Five Most Common Myths About Wireless Hearing Aids — and the Truth Behind Them

Thanks to hearing aid technology evolution, modern hearing aids are smaller, more compact, and use wireless connectivity to detect and transmit signals.

Wireless hearing aids help people with hearing problems restore their ability to hear. User-friendly controls can tailor listening experiences to a wide range of situations by detecting signals via near-field magnetic induction or radiofrequency waves. The result is a wireless and hassle-free hearing aid that guarantees a great audio experience.

Learn how hearing aids work, and what they can do to improve your quality of life in this myth-busting look into modern hearing instruments:

Myth: Wireless Hearing Aids are Bluetooth-Enabled

Not entirely true. A common misconception is that because they’re wireless, wireless hearing aids are automatically Bluetooth-enabled or connect directly via Bluetooth to improve the signal-to-noise ratio in various listening situations. However, it’s not as simple as that.

Some wireless hearing aids rely on either analog or digital signal transmission over near-field magnetic induction (NFMI), others use radiofrequency waves (RF), and some use Bluetooth. For example, Starkey uses all three wireless systems together (NFMI, RF and Bluetooth) depending on what you are doing or what type of phone you are using, but you can’t pick and choose. Brands like Muse use technology similar to cordless phones, allowing you to connect to your iPhone via an app. Livio wireless aids mostly use Bluetooth but also NFMI if using a remote microphone.

More advanced wireless aids use binaural syncing — which means “relating to both ears” — to communicate. They also use noise-reduction technology to help you hear better in noisy situations.

As you can see, there’s a lot more technology behind wireless hearing aids, as it all depends on the device, so we simply cannot say that all wireless aids are Bluetooth-enabled, as this is not entirely true.

Myth: You Need to Wear a Necklace to Use a Wireless Hearing Aid

Not always true — the medallion referred to is the neck loop that wireless hearing aid users need to wear when their hearing device is based on NFMI (near-field magnetic induction) to stream sound from smart devices and appliances.

This is not always necessary, as some wireless hearing aids use RF or far-field transmission to detect signals from farther away than NFMI. As a result, wearing an RF-based wireless hearing aid does not require a medallion necklace, just an adaptor to connect it to the sound source.

Medallions, (or neck loop body-worn relay devices) are only required for NFMI-based wireless hearing aids. Neck loops support and extend the signal transmission capacity of NFMI wireless hearing aids (as this only ranges from 3 to 5 feet.) They rely on Bluetooth communication via an induction coil to act as the transmission antenna.

In other words, wearing a necklace is only required with specific wireless hearing aids that rely heavily on NFMI.

Myth: All Wireless Hearing Aids Function the Same

False, not all wireless aids were created the same. They vary based on the type of connection they use to support hearing and listening.

While all wireless hearing aids are designed to enable streaming directly from sound sources like smartphones and TVs, improve communication between instruments, and provide control over volume and sound quality, the quality varies depending on the technology used to support the devices.

NFMI-based wireless hearing aids rely on Bluetooth to stream audio from various sources with the help of a neck loop. As mentioned in the previous point, they function as a remote control for adjusting sound quality and tailoring the listening experience.

In contrast, RF wireless hearing aids only need an adaptor to connect to sound sources, with varying adaptors required to stream sound from different devices.

The choice is up to you! Do you prefer a single wearable attachment to stream sound from various sources? Would you prefer to use smaller, discreet, and dedicated accessories — like audio streamers — to connect your wireless hearing aid to your phone or TV?

Myth: All Wireless Hearing Aids Offer the Same Sound Quality

Not entirely true. Wireless hearing aids are popular because of the increased connectivity and tailored listening experience they support. Still, specific models vary in terms of required attachments and technology used to connect hearing instruments and stream sound directly.

While all wireless hearing aids allow users to stream sound from their phone or TV directly to their hearing aid, the type of connection used can impact sound quality — ultimately dictating overall comfort and the listening experience.

Bluetooth is the main mode of connectivity between many devices, like Livio. With body-worn relay devices or streamers, it can channel sound directly to wireless hearing aids. However, it’s not without flaws.

NFMI connections that use body-worn devices to connect to Bluetooth-enabled devices may result in delays that affect listening. These delays can be caused by the time it takes the device to process and forward the signal. When listening to music or watching TV, this could result in the perception of echoes or lip-synch issues.

NFMI wireless hearing aids also offer only limited, 1-to-1 support when streaming audio. Each NFMI wireless aid user requires a streaming device that can be individually paired to items like TVs or phones. This can be a problem for older couples who wear hearing aids, or in assisted living facilities where multiple users require wireless connectivity.

In contrast, RF wireless hearing aids do not have this restriction but rely on dedicated streaming accessories that don’t need to be individually paired with the audio source. These accessories need to be kept away from each other to avoid interference.

The sound quality and experience ultimately depends on the type of wireless aid you choose to use.

Myth: RF Wireless Hearing Aids are Prone to Interference

Not completely true. This is the most common argument for choosing NFMI wireless hearing aids over RF. While it’s true that the necklace reduces interference, NFMI still uses Bluetooth — which runs at a frequency of 2.4GHz — to transmit signals from the audio source to the relay device for listening through the hearing aid. That means both NFMI and RF wireless hearing aids are susceptible to the same interference.

This can be prevented by limiting data packet transmission to 0.4 seconds at a time on a given channel and frequency hopping to direct signals to steer clear of each other over shorter transmission times.

Choosing between an NFMI and RF hearing aid in terms of frequency comes down to understanding how they prevent interference and promote an effective listening experience according to your lifestyle.

To learn more about the myths surrounding wireless hearing aids, call Living Sounds at 780-488-8100, or contact us here.