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Hearing Aids as Health and Fitness Trackers: Monitor Your Hearing, Steps, Body, and Mind for a Healthier Lifestyle

A review of the top hearing aids that double as step counters while monitoring wear time and social engagement, heart rate, alerting others to falls, and more—with the aim of merging hearing enhancement with holistic wellness.
Hearing Aids And Fitness Tracking Woman Jogging

Looking for a health- and fitness-tracking hearing aid that provides data on improving mental, physical, and social well-being? Here we review the top hearing aids with extra features that can help keep you healthy.

Revolutionary new hearing aids with health- and fitness-tracking features, also known as “Healthables™” (a term recently trademarked by Starkey), are encouraging wearers to have healthy habits. But what exactly do these hearing aids monitor, and what are the reasons for including these features in hearing aids?

This article explores the world of health- and fitness-tracking hearing aids. It also provides comparisons of features between these products, as well as a quick-reference guide so you can easily find which hearing aids might interest you most.

But first, let's explore the basics.

What's the reason for fitness and health tracking hearing aids?

Several global leaders in hearing technology have now created hearing aids that function as holistic wellness devices—meaning not only can you enjoy the benefits of hearing better, but it’s also easier to be healthier too. New fitness and health-tracking hearing aids empower users to take charge of their hearing health and overall health goals, positively impacting their quality of life.

Numerous research studies have linked untreated hearing loss to social isolation, loneliness, and depression. Humans are social animals, and hearing loss can impact our ability to socialize. Not being able to communicate confidently and effectively can negatively affect our mental health, and we may start to feel socially isolated. After a prolonged period of social isolation, people can experience feelings of loneliness, which in turn can increase the risk of depression and decrease their quality of life.

It is not only our psychological health that has connections with hearing loss. Studies have shown links between hearing loss and chronic diseases. Hearing loss is associated with reduced physical activity levels, higher risk of falls, and poorer health in older adults.

With approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18+ reporting some trouble hearing, it is important that we see hearing health as an integral part of our overall health and wellness—and something that can have serious consequences if left untreated. Quite simply, hearing health and general health go hand in hand.

Frequently Asked Questions

Certain brands and models of hearing aids are capable of providing data (via the app) on step counts, activity levels, distance ran/walked, wear time, and time spent in social interactions. Also available are fall alerts (in select Starkey Livio AI, Evolve AI, and Genesis AI models) and heart rate data (in the Phonak Audéo Paradise Fit).

Currently, there are three hearing aid manufacturers that offer fitness and health tracking data on their hearing aid apps: Starkey (in select Livio, Evolv AI, and Genesis models), Phonak (in select Audéo Paradise and Lumity models), and Signia (in select AX models).

Not currently. However, HearingTracker is aware of at least one hearing aid manufacturer (Starkey Hearing) that is working on this and has published a paper on their in-ear body temperature sensor. Apple is also reportedly working on a body temperature sensor for its Apple AirPods Pro, which when configured appropriately can serve as a good situational hearing device for milder hearing losses.

Hearing aids, implants, and hearables are already improving people’s lives. They enable users to communicate more effectively and participate more fully in social activities. Hearing aid users also experience decreased fatigue and mental stress from communication, and improved self-esteem, interactions, and quality of life. Several studies, including the recent landmark ACHIEVE trial from Johns Hopkins, show a connection between hearing aids and professionally administered hearing care with a decreased risk of cognitive decline.

What is a fitness-tracking or healthable™ hearing aid?

Starkey was the first to introduce the term "Healthable™" to the industry with their Livio AI hearing aid launch in 2018. Other global hearing aid manufacturers have followed—and we expect to be busy updating this page as new products are introduced (so please bookmark this page!).

This new class of health-tracking hearing aids features embedded biometric sensors for real-time health tracking. These hearing aids can do things like count your steps, monitor daily usage of your hearing device, track your activity, and measure the time you spend in social engagement. Hearing aids of this type also detect motion (in Starkey’s case, they even detect falls) and one can even measure your heart rate (Phonak Audéo Paradise Fit). We think that, in the future, these types of functions will help to monitor and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses.

