Bluetooth Hearing Aids

How to Connect Your Hearing Aids With the Wider World

WRITTEN BY

David Copithorne

Content Director

09 August 2019

Hearing aids that connect you to smartphones and other Bluetooth devices have opened up new worlds to hearing aid wearers. Previously, hearing aids simply helped you hear better. Now, your MP3 or iTunes player can stream recorded music directly to your Bluetooth hearing aids, no wires necessary. You can make calls, and you don't even have to put the phone to your ear. You can stream video chats or Netflix movies. And there are countless other possible applications.

Phonak Marvel Bluetooth Hearing Aids

But shopping for a Bluetooth hearing aid can be confusing. Bluetooth- and smartphone-compatible hearing instruments come in dozens of different flavors. And there always seems to be a catch. So knowing the basics can help.

Only one hearing aid manufacturer offers universal accessory-free Bluetooth connectivity

Here's the first catch. Only one manufacturer­ currently offers true, accessory-free universal Bluetooth connectivity. Phonak and Unitron, owned by number-one manufacturer Sonova, offer several hearing aid models that offer completely wireless connectivity to the many millions of Bluetooth devices out there. And Costco's new Kirkland Signature 9.0 hearing aid, also manufactured by Sonova, offers universal Bluetooth as well.

Most other Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids—manufactured by competing brands—are only able to stream audio directly from iOS devices like iPhone and iPad, and not from Android phones or other standard Bluetooth devices. This means that an audio-streaming device is currently required to enable non-iOS Bluetooth audio streaming for all other hearing aid brands.

Why? The chip and battery technologies to handle all Bluetooth transmissions are still too bulky to fit within most small hearing aids. So most manufacturers put those components into a separate audio-streaming device. Sonova was the first to fit all that wireless technology onto a single chip with its behind-the-ear (BTE) Marvel Bluetooth hearing aid. Others are now working to catch up.

Bluetooth hearing aid FAQ

The only hearing aid models currently offering 100% universal wireless Bluetooth connectivity are Marvel hearing aids from Phonak. However, “Made-for-iPhone” hearing aids provide wireless connectivity to most Bluetooth devices, but not with Android phones. Many other brands promote “Bluetooth compatibility,” but they require an intermediate streamer to receive and retransmit Bluetooth audio to their hearing aids form all Bluetooth devices.

Made for iPhone hearing aids are compatible with most but not all Bluetooth-enabled devices. Notably, they will not connect wirelessly with Android phones such as Samsung and Google Pixel products. But people who use iPhones all the time generally find that Made-for-iPhone hearing aids often meet most if not all their Bluetooth connectivity needs.

A streamer either hangs from your neck or clips to your clothing, and receives audio from Bluetooth-enabled phones, MP3 music players, computers, tablets and other electronic devices. Once the streamer has picked up the sound from the Bluetooth-device, it re-transmits the audio to the hearing aids, typically via a proprietary 2.4GHz radio signal.

Made-for-iPhone hearing aids and Phonak’s Marvel Bluetooth hearing aids are most often premium products from top hearing aid brands. So prices for a pair can range anywhere from less than $3,000 to more than $6,000, depending on what other features and functions they have. Hearing aids that require an intermediate streamer for Bluetooth connectivity may be less expensive.

But the latest hearing aid streamers make Bluetooth easy

Aside from Sonova, most hearing aid manufacturers put the non-iOS Bluetooth processing and communications technology into an audio-streaming device (referred to as a “streamer”). Streamers are typically purchased as an add-on to hearing aids, but the good news is that today's Bluetooth hearing aid streamers provide a relatively painless workaround to achieving universal Bluetooth connectivity with your hearing aids**.**

A streamer either hangs from your neck or clips to your clothing, and receives audio from Bluetooth-enabled phones, MP3 music players, computers, tablets and other electronic devices. Once the streamer has picked up the sound from your favorite Bluetooth-enabled audio device, it re-transmits the audio to the hearing aids, typically via a proprietary 2.4GHz radio signal.

