Bluetooth Hearing Aids | Phone & Music

Evolution of the Hearing Aid

Evolution of the Hearing Aid

My entire life I’ve had hearing aids and I’m only 22. So, no, hearing aids are not just for the elderly. When I was younger, I believed my hearing aids were something to be ashamed of, but I have eventually grown to embrace them as a lifeline and as a part of who I am. I am not the girl with the hearing aids. I am the hard-working, talented woman who happens to wear hearing aids. It’s important that people realize that individuals with a disability are not stupid, incapable, or dumb. Unfortunately, I’ve encountered people who treat me as though I am.



I recently purchased new hearing aids (For the record, hearing aids are not covered by insurance and I am seriously considering lobbying against this in Washington, D.C.), which came with an optional add-on device called an iCom. This iCom is what you see in the picture above. It is a device that you wear around your neck that allows you to program multiple bluetooth-equipped phones. Thinking this was too good to be true, I tested it on the iPhone. Sure enough, I was able to send and receive calls hands-free without the phone (after dialing the number, of course), as long as I was inside a 30-foot radius.


Video iPod

Feeling empowered, I moved on to test the music adapater. The adapter connects to any music device with a headphone jack, such as an iPod. The hearing aids make a signaling sound to let me know that a device is connected wirelessly. I can control whether or not the music plays either through the device itself, or through my iCom with the simple press of the square button. In addition, the hearing aids work with FM radio, although, I have to admit I haven’t tried it yet. All in all, a pretty cool breakthrough for hearing aid technology.

Technology is taking a step in the right direction. If people without hearing loss are already hooking up their phones to a bluetooth device, doesn’t it make sense to build a hearing aid with the same bluetooth technology? It happened and I can’t wait to see what will roll out next. My hope is that the iPhone will be bluetooth-compatible with the music (apparently it’s not, right now). Does anyone know of a bluetooth-equipped phone that will play music?

Interested in finding out more about these hearing aids for yourself, a friend, or a loved one? Check out Phonak’s Exelia website. You can also read more about hearing loss at or (in English or Espanol).

70 Responses to “Bluetooth Hearing Aids | Phone & Music”

  1. 1 Sam February 9, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Do the they work? How about back ground noise in public places?
    What is the best hearing aid that I can buy?

  2. 2 Refined Designer February 9, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Hi Sam, thanks for your comment. To answer your questions:

    1. Yes, they work extremely well. They are the top-of-the-line hearing aids for my level of hearing loss. My audiologist and I chose them based on my lifestyle. I am young and tend to be in a variety of situations as opposed to a more sedentary lifestyle. Because I’m in a variety of places with varying degrees of background noise, these are equipped to handle such situations. I can go from my bedroom in the morning to a noisy bar in the evening and be happy in every environment that encounter throughout the day.

    2. The best hearing aid is one that your audiologist can recommend after testing you to see what type of hearing loss you may have. Certain hearing aids work with certain types of hearing loss. If you have mild hearing loss, you may qualify for a very discrete in-the-canal hearing aid. Because my loss is severe, I need a more powerful hearing aid, which comes in the Behind-the-Ear model that you see on this post.

    Hope this helps!


  3. 3 R3 May 19, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Sign me up if you decide to lobby for hearing aids being insurance-covered. Ridiculous omission, IMO.

    A gentleman at Office Depot today informed me of bluetooth hearing aids — have been wanting something like this for a long while. I currently wear in-canal hearing aids and it’s quite a pain to spend the whole day removing and returning them in order to answer calls.

    FWIW, I find that my iPhone’s included wired headset is the best one I’ve tried thus far. The sound is quite clear to me (even at lower volumes) and the people on the other end tell me I sound like I’m on a land-line. The problem is that I still need to remove my hearing aids in order to use them.

    But an in-canal hearing aid that can double as a bluetooth headset? I’m in, even if I have to put a new battery in it every day.

    BTW, I’m 43 this year. I was in an auto accident when I was about 10; this is what caused both my hearing loss and my tinnitus. I’ve only worn hearing aids since I was about 32, shortly after my first child was born.

  4. 4 Brad Blackman May 19, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Wow, that’s really cool. I knew the technology was coming; I didn’t know it was here yet. I agree that it’s a shame that health insurance doesn’t cover hearing aids. (I’ve worn them since I was 2 and I’m 30 now.) So can you flip a switch on the hearing aids and open a Bluetooth connection to the phone right away? Or do you need to have the iCom to get them to work with your iPhone or other Bluetooth phone?