Like Fitbit and similar exercise apps and devices, fitness-tracking hearing aids push you to be more active. For example, tracking your steps gives you a visual reminder of how active you have been and provides you with a goal to strive for each day. Activity trackers encourage you to keep moving, which is good for your cardiovascular health and can improve your quality of life. Many of these hearing aids measure the time you wear the devices, helping motivate you to use your hearing aids more often and monitor your social interaction time to help prevent social isolation.

Phonak Waterproof

Most of the hearing aids that employ fitness and health-related data also come with extra waterproofing (i.e., IP-68 ratings) to help guard against incidental exposure to perspiration and the elements. Pictured here is the Phonak receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aid.

“There is abundant evidence indicating hearing loss is linked to several dimensions of quality of life, including physical activity, social engagement, and participation in daily activities that matter the most to the wearer,” explains Brian Taylor, senior director of audiology for global hearing aid manufacturer Signia. “By having a mechanism on the hearing aids that allows both the wearer and the hearing care professional to monitor these quality-of-life dimensions, it broadens the utility of hearing aids. With activity tracking, for example, the hearing care professional can demonstrate to the wearer how better hearing improves various elements of quality of life.

“Tracking technology has the potential to improve all these quality-of-life outcomes,” continues Taylor. “After all, when you measure something, you tend to focus on it a little more, and almost by definition improve it.”

Is the ear the new wrist?

Wearable fitness monitors and activity trackers such as smartwatches (e.g., Apple Watch and Fitbit) and pocket-worn or app-based fitness trackers are now common accessories in our digital society. These devices already monitor heart rate, sleep quality, and count our steps.

So, why include fitness and health tracking in hearing aids? Well, it turns out, the ear is one of the most accurate places to measure the body’s activity and vital signs. Beyond that, the apps and related features can generate some exceptional health-related information. Here are some of them:

Accessible health data

The ear provides access to important health data, allowing for the measurement of various vital signs. According to Starkey Hearing Chief Innovation Officer David Fabry, PhD, “The ear is an excellent location for measuring and monitoring biometric information, including body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, and other biological measurements that assist with linking hearing loss with other comorbid health conditions.”

Physical activity tracking

The ear is a good location for physical activity tracking, as Michael Blackburn, AuD, senior strategic software manager at Phonak US, points out: “The ear enables tracking of various physical activities, including sedentary behavior, light activity, walking, and running. This capability contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of an individual’s activity levels and overall well-being.”

More accurate movement tracking

For certain measurements, the ear is more accurate than the wrist. Taylor explains, “There are several daily tasks when you might be moving your arms, and you are not walking. For example, this might include loading a dishwasher or even eating/drinking. Wrist-worn devices tend to miscount these types of activities as steps.” Phone-based applications, on the other hand, tend to underestimate actual physical activity because people may not carry their phones 100% of the time throughout the day. Most people who like to use the step counters on their smartphones know the disappointment of not "getting credit" for their activities when they forget to have the phone accompany them on their trip to the gym, a walk or run, or the golf course.

Optimal blood supply and body temperature

Blackburn states, “The ear’s proximity to the internal carotid artery and jugular vein ensures good perfusion, even in colder temperatures. This ensures consistent and reliable blood flow, which is crucial for accurate measurement of vital signs.”

Although no hearing aid currently monitors body temperature, we think you can expect one in the next couple of years. Ear thermometers are widely used by consumers, and because the ear canal is more shielded from the elements, it’s an ideal place for measuring body temperature.

Signia My Wellbeing App

Four screenshots of the Signia My Wellbeing app with information about "My Activity", "My Steps", "My Conversations", and "My Wear Time".

