All about bluetooth hearing aids
You’ve heard of smart TVs, smart speakers, smart phones, but...smart hearing aids? Yes! What makes a hearing aid smart?
It’s simple. A hearing aid’s ability to connect (via Bluetooth) to mobile phones and other devices makes it a smart hearing aid, or as it’s more commonly known, a Bluetooth hearing aid.
Bluetooth hearing aids have blown up in popularity, and before you buy your next hearing aids, make sure you understand why, and what they can do for you.
How Bluetooth hearing aids work
Buy a hearing aid that’s compatible with your phone
iPhones are directly Bluetooth compatible with almost all hearing aids.
If you use an iPhone, you don’t really need to worry about compatibility. Almost all hearing aids on the market are compatible with iPhones. However, to err on the safe side, we recommend discussing compatibility with us, or with your hearing provider, prior to buying your hearing aids.
Android and other phones are directly Bluetooth compatible with fewer hearing aids.
If you use any smartphone or cell phone other than an iPhone, your options for hearing aids that will directly connect to your phone are limited, but increasing over time. For users without iPhones, we usually recommend Phonak hearing aids, as Phonak hearing aids offer the best connectivity across multiple phone manufacturers and operating systems.
Pair your hearing aids to your phone
In order for your phone to stream audio to your hearing aids, your hearing aids need to be “paired” to your phone.
If you have other Bluetooth devices, like Bluetooth headphones, or speakers, you’ll be familiar with this pairing process.
However- pairing hearing aids to a phone is not always as straightforward as pairing other Bluetooth devices.
When it’s time to get things paired up, you’ll find specific directions for your hearing aids and phone inside the hearing aid manufacturer’s user guide.
Take advantage of the functionality!
Having Bluetooth-connected hearing aids opens up a whole new world of functionality for your hearing aids.
Stream phone calls, music, and more, directly to your hearing aids. Get your hearing aids remotely adjusted by your hearing provider. “Tag” certain locations and the settings of your hearing aids will automatically change next time you’re there- and so much more.
But don’t worry- if you don't want to be bothered with learning all the cool things you can do, you can simply use your smartphone as a sleek remote control for your hearing aids.
Bluetooth hearing aid features
With each new hearing aid release, we’re seeing new Bluetooth hearing aid features.
Some of these features exist in just about all hearing aids. Below, we refer to these as “Standard Features.”
Other features are more niche, proprietary features, only available through certain brands. Below, we refer to these as “Proprietary, Brand-Specific Features.”
Get familiar with these features before you buy hearing aids. Having (or not having) them, could make or break your experience with hearing aids.
Who needs headphones? Stream audio from your phone, like phone calls, podcasts, music and more, directly to your hearing aids. Simply pair your hearing aids to your smartphone like you would any other Bluetooth device, and you’ll then hear any audio from your phone through your hearing aids. Note: Not all phones and hearing aids play well together- so if you’re interested in streaming audio, discuss this with your ZipHearing sales rep, or local hearing provider, sooner rather than later.
Smartphone app as remote control
Gone are the days of carrying around a remote control for hearing aids. Almost all modern hearing aids have an accompanying app that allows you to remotely control the hearing aids simply and discreetly. Adjust the volume, program, base, treble, and other sound settings of your hearing aids right through your phone. No need to visit your hearing care provider every time you need an adjustment- just do it yourself through the app.
Imagine you’re at the local coffee shop and you’re not hearing as well as you could be. You pull out your phone, adjust your hearing aids through the app, and your hearing improves. Then, via the app, you drop a pin on your location to save it, or “geotag” it. Now next time you’re in the coffee shop, your hearing aids will automatically revert to the sound adjustments you previously made, allowing you to hear your best. We think this is one of the most practical and coolest new applications made possible by Bluetooth hearing aids.
We always recommend the initial hearing aid fitting and programming session be done in person, with a local hearing care provider, to ensure a good physical fit, and to verify the hearing aids are performing how they should be. But for simple follow up appointments, there’s no need to meet in person. Your hearing provider can make remote adjustments (sometimes in real time), right through your hearing aid’s app. Note: While many hearing aids today are capable of remote programming, it is not yet a service that all hearing providers offer.
Find my hearing aids
Misplaced your hearing aids? No big deal. As long as you’ve previously paired your hearing aids to your phone, you can use the app to locate your hearing aids. It’s essentially a game of hot and cold via GPS, with your phone directing you to the last location it had a Bluetooth connection with your hearing aids. If this feature is unable to locate your lost hearing aids, don’t panic. If this is the first time you’ve lost your hearing aids, your warranty likely covers replacement devices, subject to a small deductible.
Use your iPhone as a microphone, sending sound directly to your hearing aids. For example- if you’re having a hard time hearing in a noisy restaurant, you can have your conversation partner put your phone in their shirt pocket. Their voice will be picked up by the phone’s microphone and streamed directly to your hearing aids, giving you a much better signal-to-noise ratio. On Android phones, this feature is found in Settings 》Accessibility 》Hearing enhancement 》Amplify ambient sound.
Air tap control
Available in Phonak and Starkey hearing aids
If you’ve used Apple AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones, you’ve likely used this feature before. Air Tap Control lets you answer phone calls, stop & stream music, and adjust other hearing aid settings, by simply tapping your ear. This is a really niche feature that only exists on a select few models that have a motion sensor built in, so if Air Tap Control is an important feature to you, discuss this very early on with your ZipHearing sales rep or local hearing care provider.