  5. 5 Refined Designer May 20, 2009 at 8:02 am

    @R3 It’s great to hear that you are so supportive of lobbying for hearing aid insurance coverage. I am in the works of coming up with an online forum for hearing aid wearers of all ages, but targeting primarily 15-65 year olds, as I feel that that demographic is more into the use of the Internet than anyone else and would be more likely to embrace an online forum.

    You are lucky you can wear in-the-canal hearing aids, I have always wanted them, but they are not powerful enough for my level of hearing loss. I suppose you could call it a self-conscious thing. I can be blessed that I have long hair that covers the hearing aids so people do not stare. I’m sure you’re familiar with people staring at them when you’re talking…it can be distracting.

    I also feel you on the frustration of having to handle phone calls. When I did research for cell phones, I wanted the M4/T4 hearing aid compatibility rating as I did NOT want to have to deal with fuzzy calls. I sadly eliminated the iPhone as I just felt it would be too difficult to hear on, but boy was I wrong. These hearing aids now make the iPhone sound crisp & clear (my bf has one). As for me, I ended up getting the Verizon LG Voyager and love it. I don’t have to set my hearing aids to a particular setting to hear on it nor do I have to max out the volume of the phone.

    Regarding the battery life, it is surprisingly good. Granted, I don’t use the bluetooth capability a whole lot (more so for music than phone), the battery life is about a week and a half. I wish you best of luck in your pursuit for new hearing aids. My advice is to embrace the cutting-edge technology that is out there, which I think you are, so props to you! Feel free to comment back/email me if you have any other questions.

  6. 6 Refined Designer May 20, 2009 at 8:05 am

    @Brad Glad to hear that you found me (no pun intended) through this blog post. To answer your question regarding activating the Bluetooth connection, you have to initially program your phone to turn on to Bluetooth setting and then have your iCom work in tandem with the phone. The initial set up takes the longest and after you’ve done that, it’s activated every time you turn on the iCom. I believe you can also program the hearing aid to other phones, say in the event that I want to talk to someone on another person’s phone. All in all, the iCom is required for the hearing aids to function in it’s Bluetooth state. Hope this helps.

  7. 7 John Eck June 15, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    I got my Siemans Life 500″s , the TEK remote and My Sprint Palm Treo 800w all to work together i got music and telephone sevice drom the fone to my ears .. kind of neet,, when there is nothing to hear , I’ve got something to hear …. all with no wires at all .. i think it should also work with the Phonak Icomm too if that is somewones desire …
    There is a lot of good info on if anyone is interested … John

  8. 8 Marguerite Dacey June 16, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    I havae an 86 yr.old cousin who has worn hearing aids most of his life. It is so hard to communicate with him because he is always asking what I said. Even when I repeat myself he can’t hear. When I hear him say “ah ha” I know he did not hear me. He lives in D’Iverville MS. Is there a blue tooth hearing aid that will allow him to hear conversations with people and use the telephone to hear better?

  9. 9 Refined Designer June 17, 2009 at 8:15 am

    @JohnEck Glad to hear your hearing aids are working out for you. It certainly does makes all the difference in the world. 🙂

  10. 10 Refined Designer June 17, 2009 at 8:22 am

    @MargueriteDacey I feel your frustration. I have several people in my life who struggle with hearing loss, which can make it difficult to communicate. The only advice I can give you is to go to an audiologist who will help pick the right hearing aid for your cousin’s level of hearing loss. I own the Phonak Exelia and absolutely love it. In fact, I’m currently listening to music at work (shh!) through my computer speakers on, which is connected to my iCom through an audio cable. Talk about convenience! Best of luck, Marguerite.

  11. 11 Theodore Groves June 23, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Hi Kristin,

    I just got Phonak Exelia Art BTE hearing aids with iCom and am enjoying them very much. But, I’m trying to find an appropriate bluetooth transmitter to connect to my TV to communicate wirelessly w/ iCom and thence to my aids. Unfortunately the Voiis TV bluetooth transmitter that Phonak recommends and markets does not have enough volume to be usable. I’ve heard that the Motorola DC800 bluetooth transmitter works well, but I haven’t tried it yet. (My audiologist is ordering one for me to try.) I’m wondering if you know if Siemen’s Tek bluetooth transmitter will work with the Phonak iCom? I’ve been learning that not all bluetooth implementations are compatible, but am hoping to find something that will work acceptably with the Phonak iCom.

