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  • Writer's pictureDavid Engelman

When Hearing Aids Aren’t Enough: Hearing Aid Accessories

Updated: Jan 22

Example of someone who may need hearing aid accessories.

Hearing aids are excellent little devices that can help you hear better across a wide variety of situations. The most advanced options can even adapt well to challenging environments, such as a noisy pub or restaurant. However, no matter how advanced a hearing aid may be, they still have their limitations. Hearing aids are not perfect, and they will be unable to restore your hearing ability to a “normal” level. Some hearing aid users will find that while their hearing aids certainly do make their day-to-day life easier and more enriching, that they still struggle to a degree with certain situations. Some common examples are hearing in background noise, watching television, and talking on the telephone. This will especially be the case if you have poor speech recognition abilities in addition to your hearing loss. This is when your hearing loss goes beyond just how “loud” things need to be for you and additionally affects the clarity of what you are listening to. This is even if is technically loud enough for you to “hear”. A thorough audiological assessment will often include tests that can help uncover some of these further difficulties. If you do find that you continue to struggle in some of these situations, despite consistent use of your hearing aids, then it may be worth considering the use of certain accessories to maximise the benefit you could be getting from your hearing aids.

Hearing aid accessories can really help bridge the gap between “hearing” and “understanding”, which can be two very different things. Let’s take a better look at what options are available, and how they may help you:

TV Adapters

Most people will notice that when using their hearing aids, TV watching becomes easier and more enjoyable—but many hearing aid users will still find that they struggle with the clarity of a lot of modern-day TV programmes and films. The truth is that you aren’t just imagining it. Television programmes and films have indeed become more difficult to hear and understand, for everyone. In fact, more and more people, most of whom do not have any hearing loss at all, have been relying on using subtitles to get through their favourite programmes (including me!). There are a lot of reasons for this, which I plan to cover in further detail in a future article. But the important thing to realise is that if you have a hearing loss, hearing and understanding television will unfortunately be that much more difficult for you, and this can be the case even with your hearing aids in. This where the use of an accessory commonly referred to as a “TV adapter” will come in handy.

TV adapters are little devices that plug into your television, and then are paired up wirelessly to your hearing aids. This allows the sound from your TV to “stream” directly into your hearing aids. In other words, your hearing aids become like little wireless earbuds, that you can listen to the TV with. If you are watching TV with someone else, they will still be able to enjoy the programme at their own preferred volume, while you can separately control the volume of the TV signal that is streamed into your hearing aids. This can really provide a significant improvement of the clarity of TV for you.

If you struggle with TV, but aren’t quite ready for hearing aids, then there are devices out there that work on a similar principle, that will simply stream the TV signal wirelessly to a pair of headphones.

An example of a hearing aid TV adapter, along with associated cable options to connect to a TV.
An example of a hearing aid TV adapter, along with associated cable options to connect to a TV.

Telephone adapters

Telephone calls are one of the common forms of modern-day communication. We use the phone to catch-up with friends and family, as well as to make important calls related to issues such as our finances or health. It is therefore very important to hear and understand clearly what is being said on the phone. Sometimes, people who use hearing aids may still notice difficulty with the clarity of a telephone call. There are a few helpful options that you can consider if you find yourself in this situation, but for the purposes of this article, I will focus specifically on the use of an accessory with your hearing aids. The options are somewhat different between landline phones and mobiles, so we will look at these different options separately.

a) Landline Telephones

Landline phones are commonly found both in the home and in the workplace. Like the TV adapters described above, the use of an accessory with your landline can allow for the ability of your telephone call to stream directly into your hearing aids. This can take different forms. You may be able to use a device the plugs into an existing landline phone, which would then connect to your hearing aids. Or you may be able to purchase a landline phone made specifically by your hearing aid manufacturer, which can then seamlessly connect to your hearing aids.

b) Mobile Telephones

For day-to-day communication and phone calls, mobile phones are heavily relied upon. Many people nowadays use their mobile as their exclusive telephone, without any landline phone at all. If you use a modern, Bluetooth enabled smartphone, then in many cases your hearing aids will be able to pair directly to your phone, easily streaming your calls directly into your hearing aids, without the need for any additional accessories. However, depending on the hearing aid model and manufacturer, your hearing aids may require the use of an accessory that allows for the hearing aids and mobile phone to communicate with each other. Often the remote microphone accessories described below may have the additional function of allowing for wireless Bluetooth communication between most mobile phones and a pair of hearing aids. It is worth nothing that many hearing aids are “made for iPhone”, so if you are an Android user and mobile connectivity is important to you, make sure to discuss this during your audiology consultation so that an appropriate hearing aid can be considered for you.

