Hearing Aids 101

Hearing Aids and Audio Entertainment

From helping us fall asleep to keeping us awake on a morning commute, music and other forms of audio entertainment have become constant companions to contemporary living that no one should have to sacrifice.

Young woman listening to music

For the hearing, it can be difficult to imagine life without music. With our multiple devices and the use of headphones, audio entertainment is now an inseparable part of daily life. If you’re worried about how hearing loss will affect your enjoyment of music, you’ll be relieved to learn that today’s modern technology can allow you to hear the full, rich range of music better than ever before. Hearing aids and accessories are available that allow you to continue to enjoy music in all its forms and from a wide array of media.

Always connected

Much to the delight of their family and friends, those with hearing loss no longer have to blast their television sets to hear. Most hearing aids now come with telecoil (T-coil) technology built in, enabling hearing aids to:

  • Communicate with an audio channel to pick up sound coming from your portable music player, stereo, and smartphone while also reducing the likelihood of feedback when the hearing aid comes close to another electronic device.
  • Connect directly with accessories like an iPhone or other portable listening device, delivering sound directly as though they were stereo earbuds.
  • Connect directly to audio sources like your iPhone or television without the need for an intermediary device.

The T-switch lets you enjoy the show

T-coils provide an additional advantage by allowing you to tap into FM or infrared (IR) transmissions, also known as induction loop systems. With this feature, you can hear audio streams in public locations, such as concert halls, houses of worship, and movie theaters. These hearing loops create a wireless magnetic signal that is sent from a microphone through an amplifier. The amp processes the signal and sends it through the FM or IR system to be picked up by a special receiver.

In the past, those with hearing aids needed to rent out a receiver at participating venues, and it typically took the form of a device worn around the neck. Fortunately, many of today’s hearing aids now offer a T-coil, which immediately connects the listener to the magnetic field without an external device, making it possible to be discreet about your hearing loss in a number of public settings.

Simply switch to the T-coil or “T” setting on your hearing aids and you are ready to listen. With induction loops, the magnetic signal travels through a loop of wire cable surrounding the perimeter, transmitting to anyone whose hearing aids include a T-coil. The sound is completely distortion-free and contains no background noise, allowing you to hear the audio you need without unwanted environmental sounds. For this reason, telecoil technology often allows you to hear more clearly in certain settings than those without hearing aids.

While more commonly found in Europe, US transportation centers are also starting to take advantage of this technology, allowing hearing aid wearers to tap directly into PA system announcements at train stations, airports, and similar hubs. Considering the challenges posed to people regardless of hearing ability in these venues—due to announcements that are too soft, garbled, or simply drowned out by crowds—direct access to the signal means you will likely hear that gate change or delay announcement far better than your hearing companions!

Induction loop systems only offer one audio channel at a time within a given area. For this reason, many institutions, especially schools, museums, and other sites that offer audio tours, still use infrared or FM systems to transmit multiple channels and require the use of a receiver that can switch between signals. If you aren’t sure whether a concert venue, Broadway show, or other public area is looped, look for this sign:

loop_sign

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires public venues to provide some sort of receptive communication access option. If there is no loop system or your hearing aids aren’t compatible with that technology, the venue should still have an assistive listening device (ALD) they can provide to augment the entertainment. As Bluetooth technology continues to advance, it is likely more public venues will take advantage of this wireless technology to stream concerts and other musical entertainment directly into your hearing aids.

Streamer remotes

If you wish to connect your hearing aids to all your devices, compatible streaming remotes are available that pair with multiple audio streams simultaneously. This means you can receive a phone call while watching a movie on your laptop, and the streamer will automatically switch between audio signals. These streaming audio connectors also come with separate or integrated remote controls that can adjust volume and other listening preferences. You should discuss the pros and cons of each remote option with your hearing care professional as part of the process of deciding what kind of hearing aids to buy.

New possibilities with Bluetooth

Bluetooth® technology offers an alternative to the telecoil by connecting and exchanging information between devices over a secure, short-range radio frequency. Audio from your smart device transmits via Bluetooth into a wireless receiver, which re-transmits the music directly into your Bluetooth-compatible hearing aids. Some car sound systems can also stream directly into your hearing aids using this technology, which is always secure and protected from interruptions.

Get your hearing tested today

If you’re tired of not being able to hear concerts, lessons, or religious services clearly, hearing aids can make all the difference. Schedule an appointment to get your hearing tested by a professional and continue enjoying audio in any format wherever you go.