    Thanks for any info!

    Best wishes,

    PS Congrats on your upcoming wedding!

  12. 12 Jasmine June 23, 2009 at 11:08 am

    I just read your article, and I loved it! I am a 20 year old girl working on her doctorate in Audiology who just happens to have a hearing loss as well. I’ve also worn hearing aids for most of my life. I hope the hearing aids are working out well for you. As soon as I get enough money to purchase some, I am getting the bluetooth technology. It just sounds too good to be true. And now the iPhone 3.0 software update comes with stereo bluetooth compatibility. Just one more reason to get me some new hearing aids! Thanks for making me feel like I’m not the only person out there that feels misunderstood with a disability.

  13. 13 Refined Designer June 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    @Theodore/Ted I find it interesting that the Voiis TV bluetooth transmitter does not amplify the sound enough. To tell you the truth, I have never used a TV transmitter, but that exact one was the one my audiologist had recommended. I’m not quite sure which ones are out there, so all I can say is best of luck finding one that works for you! Please come back and let us know if you do find one that works for you. On a side note, for a device that works with landline phones, he recommended the AT&T model 5632. Thanks for the wedding well-wishes 🙂

  14. 14 Refined Designer June 23, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    @Jasmine It’s so commendable that you are working on your Audiology degree despite your hearing loss. I really do hope that you can get these hearing aids soon. Even if you can’t afford the whole thing at once, I’m willing to bet you most places (like my audiologist) can set up interest-free payment plans for up to 6-months to a year. I ended up doing a loan through my parents and paid them back. And by the way, I had no idea that the iPhone software came out with stereo bluetooth compatibility! I knew that you could use the iPhone before, but now you can listen to it with music? How awesome. Well, best of luck and keep me posted with everything!

  15. 15 Theodore Groves June 23, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Kristin, There is no volume control on the Voiis bluetooth transmitter and evidently Phonak is aware of many complaints about the low volume when using the device. Of course you can crank up the volume on your hearing aids, but then when switching to other sounds or for a phone call, it would be too loud. For me this is unacceptable and hence I’m looking for other solutions. Since your audiologist fitted you with Phonak she/he is just recommending Phonak’s suggested TV bluetooth transmitter (the Voiis). Mine did the same, but he is being very helpful in trying to find an alternative solution. I’ll keep you informed when we find something. I do like the Phonak Exelia Art HA though. Another question: Since you listen to music via a patch cord from your PC speakers to the iCom have you noticed (and been bothered by) the shutdown/startup “beeps” at the end/beginning of every track? I’m finding this distracting, to say the least….
    Re: bluetooth on the iPhone for music playback, I’ve found most bluetooth stereo music quality to be very poor. It’s fine for voice and TV dialogue, but many (like I) find it unacceptable for music. I’d be interested in hearing Jasmine’s experience with her iPhone…


  16. 16 Refined Designer June 23, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    @Ted Makes sense that the audiologist is pushing for the products that they sell. Key is to get one like yours and mine who are both willing to go outside of that realm and cater to the customer, not the vendor.

    Yes, it can get very annoying with the beeps, which virtually shuts down the audio for a split second. For me, most of the time, it doesn’t shutdown/start for each song. However, it definitely does if something in the room is loud enough for the hearing aid to recognize that I should probably be listening to it rather than the song (i.e. someone comes up behind me). Also, I remember that if you burn c.d’s you can specify if you want a one-second lapse between each song. May be something like that causing it for each song? Who knows. 🙂

    You’re so right regarding the bluetooth music. My coworker also warned me against the “grainy” quality of sound, which he predicts won’t really pull together for a few more years. Music quality is just too sophisticated for the phone at this point, unfortunately.

    Stay in touch!

  17. 17 Refined Designer June 24, 2009 at 11:16 am

    @Ted I saw my audiologist today and regarding the Phonak Voiis, he had no idea that it had been received so poorly. He said prior to the Voiis coming out, he had recommended Sony’s Bluetooth Transmitter and Receiver for about $80.00. Might be worth a shot for watching TV. Let me know how it works out for you.