Compact, convenient, and more consistent use

“Devices designed for the ear can be made small and discreet, making them comfortable and convenient for users,” explains Blackburn. “The compact nature of ear-based devices allows for easy integration into everyday life without causing significant disruption.”

You may also be more likely to wear your hearing aids than you are a smartwatch or Fitbit, meaning you get a more accurate representation of your health status and activity over time.

“Health-tracking hearing aids provide an all-in-one source within the user application, providing user convenience for hearing aid controls—for example, volume controls and user programs—as well as health and wellness features like physical activity monitoring PLUS social engagement, which is NOT available on wrist-worn trackers,” adds Fabry.

Mask modes, telecare, and health reminders

Many of today’s advanced hearing aids can employ special programs to compensate for the altered sound of a person wearing a medical mask. Developed during the pandemic, this feature can still be handy, especially in hospital and medical settings. Some hearing aids also have the capability for remote artificial intelligence (AI) or machine-learning programming adjustments, as well as teleconferencing and telecare assistance from a hearing care professional. Finally, several hearing aids can be programmed to remind you that it's time to clean the aid, take your medication, get up and move around, or do some other easy-to-forget task.

Starkey Mask Mode Lg

Several hearing aids have built-in programs that help accentuate speech when a speaker's mouth is covered by a mask (shown is Starkey's mask mode).

Three hearing aid manufacturers that offer health and fitness tracking features

So, we've just discussed the reasons behind fitness and health trackers in hearing aids and the most popular features. Now let's take a closer look at the actual products of the three manufacturers paving the way with these types of innovative features. HearingTracker has created the table below as a guide to easily compare the products, followed by a more detailed review of each company's hearing aids.

Signia AX Starkey Evolv AI & Livio Starkey Genesis AI Phonak Audéo Lumity (L) and L-Life Phonak Audéo Paradise (P), P-Life, Naída P, Virto P-312 Phonak Audéo P-Fit
Step count ✓*
Activity levels ✓*
Distance ran/walked
Wear time
Social interactions
Fall alerts
Reminders ✓** ✓** ✓**
Mask mode ✓*** ✓*** ✓***
Telecare
Heart rate
App used My WellBeing Thrive My Starkey MyPhonak MyPhonak MyPhonak

Here is a quick summary table of the fitness- and health-related features found in Signia, Starkey, and Phonak hearing aids (please use above scroll bar to see the entire table). Notes: *Rechargeable models only; **Hearing aid cleaning reminders only; ***Mask mode can be added by the clinician via Phonak Target fitting software.

Signia Ax Product Lineup 0223

Signia AX hearing aids.

Signia AX hearing aid with My WellBeing app

The most recent Signia hearing aids with health-tracking properties were launched in 2021 with the Signia Insio AX in-the-ear (ITE), Signia Pure Charge&Go AX, and Styletto AX (launched in September 2022). Several features can be accessed by the wearer with the My WellBeing app.

The My Wellbeing app helps you to stay on top of your physical and hearing performance. The app uses sensors in the Signia AX hearing aid for a range of health measurements, including:

  • My Steps: How many steps you do each day
  • My Activity: How active you are
  • My WearTime: How much you wear your hearing aids
  • My Conversations: How much you socially interact with others

The Signia AX tracks health data using the built-in motion sensor, part of the device's signal classification system, to track steps and physical activity. The MyConverstion feature, which tracks when a wearer is talking, uses the OwnVoiceProcessing (OPV) 2.0 feature. Wear time is tracked through the data logging system of the devices.

Signia Insio Charge&Go AX

4.5 stars stars
4 reviews

Listed prices are for a pair of hearing aids in US dollars unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and may vary by region.

Signia Styletto AX

4.5 stars stars
2 reviews

Listed prices are for a pair of hearing aids in US dollars unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and may vary by region.

Busy Café
With device
Quiet Office
With device

You can set goals and view your activity and hearing in daily, weekly, and monthly detail. Information over time is displayed in easy-to-read charts and diagrams. 

