What is Bluetooth® wireless technology?
Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over short distances. It uses short-wavelength Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio waves in the radio bands from 2.400 to 2.485 GHz, which is why it’s often referred to as 2.4 GHz wireless technology. Originally conceived as a wireless alternative to clunky serial port data cables, Bluetooth has since evolved into a gamechanger for hearing aids.
Bluetooth for hearing aids – which one?
Most new hearing aids today are enabled with Bluetooth wireless technology, either Bluetooth Classic or Bluetooth Low Energy.
- Bluetooth Classic was the first Bluetooth protocol, released in 1999. It’s used in many traditional wireless devices that stream rich content like audio and video. Bluetooth Classic maintains a constant connection and constant data stream. The downside is a large drain on battery power.
- Bluetooth Low Energy made its debut in 2010. It’s primarily used in devices that need to send small bits of data, such as sensors, fitness trackers, etc. Compared to Bluetooth Classic, Bluetooth Low Energy has a fast connection time. It also sleeps between transmissions and transmits smaller packets of data, faster – enabling lower power consumption and longer life for hearing aid batteries.
A flexible protocol
Bluetooth Low Energy has other advantages for hearing aids. Unlike with Bluetooth Classic, manufacturers of Bluetooth wireless devices can tailor the Bluetooth Low Energy protocol to suit their specific device requirements – making it an open pathway to innovation. Apple and Android have seized this opportunity, customising Bluetooth Low Energy to facilitate audio streaming with compatible Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids and devices.
Bluetooth streaming with Apple
Apple has two proprietary Bluetooth Low Energy protocols: Apple Direct Streaming and Apple Bi-directional streaming. Apple direct streaming allows one-way streaming of audio to compatible hearing aids from compatible Apple iPhones and iPads. The hearing aids act like wireless headphones for streaming audio.
Hearing aids that are compatible with Apple direct streaming receive the label “Made for iPhone”. Apple bi-directional streaming lets users make hands-free phone calls without needing an extra connectivity device. The user’s voice is picked up by the built-in hearing aid microphones, sent to the phone wirelessly, and then on to their conversation partner. The conversation partner’s voice is streamed back wirelessly to their hearing aids. Apple bi-directional streaming is activated by default for users with iPhone 11 or later running iOS 15.2 or later, iPad running iPad OS 15.2 or later, and compatible hearing aids.
Bluetooth streaming with Android
Android Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) was developed by Google to allow direct one-way streaming of audio directly to hearing aids supporting the ASHA protocol. Android ASHA provides the same benefits of one-way direct streaming as the Apple direct streaming protocol. Android devices on OS 10 or later need to support ASHA to allow for direct streaming to compatible hearing aids.
A future of opportunities
Bluetooth® wireless technology is more than just a conduit for data – it's a bridge between individuals, transforming the lives of those with hearing loss. By embracing the wonders of Bluetooth, we can forge a path toward a future with greater connectivity, accessibility, and inclusivity.
Want to learn more about Bernafon hearing aids with wireless connectivity? Check out our product line here.
Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple Watch are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Android, Google Play, and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC. The Bluetooth® word mark and logos are registered trademarks owned by the Bluetooth SIG, Inc. and any use of such marks by Demant A/S is under license. Other trademarks and trade names are those of their respective owners.