  18. 18 Henry Rosenbau July 1, 2009 at 6:55 am

    I have use the Phonak Naida IX UP hearing aids. I also have the same problem with low volume. I also have a second problem: because TV use a surround sound system for my wife, I get a delay between the Voiis and the surround system which causes an echo rendering the device useless. A work around solution is using earphones for my wife attached to the surround sound system. This cuts our the speakers. Any ideas on a better fix?

  19. 19 digitrix6 July 2, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    This is a great post, thanks for sharing your experience. I am 37 and have worn hearing aids for more than 25 years. Next week I am going to purchase a new pair of Bluetooth hearing aids. I am going to test out both the Phonak Exelia and the Oticon Epoq. Bluetooth is my #1 must have feature, because I want to be able to talk on the phone and listen to music through my hearing aids.

    Can you tell me more about these “beeps” that you hear between songs? That’s only when you are listening through wires, not through Bluetooth? But you do that because the audio quality with Bluetooth when listening to music just isn’t good enough? I’d really like to know more, as I’m buying these next week and want to prepare myself to be disappointed if it’s not going to be as great as I’m imagining 🙂

  20. 20 Henry Rosenbau July 6, 2009 at 7:10 am

    Have found away to increase the power / volume of the Voiis. There are several inline amps on line such as the: Icombi 3.5mm Bluetooth Dongle Audio Adapter ($60). Draw back is they are either powered by battery or bluetooth. So you need a way to recharg every 8 hours or so.

    The second solution which is the route I am a taking is the : Behringer Xenyx 502 Mixer (($45 on Amazon). It is designed for mixing music and bands. You have selectable two sources .e.g. TV and DVD. The voulume is unlimited. It plugs into the wall and you never have to recharge.

  21. 21 Theodore Groves July 6, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Thanks, Henry and Kristin, for the info and tips. I’ll look into the Behringer Xenyx 502 Mixer. Right now I’m trying out the Motorola DC800 Bluetooth Home Stereo Adapter. It also doesn’t have a volume control, but the volume is higher than that of the Voiis and is acceptable. However I would like to be able to control the volume directly. Also, like Henry mentioned with the Voiis, there’s a slight delay in the sound which makes it impossible to use both the bluetooth sound to my hearing aids and the regular TV sound for my wife simultaneously. I tried to get my wife the recommended Motorola bluetooth headphones, HT820, but they seem to be out of stock everywhere except at outlets charging double the retail price. I haven’t investigated alternative bluetooth headphones yet. Anyone know of good ones? Unfortunately I don’t know of any other solution to the “delay” problem.

    I found an answer to my earlier question about using the Siemens Tek bluetooth transmitter (which has a volume control) with the Phonak iCom receiver. It seems to be “no way”, at least until someone figures out how to “hack” the device. The Siemens Tex transmitter comes already paired to their receiver — they tout this as a “feature” — and they won’t disclose the pairing ID number so you can pair it to a receiver of your choice. This seems deliberate.

    For digitrix6: Good news. For the Phonak iCom (w/ my Exelia Art HAs) the “beep” between songs while listening to music patched from, say, an MP3 player to the iCom can be eliminated. Lightly touching the on/off button on the iCom, once the music starts playing, disables the “automatic” on/off cycle that would occur at the end of each track. My audiologist got this info direct from Phonak — it wasn’t in the consumer user guide. Good luck and let us know what you discover.

  22. 22 Theodore Groves July 6, 2009 at 11:36 am

    For Karen McGrane (digitrix6). Yes, I’ve found music transmitted by bluetooth to be of unacceptable quality. Patching directly from an MP3 player or the speaker headphone jack to the Phonak iCom device works well with my Phonak Exelia Art HAs. The iCom device is extra — a bit pricey — but well worth it for both the “hands free” cell phone operation (I can now have intelligible cell phone conversations) and for listening to music without bulky headphones.

    My previous post mentioned the solution to the inter-track “beep” problem I experienced when I first got my HAs.

    Good luck!

  23. 23 Henry Rosenbau July 14, 2009 at 6:57 am

    I am having all kinds of problem getting my iCom to work with the Bluetooth found on the Apple iMac. After pairing it works, but if I exit all programs and then come back the connection is gone and I cannot get it restarted. Any ideas?