Hearing aid makers have started delivering Bluetooth streaming accessories that are smaller, more feature-rich, and easier to use. They provide wireless communication with all Bluetooth-enabled devices. And their associated apps work well with both iPhones and Android smartphones.

And "Made-for-iPhone" hearing aids help fill the gap

In the meantime, most premium-brand hearing makers actually do meet a major portion of the market's need for a better listening experience with "Made-for-iPhone" hearing aids. First introduced in 2015 by GN ReSound, Made-for-iPhone hearing aids launched an entirely new era of connectivity. Other manufacturers quickly followed.

Made-for-iPhone hearing aids connect you to the entire Apple universe. With them, you enjoy better hearing through complete wireless interaction not only with your phone, but with your iPad, your Apple computer, and your iPod Touch—no streamer required.

Google promises a solution for Android users

But Google has responded aggressively. Last August, Google announced it was working with Big-Six hearing-aid manufacturer GN Hearing to create a new spec for Bluetooth Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) with Android phones. The “Made-for-Android” announcement from Google signaled their intention to pair hearing aids with the much larger universe of Android phones. Stay tuned for an update before the end of 2019.

Bluetooth-enabled hearing aid models

Following are Bluetooth solutions from the top hearing aid brands. We don’t just look at the Phonak, Unitron, and Costco models with universal Bluetooth connectivity. We also list Made-for-iPhone hearing aids. And we provide a guide to the streaming accessories that the top brands use to make their hearing aids Bluetooth-compatible.

Where can you buy Bluetooth hearing aids? Bluetooth hearing aids are available pretty much everywhere these days. Book an appointment with your local hearing health professional to discuss the options.

Note: what follows is not a "ranking" of the best Bluetooth hearing aids. Rather, we provide as much information as we can about the Bluetooth solutions available from each of the top hearing aid brands. Collectively, the brands we mention account for more than 80 percent of the premium hearing aids sold worldwide.

Phonak Bluetooth solutions

Phonak's Marvel technology is currently the gold standard in Bluetooth-hearing aid connectivity. The Phonak Audéo Marvel Bluetooth hearing aid, introduced in November 2019, was the first to stream music and other audio—in stereo—directly to and from any Bluetooth-enabled devices. It's a rechargeable hearing aid that has a microphone for hands-free phone calls.

Professionally-fit hearing aid

Phonak Audéo Marvel R

53 reviews

Release Date: 16 October 2018

To deliver binaural streaming of music and phone calls, Phonak developed the third generation of its SWORD (Sonova Wireless One Radio Digital) wireless chip. It integrates all the communication protocols on a single hearing aid chip, including Bluetooth Low Energy (LE). Together they lessen power consumption and overcome the battery life limitations of earlier chipsets.

Marvel does not require an intermediary streamer. However, bear in mind that the hearing aids can only connect to one Bluetooth device at a time. This means you’ll need to unpair your phone every time you want to connect to another Bluetooth device.

Phonak Audeo M (Marvel) Bluetooth Hearing Aid Review | Made for Android & iPhone

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For its other hearing aids, Phonak has an array of wireless accessories, including streamers, remote microphones, and a TV audio transmitter (which works for Marvel too). We also recommend reading up on Roger, Phonak’s suite of wireless remote microphones for those who need extra help hearing in background noise.

Unitron Bluetooth solutions

Unitron, another Sonova brand, recently introduced its new Discover wireless hearing aids featuring universal Bluetooth connectivity. Like the Phonak Marvel hearing aids, Unitron's Moxi Jump R and Moxi Fit models offer direct connections with all Bluetooth devices. They also enable hands-free phone calls and video calls to both ears. The only significant limitation is that, as with the Phonak Marvel hearing aids, they only connect to one Bluetooth device at a time.

