The next generation of hearing aids will mostly be smart hearing aids. These devices have new options, or old options that have been repackaged in a smarter way. To help you understand exactly what smart hearing aids are, this article will give an overview of the different features found in smart hearing aids.
For more information on other features, I recommend going through my hearing aid buyer’s guide. For now, let’s look through the different features that make a hearing aid ‘smart’.
App-controlled smart hearing aids
The first feature that makes a hearing aid a smart hearing aid is that you control it with your smartphone. Through a Bluetooth connection, you can control the volume and sound settings of your hearing aids from your phone. This means it’s easier to adjust.
Also, it can be very helpful for people who are fine to use a smartphone, but have trouble with fine motor skills (a common combination for older people). Because of the Bluetooth connection, this function also describes those hearing aids as Bluetooth hearing aids.
Controlling your hearing aids from a smartphone app is the most common smart feature (and the oldest). All the other features automatically also come with this feature.
Self-fitting smart hearing aids
Self-fitting smart hearing aids also use the Bluetooth connection between your hearing aids and a smartphone. Instead of simply controlling the sound, self-fitting hearing aids help you set up your devices to cater to your needs.
It’s the rudimentary, over-the-counter version of getting your hearing aids fitted (so not a full replacement of an audiologist visit, but adequate for over 80% of people, according to the latest hearing loss facts).
This feature means your hearing aids will better suit your personal needs. It also helps you to make sure your hearing aids are set up right. To me, this is the best smart feature you can look for (especially if you’re on the fence about over the counter hearing aids).
Streaming hearing aids
What more could we do with a Bluetooth connection between hearing aids and your phone? Well, your hearing aids could double as earbuds, which is what more and more brands have started to do. This way, you can listen to music with your hearing aids, or even answer calls from your phone.
These streaming hearing aids ensure you don’t need to switch your hearing aids for normal earbuds. A lot of them also look like earbuds, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.
This feature has one main drawback: it wreaks havoc on your battery life. If you listen to music (or watch a movie on your phone) for more than a few hours, you’re out of hearing aids until they’re recharged.
Auto-adjust hearing aids
The last ‘standard’ feature I wanted to discuss, is an auto-adjust option. This feature doesn’t work with your smartphone, but it ‘senses’ your environment and automatically adjusts the sound profile, so you don’t have to do this manually anymore. As of 2023, this is more common in prescription hearing aids, but the feature is starting to trickle down (in the more expensive segment of OTC hearing aids).
Smart hearing aids with advanced features
The four features above are all seen in over the counter hearing aids, but more expensive models have other advanced features, too. One of the big brands of prescription hearing aids introduced a model that can translate into 27 languages and can track your health (the way your phone can). As of now, these aren’t available on the OTC market, but in a few years, I’m sure we’ll see the first models that can also do this.
Also read: the best smart hearing aids in 2023
As you can see, smart hearing aids keep getting smarter. Not just with technological advances, but because having the most advanced features means you’re also getting all the other features thrown in. Although the most common features are a clever way to get more convenience out of your hearing aids, the more advanced features help you get more out of life.
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