  24. 24 Theodore Groves July 14, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I believe you can get the connection back by going into the System Preferences –> Sound and then reselect the audio output again. But, I don’t use the Mac Bluetooth connection since the music quality is so poor over Bluetooth. I use the direct (i.e. patch cord) “MP3” connection between my Mac speakers and the iCom. That works well, but, of course, you’re tethered to the computer. BTW, I also find that the iCom’s battery life is not too long if I use it listening to music so I (contrary to the instructions) also plug the charger into the iCom while listening.

    Yesterday the Behringer Xenyx502 Mixer that you recommended arrived and I believe it will solve my TV volume problem. In fact the delay between the mixer + Motorola DC800 bluetooth transmitter and the TV sound is so slight that at the volume of the TV my wife requires doesn’t bother my listening via my hearing aids. The Xenyx502 Mixer seems a bit over-kill with the blue LED and all the other knobs and connections, though. Thanks much for the suggestion.

  25. 25 Henry Rosenbau July 23, 2009 at 6:14 am

    Just wondering if anyone has had problems using the Phonak iCom with an iMac computer? I can get the computer to recognize the iCom, but after pairing there is no connection. I know I can use a 3.5mm wire connection but would really like to enjoy the wireless function.

  26. 26 Theodore Groves July 23, 2009 at 11:26 am


    Once you have completed the pairing of the iCom to your iMac, go to the Sound menu on System Preferences and select the output tab. You should see both iCom Bluetooth Headset and iCom Bluetooth Headphones. Select either one and you should then be connected. I’m presently listening to music on my MacBook through my iCom Bluetooth Connection after having done precisely as I described.

    Good luck!

  27. 27 ash August 3, 2009 at 12:18 am

    im 14 and have had an hearin aid since i was 5 and got told today by my ear docter im getting one is the fm radio built in?

  28. 28 Refined Designer August 3, 2009 at 4:55 am

    @ash I know it may seem intimidating to have to step out of your comfort zone with a new hearing aid, but I’m pretty sure we can all tell you that you are making the right move! Best of luck, keep us posted 🙂

  29. 29 Don Cheek August 5, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    For Theordore Groves;

    I was just fitted with Phonak Exelia Art BTE’s and am having great results. I use the I-Com with a Verizon Blackberry (Storm) and have great results with the bluetooth feature. I get binaural stereo and my speech recognition has improved significantly. I had been experimenting with 3.5 connector cabling from my laptop to the I-Com (for Video CD’s and internet re-plays of TV shows) and experienced much better speech recognition especially in shows with a lot of background noise/music. My audi just set me up with a Phonak Smartlink FM system paired with the I-Com and it is giving me unbelievable results with the TV. Run a Y-cable from the auido out (L & R) and plug in the Smartlink transmitter. The FM receiver button plugs into the I-Com and you are completely wireless FM transmission. No delay, great sound, and great range. I can walk out of the house aand down into the woods (I’ve been as far as a couple of hundred feet away) and still have TV audio clear as a bell. It is a bit expensive but the results are a huge quality of life improvement. I love the system.

  30. 30 Refined Designer August 6, 2009 at 6:10 am

    @Don Sounds like your experience has been pretty great with the Phonak system. Having these accessories makes it feel like wearing hearing aids is a cool thing now.

  31. 31 Henry Rosenbaum August 6, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Don… I like to advise you of the Phonak Telcom. This is a FM device which you can use with you new aids. The Telcom plugs into the home power. It can be hooked to the TV and telephone. When the phone rings and is picked up the TV is cut out and you hear the phone. I have mine hooked directly to the cable box. Therefore, I can get news or music any time by just have the box on the right channel and switching to the FM setting. I have a Telcom at both work and home. It is great. Unfortunately, Phonak will stop producing these as they move to Bluetooh. Check it out:

  32. 32 Theodore Groves August 6, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    For Don Cheek,

    Many thanks for the comments and info. I’ll ask my audiologist about the Smartlink FM system and give it a try, although my current bluetooth arrangement is more or less satisfactory….

  33. 33 Don Cheek August 6, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Theodore, This is the first time I have posted anything but I did want to share my experience because it has really been a quality of life change for me. I have been very pleased with the bluetooth from my Blackberry, but the FM with the TV is great. I can watch TV now without closed captions and feel like I am understanding the bulk of the dialogue – and that is quite a change. My wife loves it! The cost is steep but results are great. I guess I have gotten a bit compulsive looking for other discussions on line regarding the same equipment I am using. I was wearing Resound Azures until Jan of this year, and the VA put me in Phonak Naida V’s for the Sound Recover feature. When Sound Recover came out on the Exelia Arts he switched me to them and so far I am very pleased.

