriorate at a much greater rate over distance. This is one reason people complain about not being able to understand their TV across the room.
Recently, hearing aid technology has landed a blow
to Mother Nature by eliminating the issues with distance. As the whole world
has gone wireless, so have hearing aids. In general, wireless devices allow the
hearing aids to communicate with TVs, stereos, telephones, iPads, MP3 players,
etc. This began with Bluetooth accessories being introduced for certain hearing
devices. Bluetooth devices, however, have several issues that have limited
their use with hearing instruments. These issues include: high battery drain,
confusing and cumbersome pairing procedures, and the necessity to wear an
intermediary device or ‘streamer’ on the body. People don’t want to have to wear
a noticeable device around their neck when hearing aids are getting smaller and
more cosmetically appealing.
Recent advances have made wireless easy – the way
that wireless was meant to be. These newer devices typically use 900MHz or
2.4GHz to transmit as opposed to Bluetooth. The newer devices use far-field
transmission, which eliminates the need for wearing a streamer around your
neck. Also, with this new transmission, no pairing is needed between devices.
They are truly designed to be plug and play or “set it and forget it.” It gives
the patient the sensation of that media device speaking directly in their ears
and prevents the TV volume wars. Finally, one of the other added benefits of
this technology is it allows each hearing aid in a set to talk to one another
so that the system can make the best decision about what to do with background
noise and set the noise algorithms and directionality most appropriately.
Elizabeth Brassine is a Doctor of Audiology and the owner of Hearing Services
of McKinney. She may be reached at 972-838-1300, or visit her website at