With the amazing developments in hearing aids over the past few years, many people with hearing impairment wonder why they still struggle with hearing in some situations. These situations include TV, often involve a talker at a distance (such as in town meetings or religious services) or excessive background noise (common in many restaurants today) or when using the telephone. Often folks with normal hearing struggle in the same situations but the problem is much worse for those with hearing loss. Connectivity provides a means for the person using a hearing aid to hear much better in these conditions and hugely enhances the benefit of hearing aids.
Connectivity refers to an assortment of features and devices that use a form of wireless communication to “connect” the hearing aid with the desired speech signal.
There are many different ways in which this is accomplished, which vary across manufacturers. The desired goal is to make the signal the listener wants to hear the most predominant. Most hearing aids today offer some sort of connectivity but some very basic or very small instruments may not have this capacity. The more advanced the hearing aid is, the more likely that there will be several connectivity features.
When listening to the TV, often people complain that the signal is not clear despite wearing very good hearing aids. The best way to overcome this problem is to have the signal from the hearing aid stream directly into the hearing aids. This is equivalent to have the speaker in the TV right beside your ear. To accomplish this, a small box is connected to the audio output of your TV. The signal is then sent wirelessly to your hearing aids. Sometimes a small device, usually worn around your neck, is needed.
When listening in a large group, such as at seminars, town meetings or religious services, sometimes the speaker is not easy to hear. The distance of the speaker and the environmental noise from other people in the group combine to make understanding speech a challenge. By having the talker wear a microphone which streams to the hearing aids, the listener is able to understand speech much belter. Again, sometimes a small neck worn device is needed. This is equivalent to have the talker sitting right beside you.
Restaurants provide a significant challenge to people wearing hearing aids. Rooms are often large, with many people engaging in conversation, background or live music and lots of hard surfaces which reverberate all this sound into a cacophony. Use of a remote mic, such as used in lectures can be helpful here. Additionally, many hearing aids come with cell phone applications that allow the user to modify the loudness and focus or directionality of the hearing aids. This is equivalent to have the talker sit close to you and reducing the background noise.
Telephones, especially cell phones, can be a source of dread for people who wear hearing aids. Frequently the speech is not clear and their hearing aids whistle when they are trying to listen. The experience can be very frustrating to all involved. Some hearing aids have special circuits (T-coils) for use with phones but these are not always satisfactory, especially with cell phones. The best solution is to have the signal form the phone stream directly into the hearing aids. The added advantage is that the phone signal goes into both ears, making it much easier to follow the conversation. As above, sometimes a small neck worn device is needed.
There are other times when streaming can be better than hearing aids. When exercising, many people like to listen to music and remove their hearing aids to use ear buds connected to their music player. With wireless technology the music can be streamer directly into the hearing aids. This is also a very nice application for listening to webinars etc. on a computer.