  34. 34 Don Cheek August 7, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Henry, Thanks for the info. I will look into that. Landline phones are still a problem for me, although the “duophone” feature on the Exelia Arts seems to help some. Thanks to all for the information you are sharing!

  35. 35 bobh September 25, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I just purchased my first set of hearing aids, I am 57 years old and medium upper range loss, whatever that really means, my audiologist informed there was no such device as a blue tooth hearing aid, boy am I a sucker.

    She sold the Starkey S series 5 model, these having been my first I cannot tell you if they are good or bad, but I can tell you in my conversations with Starkey support they do not intend on making or supporting Blue tooth devices…

    I feel like I was mislead, even though I should have done some research on my own.

    I am looking at Siemens Pure as possible replacement, any recommendations?

  36. 36 Refined Designer September 25, 2009 at 11:57 am

    @bobh So sorry to hear that you were misled by your audiologist. I currently use the Phonak exelia and absolutely love them. See what others have said through this “forum.” I can’t vouch for anything else as I haven’t tried anything, but perhaps someone else can chime in with their recommendations. Best of luck!

  37. 37 dan October 24, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Hi, I am learning as much as possible about hearing aids and Bluetooth as well. I guess you could call me a pre-boomer, I am 71 with dwindling hearing. Got tired of losing out on conversation (my sister-in-law is a ‘soft Sally’ speaker and I had given up on hearing her), and had begun to tune out on conversations around me.

    I visited three different hearing specialists and settled on one who has provided me with the Phonak “Aude’o YES”, a BTE ear device. (This is not meant to be commercial for Phonak, it just happens to be the product sold by the specialist I chose.)

    This coming Monday I go in to purchase and setup an iCOM device with my new hearing aids. From what I have read, I am looking forward to the features of the iCOM.

    In addition, I have been searching for a device I will call a “car stereo Bluetooth transmitter”. Using that title I searched on the web and found the IOGear GMBA211. It is modestly priced and operates on a rechargeable battery. I plan to plug it into my car’s after market add in XM receiver. It should then transmit in Bluetooth mode to my hearing aids via the iCOM. According to the iCOM specs my phone can be prioritized so that an incoming or outgoing call will mute the stereo input.

    I am excited about the possibilities of these new digital hearing aids and Bluetooth. I have a Bluetooth adapter on my laptop also, so I can listen throughout the house to my choice of music or whatever without disturbing others.

    I sure hope all this works, and I will let you know how it goes if you are interested.

    Glad I found your blog.


  38. 38 Scott November 9, 2009 at 6:43 am

    I’m an audiologist and can add a bit of insight to the Bluetooth/Hearing aid selection process.
    Currently the manufacturers making Bluetooth connective hearing aids are: Oticon, Siemens, Phonak, and Unitron. Until recently Bluetooth capability was found on only the high end hearing aids. Unitron’s new devices, the Latitude series, offers BT connectivity at low to mid price ranges as well ($3000/pr and up). Unitron is actually a sister company of Phonak so they are using the same iComn device.
    All 4 of these manufacturers are strong manufacturers with a dedication to research and development.

    I like certain features of each manufacturers BT offerings; I’d love to be able to mix and match each to come up with one super BT connection to the hearing aids. That said, I think the offerings from Phonak-Unitron and that from Oticon are the leaders. Their connectivity is more intuitive and seems to work well. To me the Unitron gets my first look because I can select less expensive devices if your hearing needs are less complex.

    To the gentleman who just purchased Starkey hearing aids, go back to your audiologist and explain your dissatisfaction. We want satisfied and happy people and oftentimes the audiologist will go the extra mile to make that happen.


  39. 39 dan November 9, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Here’s an update on my findings with Bluetooth and hearing aids..

    I have the Phonak and iCom combination. For phone calls it is great. I can hear the sender very well, and they tell me they can hear me well also. Using my Bluetooth transmitter in my laptop for music, I have plenty of volume. Down side is lack of bass response. Also, although the Bluetooth xmitter in my laptop claims to have 33 ft. of range and will transmit through walls, it does not transmit well through humans. With the iCom on my chest, if I walk away from the xmitter I loose signal within about 10 feet. If I turn and face the source I get good reception.