Professionally-fit hearing aid

Unitron Discover Moxi Fit

0 reviews

Release Date: 17 April 2019

For its other hearing aid models, Unitron offers a range of accessories. They include two different kinds of Bluetooth streamers—the U-Stream clip-on and the neck-worn uDirect 3. Unitron also offers a TV audio transmitter. The streamers can handle multiple Bluetooth connections with your hearing aids at the same time. And Unitron offers a Remote Plus app to manage Bluetooth connections with your smartphone.

Costco Bluetooth solutions

Costco, the big box retailer, has hearing centers that offer hearing tests, professional services, and affordable prices. Costco doesn't manufacture its own hearing aids but resells products and technology from top manufacturers. Costco created a stir with its new hearing aid, the Kirkland Signature 9.0, which utilizes Sonova's universal Bluetooth SWORD-chip technology. The Kirkland 9.0 model works with all Bluetooth devices and has an associated app to manage them. Like the Phonak and Unitron Bluetooth hearing aids, the only significant drawback is that they only pair with one Bluetooth device at a time.

Professionally-fit hearing aid

Kirkland Signature (Costco) 9.0

27 reviews

Release Date: 15 July 2019

For its other hearing aid models, Costco offers Bluetooth-streaming accessories including a remote control device, a TV audio streamer, a streamer for your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, and a remote microphone.

Costco Kirkland Signature 9.0 Hearing Aids Review

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ReSound Bluetooth solutions

GN ReSound was the first brand to introduce Made-for-iPhone hearing aids and has always delivered a broad line of streaming accessories to connect with other Bluetooth devices. Its current lineup of Apple-compatible models includes ReSound LiNX Quattro, ReSound LiNX 3D, and ReSound ENZO hearing aids. And ReSound is partnering with Google to develop more universal Bluetooth connectivity, starting with protocols for Made-for-Android hearing aids.

Professionally-fit hearing aid

ReSound LiNX Quattro RIE 61

15 reviews

Release Date: 13 August 2018

For other Bluetooth devices, ReSound also offers a variety of accessories that connect its hearing aids with high-quality audio. The ReSound Phone Clip+ streams calls or audio from your Bluetooth-enabled phone. ReSound Mics can be placed on a podium, on a speaker's lapel, or on a conference table to pick up voices and stream them to your hearing aids. And ReSound Bluetooth TV streamer attached to the back of your TV delivers audio directly to your hearing aids without having to go through your streamer. And the ReSound Remote Control 2 makes it easy to adjust the volume, change programs or switch between streaming accessories.

NEW ReSound LiNX Quattro Made for Android & iPhone Hearing Aid Review!

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Oticon Bluetooth solutions

Oticon Opn and OpnS hearing aids are Made for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, allowing you to stream audio directly from those devices into your hearing aids. And with a variety of streamers, Opn and OpnS hearing aids and most others from Oticon provide Bluetooth connectivity with good sound quality.

Professionally-fit hearing aid

Oticon Opn S miniRITE

7 reviews

Release Date: 19 February 2019

Oticon's ConnectClip streamer delivers wireless audio from iPhone and Android smartphones, as well as Bluetooth tablets, computers and other devices, directly to most Oticon hearing aids. And an Oticon TV Adapter connects to almost most TVs and other audio devices using standard cables. Stereo sound from the TV streams wirelessly directly to your hearing aids from a range of up to 45 feet. And the Oticon ON app makes it easy to manage Bluetooth connections.

Oticon OPN S Hearing Aid Review

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Starkey Bluetooth solutions

Starkey Hearing Technologies was the second brand to introduce a Made-for-iPhone hearing. The U.S. manufacturer quickly expanded its Apple-compatible product line and now sells Starkey Halo, Halo2, Halo IQ, Livio, and Livio AI Made-for-iPhone hearing aids.