In addition to My WellBeing, the Signia app has another helpful feature called Signia Assistant. “Signia Assistant is a great example of how machine learning can be applied to hearing aids to improve the lives of those who wear them,” explains Taylor. “Signia Assistant uses anonymized data from thousands of other wearers to help individuals fine-tune their devices using the Signia Assistant app. As more data is fed into the system, it becomes better at making precise fine-tuning adjustments for the individual. We have data suggesting that Signia Assistant contributes to greater wearer acceptance, mainly because wearers are empowered to make their own real-time adjustments through the app.”

Starkey Genesis Ai Recharger

Starkey Genesis AI hearing aids.

Starkey Evolv AI and Livio hearing aids with the Starkey Thrive app; Starkey Genesis AI hearing aids with the MyStarkey app

As we mentioned earlier, Starkey was the first hearing aid manufacturer to incorporate inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensors in hearing aids, beginning in 2018 with Livio Edge AI, and later with Evolv AI, to their latest generation of products, Genesis AI. The Starkey Thrive Hearing App is compatible with Evolv AI and Livio hearing aids, whereas Genesis AI is controlled using the MyStarkey app.

The Thrive Hearing and MyStarkey apps provide a window for monitoring:

  • Activity tracking: Tracks your steps, and monitors movement and physical activity (all tracked activities, including brisk walking, running, biking, and aerobic movements made throughout the day)
  • Hours of daily use: How much you wear your hearing aids
  • Engagement tracking: Monitors active listening time
  • Fall alerts: Detects if you have a fall and sends an alert text message to up to 3 of your selected contacts. You may also initiate a “manual” alert to their trusted contacts if you feel unsafe or unwell.
  • Reminders: Gives you the option to schedule alerts for things like taking medicines
  • MaskMode: Boosts specific frequencies to help you hear better when someone is wearing a mask
  • TeleHear: Allows you to request remote adjustments to your hearing aids

Starkey’s hearing aids track physical activity and fall alerts via the IMU, in combination with AI processing to automatically classify the type of physical activity (e.g., walking, running, biking, aerobic exercise). Social engagement is tracked and displayed using inputs from the automatic environmental classification (AEC) system that also helps determine automatic hearing aid listening adjustments so you can hear better in all environments.

Starkey Evolv AI

4 stars stars
13 reviews

Listed prices are for a pair of hearing aids in US dollars unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and may vary by region.

Starkey Genesis AI

3.5 stars stars
11 reviews

Listed prices are for a pair of hearing aids in US dollars unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and may vary by region.

Busy Café
With device
Quiet Office
With device

Each day, the Thrive app combines your body and brain activity to give you a Thrive Wellbeing score, which indicates whether you are meeting your physical and cognitive health goals.   

The fall alert is unique to Starkey. It's a hearing aid option that can be configured so that, should the motion sensors detect that you’ve fallen, it can send a message to someone (e.g., spouse, daughter/son, friend) so they can follow up to see if you're okay.

“In addition, both the MyStarkey and Thrive apps incorporate a user-initiated diagnostic tool (Self Check) that enables them to quickly evaluate whether the hearing aid microphones, circuitry, sensors, and receivers are functioning properly,” says Fabry. “This diagnostic dashboard provides hearing aid users with an empowerment tool that assists in determining whether they need to schedule a face-to-face or telehealth session with their professional, whether they need the device repaired, or more commonly, whether they need to replace the wax guard.”

Phonak Lumity On Table

Phonak Lumity hearing aids.

Phonak Lumity and Paradise hearing aids with the myPhonak app

All newer Phonak hearing aids that connect to the myPhonak app have some level of health data tracking, including Audéo L, L-Life and Slim™ Lumity on the latest Phonak Lumity platform. In the previous Phonak Paradise product family, most hearing aids have health data tracking, via the myPhonak app, including Audéo P, Audéo P-Fit and P-Life, Naida P, and Virto P-312.