Available in Phonak and Starkey hearing aids
Ideally, with an advanced set of hearing aids that have been custom programmed for your unique needs, this feature wouldn’t be needed. But unfortunately, no matter how good your hearing aids are, sometimes it’s just impossible to catch every bit of speech in a noisy environment. Luckily, hearing aid apps do this really well. If your app has a Speech Transcription feature, it’ll capture live speech, or speech from phone calls, and convert it to text, allowing you to read along in almost real time, just like you would with a caption phone.
Interactive machine learning
Available in Widex and Starkey hearing aids
Many hearing aids today use machine learning to help you hear your best, but only a few let you be an active participant in that process. Whether it’s through a guided quiz-like experience in the app, or simply the press of a button, interactive machine learning features are an emerging trend that we expect to see more of in the coming years. Don’t worry- taking advantage of these features doesn’t require a degree in computer science. Hearing aid manufacturers have made it easy (and kinda fun) to help teach your hearing aids how you like to hear.
Available in Starkey hearing aids
Easily communicate with people who speak other languages. Use your phone to capture the speech of an individual. Your phone will print their speech on your phone, in your preferred language, and shortly thereafter, read that speech into your hearing aids. Note that there’s some pretty complicated logic going on behind the scenes, and as a result, this feature does have a slight delay when you’re using it, but we think it’s a small price to pay to be able to communicate with someone in a different language.
Fitness & activity monitoring
Available in Starkey hearing aids
While the jury is still (somewhat) out on all the negative health consequences of untreated hearing loss, the science is clear on one thing- hearing health is an important part of overall well being. As a result, there’s an emerging trend in the hearing aid industry of making hearing aids be more holistic health devices- sort of like a FitBit® for the ear. Some hearing aids can track your physical activity, like daily steps, detect if you’ve fallen, and even use embedded sensors to measure your heart rate. But physical health is only half the picture. These hearing aids can also track the brain-health benefits of wearing hearing aids by tracking things like social engagement.
Iot "Internet of Things" compatible
Available in Oticon hearing aids
Link your hearing aids to internet-connected devices like baby alarms, smoke detectors, and doorbells. For example, hear an announcement in your hearing aids when your doorbell rings. The applications for this are endless, and we’re excited by the long term potential, but in the interim we’ve heard many reports of this functionality not working how it should. We would caution against choosing a hearing aid primarily for this feature.
Best Bluetooth Hearing Aids of 2023
Hearing aid ratings you can trust
The hearing aids shown below are rated based on objective data, such as return rates and user reviews. We've done our best to use this data to create a comprehensive and unbiased hearing aid rating algorithm, but it's not perfect.
- 30 hearing aids considered
- 7749 verified purchases analyzed so far
- 32k data points
- 616 consumer reviews received
- No paid placements
- Updated daily
- Algorithm reviewed by statistician & data scientist
- This website is independently-owned and unbiased
Top Rated Bluetooth Hearing Aids
Stay sharp in the real world
Released by Oticon on February 23, 2023, Real is Oticon's flagship line of hearing aids for mild-to-severe hearing losses. Real is most well-known ... READ MORE
Conversations shine with Lumity
Released by Phonak on August 23, 2022, Audéo Lumity is Phonak's flagship line of hearing aids for wearers with mild-to-severe hearing loss. Audéo... READ MORE
The sound barrier has been broken
Released by Starkey on March 28, 2023, Genesis AI is Starkey’s newest, most complete line of hearing aids suitable for all hearing losses. Genesi... READ MORE
Love the everyday details in life
Announced by ReSound on August 16, 2022, Omnia is ReSound's flagship line of hearing aids for mild-to-severe hearing losses. Omnia is most well-kn... READ MORE
This sound changes everything
Released on July 8, 2020, MOMENT is Widex's flagship line of hearing aids, available in all styles, and for all hearing losses. MOMENT is most wel... READ MORE
Common questions about bluetooth hearing aids
Have a question about a hearing aids?
Ask your question and in most cases you will get a response from ZipHearing team members
1. Make sure that your phone's Bluetooth is on. Go to Settings > Bluetooth, and make sure the toggle switch is set to On.
2. Open and close the battery doors on your hearing device. Or, if you use rechargeable hearing aids, switch the hearing aids off and on again, by pressing and holding the toggle down button for 3 seconds to turn them off, and repeating to turn them back on.
3. On your Apple device, go to Settings > Accessibility > Hearing, and select Hearing Devices.
4. Your Apple device will search for your hearing device.
5. Under MFi Hearing Devices, tap the name of your hearing device.
6. Tap Pair when you see the pairing request on the screen. If you have two hearing devices, you'll get two requests. Pairing could take up to a minute.
7. You can start using your hearing device when you see it under MFi Hearing Devices with a check mark.
1. Go to the Android phone’s home screen and tap on the “Settings” icon.
2. In the settings menu, tap on the Bluetooth icon.
3. Tap on the slider button to turn Bluetooth on.
4. Open the hearing aid battery doors for 5 seconds, then close the doors. This will put the hearing aids in pairing mode.. Or, if you use rechargeable hearing aids, switch the hearing aids off and on again, by pressing and holding the toggle down button for three seconds, and then repeating to turn the hearing aids back on.
5. On the Android phone, you will now see a message, “Available Devices.”
6. The name of your hearing aid will appear on the screen with a telephone icon next to it. Tap on it to select.
7. A connection beep will be heard in the paired hearing aid.
8. Your Android phone is now connected to your hearing aids.