Professionally-fit hearing aid

Starkey Livio RIC 312

8 reviews

Release Date: 27 August 2018

Starkey's streaming accessories provide Bluetooth connections for its other hearing aids, and for non-Apple Bluetooth connectivity to its Halo and Livio models. The Starkey SurfLink streaming accesories provide hands-free phone calls from iPhones and Android smartphones and audio streaming from multiple Bluetooth sources. They also feature remote microphones. And the Starkey TV accessory supports analog and digital input sources to stream audio from your TV or other audio source directly to Livio AI and Livio hearing aids.

Starkey Livio Ai Hearing Aids Review

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Widex Bluetooth solutions

Widex EVOKE Made-for-iPhone hearing aids offer wireless connectivity with iPhones and Apple devices. Widex says its signal processing chip set features independent channel separation with minimal-delay filters to offer clean sound even while streaming. The Widex EVOKE app lets you set up and manage your Bluetooth connections with your iPhone.

Professionally-fit hearing aid

Widex EVOKE Fusion 2

29 reviews

Release Date: 17 April 2018

For its other hearing aids and non-Apple Bluetooth connectivity for its EVOKE models, Widex offers a range of streaming accessories. The COM-DEX streamer hangs from the neck and streams high-quality sound from any Bluetooth device to your hearing aid. It offers up to eight hours of streaming time and comes with an optional remote mic. Other accessories for the phone, TV and other Bluetooth devices include Uni-Dex, Call-Dex, FM+DEX, TV PLAY, and TV-DEX. The COM-DEX iPhone and Android smartphone app helps manage the Bluetooth connections.

Widex Evoke Hearing Aid Review | First Hearing Aid with Machine Learning

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Signia Bluetooth solutions

Signia NX and Styletto Connect hearing aids offer Made-for-iPhone direct wireless connectivity with Apple devices. They use a streamer for non-Apple Bluetooth devices.

Professionally-fit hearing aid

Signia Styletto Connect

6 reviews

Release Date: 01 March 2019

Other Signia hearing aids stream wireless audio from Android phones and other Bluetooth devices, including TVs, via Signia's StreamLine Mic and StreamLine TV accessories. A Signia myControl remote control app manages Bluetooth applications with both iPhones and Android smartphones.

Signia Styletto Connect Bluetooth Fashion Hearing Aid Review

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Bluetooth hearing aid costs

Premium Bluetooth hearing aids aren't inexpensive. A pair can cost anywhere from $1,600 (at Costco) to a product-plus-support package of more than $6,000 for top-end hearing aids with full support from your audiologist.

Because prices are set by providers, they vary based on how much service is bundled with the actual product. (A good place to sample hearing aid prices is by searching our Deals section, which shows prices offered by audiologists based on geography and zip codes.)

And that's not all. Streaming accessories cost extra. Again, providers set prices based on how much support is bundled in, so list prices vary. But a clip-on streamer can cost upwards of $500 on top of the cost of the hearing aids. And TV streamers and remote mics can cost even more, depending on their capabilities.

Alternative Bluetooth-enabled hearing devices

Many direct-to-consumer hearing aids available online offer Bluetooth streamers. (You won't be able to buy over-the-counter hearing aids until the FDA sets the rules for the new OTC hearing aid market next year).

And of course there is a whole world of Bluetooth-enabled earpieces, hearables and PSAPs (personal sound amplifiers) to explore. Many of them integrate high-end hearing aid technology. Often they are less expensive than Bluetooth hearing aids. NuHeara's IQ Buds are a good example of a popular hearable offering Bluetooth connectivity.

Nuheara IQBuds Boost Detailed Review | Wireless Bluetooth Ear Buds

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The bottom line

As much as we love Bluetooth technology at Hearing Tracker, it is only one of many variables to consider when purchasing hearing devices. Remember, hearing aids need to function as hearing aids first and foremost, and a local hearing health professional can provide guidance on what hearing aid options may be appropriate for you (given your unique hearing needs).