Phonak Audéo P-Fit is the first-ever hearing aid to provide users with data about their heart rate. It is a receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aid with an in-ear sensor that can measure your heart rate on demand and continuously over time, so you get a measurement over the entire time you wear your hearing aid.

In this June 2022 interview, HearingTracker Audiologist Matthew Allsop interviews Phonak's Leo den Hartog about the then-newly launched Audéo Fit hearing aid and its health-tracking capabilities. The Lumity hearing aid has since succeeded Paradise and most of the models also have the same health-tracking features via the MyPhonak app. Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions clicking on the gear icon.

The myPhonak app enables wearers to track their health data, which includes:

  • Step count: Number of steps you do each day
  • Activity levels: How long you spend exercising at different activity levels
  • Distance walked or run: How far you have walked or run calculated from your step count
  • Wear time: How long you wear your hearing aid in different sound environments
  • Heart rate (Only Audéo P-Fit): Average resting heart rate and “on-demand” heart rate calculated every 2-3 seconds

Phonak hearing aids track health data using a combination of sophisticated technologies within the hearing aids that communicate data to the myPhonak app. These technologies include inertial sensors for movement and acceleration, and acoustic sensors for wearing time.

Phonak Virto Paradise

4.5 stars stars
4 reviews

Listed prices are for a pair of hearing aids in US dollars unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and may vary by region.

Phonak Audéo Lumity

4 stars stars
8 reviews

Listed prices are for a pair of hearing aids in US dollars unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and may vary by region.

Wearers can also set goals for themselves via the app, such as walking 10,000 steps per day or wearing their hearing aids for 12 hours per day. The myPhonak app will track progress toward their goals and provide them with feedback. 

“In addition to the typical health tracking functions of hearing aids, hearing aids provide other important health benefits via their ability to process sound and help people hear better,” explains Blackburn. “For example, Phonak Lumity hearing aids feature AutoSense OS with SoundRecover and Binaural VoiceStream Technology.

Together, these features may help people improve in various areas, including:

  • Improved communication and social engagement
  • Cognitive function and mental health
  • Emotional well-being and quality of life, and
  • Safety and environmental awareness

Upcoming health-tracking features for Apple AirPods Pro

HearingTracker has previously highlighted how Airpods Pro can be configured and used as a “hearing aid.” This feature can potentially benefit people with milder hearing loss, which also happens to be the target audience for OTC hearing aids. Apple’s “hearing aid” features include Conversation Boost and Ambient Noise Reduction, which improves hearing in background noise—a common challenge for people with hearing loss. Although AirPods currently don’t have regulatory approval as hearing aids, they have the potential to help people with hearing loss better understand conversation. The jury is still out as to whether Apple will register AirPods as hearing aids with the FDA or even make a dedicated OTC hearing aid.

HearingTracker Audiologist Matthew Allsop explains how to use Apple AirPods Pro earbuds as hearing aids. Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions clicking on the gear icon.

Irrespective of where they fall on the “hearing aid” spectrum, Apple is investigating new health-tracking features for AirPods, with their primary focus appearing to be hearing health and body temperature. They are also working on a hearing test feature to allow users to screen for hearing issues. Like a standard pure-tone hearing test, the users' hearing levels will be determined by their response to different tones. This feature could mean that existing online hearing tests and apps, such as the Mimi Hearing Test app and other IOS hearing tests, will no longer be needed when configuring your AirPods Pro as “hearing aids.”

Apple is also working to add sensors to AirPods to determine the wearer's body temperature via the ear canal. Again, collecting this type of data from the ear is considered more accurate than collecting data from the wrist through a device such as the Apple Watch. Apple currently uses wrist temperature data for its fertility-tracking feature and hopes to broaden this technology’s scope to determine whether the wearer has a cold or illness.

It could be several months or even a year before we see health-tracking features in AirPods, but we think some exciting developments are on the horizon.