Remote Microphones

Hearing aids are available in a range of technology levels, and the most advanced options are engineered to work well in background noise, helping you focus more on a conversation, and less on distracting noises. However, hearing aids will not eliminate background noise entirely, and some people may still find these situations to be challenging, even while using their hearing aids. This is when the use of a wireless, remote microphone accessory may prove to be very helpful. This is where a small external microphone device is paired to a set of hearing aids. The microphone is then worn by the person you are speaking to. Their voice is then picked up by the microphone, and then streamed directly into your hearing aids. A good example where this would be useful, is when meeting a friend in a busy coffee shop for a chat. This would allow you to pick up your friend’s voice more easily than without the wireless microphone accessory. This accessory obviously then works best in a one-to-one conversation scenario. However, there are some very advanced versions that can work very well in a large group setting, in challenging places such as a loud restaurant, or a meeting room. The device could be placed in the middle of a table, for example, and detect where voices are coming from, stream those voices directly into your hearing aids, while reducing surrounding background noise. While the most high-tech and advanced models can be expensive (often like purchasing another hearing aid!), they can potentially provide a lot of additional benefit to your hearing aid use, particularly if your hearing loss is quite severe. Furthermore, if you feel you would require such a device to do your job effectively, you may be able to receive funding through the UK’s Access to Work scheme.

An example of a remote microphone hearing aid accessory.
An example of a remote microphone hearing aid accessory. This device also would also allow for wireless Bluetooth connectivity between most modern mobile phones and a pair of hearing aids.

Hearing Aid Apps

If you use a smartphone, you are probably already familiar with the concept of apps for your phone. These little widgets are great at allowing us to access everything from our bank accounts to our favourite online shop, all while on the go. Hearing aids have smartphone apps too, and these are free to download and use, and available to both Apple and Android phone users. The apps usually have several features. The most common use for a hearing aid app is to remotely control your hearing aids. In other words, with a couple of taps on your phone, you can adjust the volume or program on your hearing aid. Hearing aids can usually be adjusted as well via small buttons on the hearing aid itself, but many people find using an app to be easier and more convenient than this. Depending on the specific hearing aid app, you may be able to enjoy additional features as well, such as adjusting the bass and treble of your hearing aids or reducing background noise. You may even be able to use the app to turn your mobile phone into a remote microphone, like the accessory described above!

An example of one of the possible screens in a hearing aid app.
An example of one of the possible screens in a hearing aid app.

Remote Controls

As mentioned above, hearing aids can be manually adjusted by either pressing a button on the hearing aid itself, or by using a smartphone app. If you don’t use a smartphone, or just prefer a quick and easy, low-tech way to adjust your hearing aids, you may be able to purchase a remote control instead. Hearing aid remote controls are discreet, pocket-sized devices. They’re a great, intuitive-to-use alternative to using the buttons on your hearing aid, as these can often be difficult to feel and activate.

hearing aid remote control
Hearing aid remote control.

Some Final Thoughts

Although hearing aid accessories are an additional expense on what is already an expensive investment, many people find it is well worth the additional price. Accessories still will not make every situation and conversation perfect, and it is important to always keep realistic expectations in mind to avoid disappointment. One should also be aware that hearing aid accessories are usually specific to each individual hearing aid manufacturer. And if you are using an accessory for something like a TV, or a landline telephone, then a separate device would be required for each individual TV or phone that you would like to use it with. Depending on the hearing aid you are using, sometimes an intermediary device will also be required to allow for the wireless communication between your hearing aids and the accessory. Not all hearing aids are compatible with accessories, and it is important to keep this in mind when selecting a hearing aid—often the smallest models will not be able to work with an accessory due to a lack of wireless technologies that can be fitted into such a small device. Your audiologist can advise you on the compatibility of your hearing aids, and what equipment may be necessary to ensure everything is working properly.

If you'd like to learn more about the kind of hearing care we provide for our patients at Finchley Hearing, please explore our website and feel free to get in touch with any questions.

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