How health tracking apps can enrich your experience with hearing aids

Health data tracking in hearing aids can be an extremely beneficial feature when it comes to hearing healthcare. Someone living with hearing loss for many years may have acquired some maladaptive behaviors, such as avoiding social situations or even becoming more sedentary. With health-data tracking in hearing aids, the wearer can see first-hand how better hearing can contribute to increased physical and social activity.

“For hearing care professionals, during any follow-up appointment, they can sit down with the wearer, pull up the data from the My WellBeing app and have a detailed, data-driven conversation about how hearing aids are contributing to a better quality of life,” says Taylor. “Additionally, during these follow-up appointments, areas of improvement can be targeted and goals for improvement can be created. Health tracking apps have great potential to become part of a virtuous cycle in which wearers and their hearing care professionals work together to continually enhance various dimensions of quality of life. Health tracking apps are an excellent example of how technology can be used to create a more enriching, humanistic experience in the clinic—more pointed conversations about what matters most to the individual.”

Additionally, Starkey hearing aids include a feature called “HearShare,” a companion smartphone app that enables hearing aid users to share their health and wellness data in real-time with family members and/or caregivers. According to Fabry, “The hearing aid user can select which data (e.g., physical activity, daily use, social engagement, fall alerts) are shared with an unlimited number of trusted contacts, who in turn may monitor and motivate their loved one to hear better and live better by wearing their devices, become more physically active and socially engaged.” For those competitive people reading this, you can even share and “gamify” this fitness data with another person (e.g., friend or spouse) who has a Starkey aid with the HearShare technology.

What does the future have in store?

So, what does the future hold when it comes to fitness and health-tracking hearing aids? At HearingTracker, we believe you'll see a lot more hearing aids involved in general healthcare, with future medical technology merging with advanced hearing technology. This could involve everything from more sophisticated heart rate, body temperature, and fall alerts to futuristic yet-to-be-invented ways to monitor things like blood sugar for people with diabetes. New sensor technologies like those utilizing electroencephalography (EEG) are also being explored and developed with several possibilities.

“The future of health tracking data in hearing aids holds tremendous potential to significantly improve the lives of people with hearing loss well beyond its capabilities today,” says Blackburn. “That’s because we’ve only just begun to take advantage of the vast array of health information that can be captured by the human ear. Biometric monitoring is only going to become more sophisticated, going beyond tracking to also serve as an early warning system for various health conditions. This may include alerting the wearer to sudden changes or irregularities to their body or even changes or patterns in speech that could indicate a potential health concern.”

Phonak Audeo Fit 4

Phonak's Audéo Fit and app.

In a 2021 interview, Starkey Hearing Technologies Founder Bill Austin, who has over six decades of experience in hearing healthcare, was asked about the future of hearing aids. “If you’re talking about what we call today the ‘hearing aid,’ then there isn’t a future; the future is in new devices,” he responded. “Certainly, it’s about devices that will compensate for the damaged auditory system, but hearing aids will also help people overcome many other challenges in life so they can do more and be more.”

At HearingTracker, we think these health and fitness-tracking features are fantastic, exciting additions to hearing aids that further underscore the link between hearing health and general physical and mental health. Indeed, it seems almost certain that new platforms will emerge to further unify fitness and health wearables with hearing aids. However, I'll end this article by emphasizing that hearing aids are—first and foremost—designed to help you overcome your hearing difficulties. This means you should make sure you choose a hearing aid that is ideal for your unique hearing profile and individual listening needs. Once you check off those boxes, have some fun and explore the amazing possibilities of the health and fitness features above!

HearingTracker independently reviews products and services. When you buy through our links or using our discount codes, we may earn a commission.

Carly

Hearing Health Writer

Carly Sygrove is a hearing loss coach and a hearing health writer who has single-sided deafness. She writes about living with hearing loss at My Hearing Loss Story and manages an online support group for people with hearing loss. She is also the founder of the Sudden Hearing Loss Support website, a source of information and support for people affected by sudden hearing loss.