    I received today an IOGEAR GBMA211 Bluetooth transmitter. It is a compact, light weight device with a 3.5mm audio connector. It comes with an AC charger for U.S. and European power. It also has a USB cable for charging directly from a computer.

    I have tried it successfully from my laptop, desktop and XM receiver in my car.

    Unfortunately, I may have a bad unit, but I cannot get much volume from it. I must have my computer volume up all the way to get any decent volume. Likewise my XM volume out is max’d and is still weak and is distorted.

    While listening to music on the IOGEAR transmitter, I placed a phone call. My iCom muted the music for the duration of the call, then unmuted the music following hang up, so that works quite well.

    So everything works as intended, but the IOGEAR does not have enough volume to be useful. Tomorrow I will call IOGEAR to see if perhaps I have a bad unit. I find it hard to believe the volume would be so low.


  40. 40 Molly Guers November 15, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    I am a 50 year old and have been wearing hearing aids since I was 7 years old. I am recently trying out the new Phonak Exelia Art hearing aids with iCom. I love them so far. It works great on my LG Dare cell phone and iPod. I am trying to connect to my land phone which has the Bluetooth compatibilty. I haven’t tried the TV yet. I was wondering what is the best way to connect to the TV and the land phone( I have the AT & T Bluetooth cordless phone).

  41. 41 Jay November 30, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Re: Bluetooth A2DP (audio only) transmitters

    ***Remember Phonak iCom and Unitron uDirect users – if you tap on the power button you can lock the device to stay on audio mode so that you don’t get the beeps in between songs and pauses.***

    The VOIIS has been reported to be on the soft side. I found that IO Gear and Morotola work well. All are under $100. Keep your receipt from Best Buy or Radio Shack and return it if it’s not loud enough.

    The slight delay is still there because that is a limitation of Bluetooth technology when using in audio-visual format. There is a tradeoff between sound quality and speed due to the size of information transfer. It’s a matter of preference.

    About 30 feet is typical for this class of Bluetooth. It’s usually sufficient for most people.

    FM (old name, new game)
    This older non-Bluetooth approach is still very much current and offers four huge advantages over Bluetooth: 1) no delay (less than 20 ms so you cannot tell); 2) greater range (up to 100 ft); 3) cosmetically appealing (can be incorporated into hearing aids/cochlear implants directly); and 4) you can take the microphone whereever you want (car, restaurant, TV, etc.). The drawbacks are the cost and the fact that you only get a mono signal (same info going to both ears). It is my first choice for everything except listening to music when I am not moving around (gym, sports, etc.)

    Re: handsfree (cell phones) or headset profiles (landline)

    These are both 2-way approaches to communicate via phone. I use all profiles on both devices: Phonak Smartlink+ and Phonak iCom. The Smartlink+ is a combination of Bluetooth to FM. The iCom is Bluetooth to digital induction. Both work very well. The problem that many people have, especially with iPhones, is understanding which profile they are using. It is understandable because phones do so much now (music and phone calls).

    Hope this helps!

  42. 42 Refined Designer November 30, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Fantastic insight, Jay. Thanks!

  43. 43 Molly Guers November 30, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Thanks, Jay!! For all the info. I’m learning all about bluetooth devices. I would like to know what kind of IOGear and Motorola devices to get. I want to make sure I get the right one.

  44. 44 dan November 30, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Jay, Thanks for that synopsis on different Bluetooth devices. At my Audiologist’s request I tried out the Voiis device over a weekend. It has a 100 meter range, compared to the IOGEAR’s 10 meter range. I found it worked better around home. The 10 meter devices’ signal is too weak to go through the human body. If I turned my back to the source, typically my laptop, I lost the signal, and music. The Voiis on the other hand has enough signal to provide continous listening throughout my home.

    Also, the IOGEAR uses a rechargeable battery and is more transportable, and can therefore be used in the car. The Voiis is an AC operated device with no battery.


  45. 45 Molly Guers November 30, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I just got the Phonak Exelia ART BTE hearing aids, I absolutely love them.. I also use the iCom with the iPod. However, I am having trouble finding the best bluetooth transmitter for the TV to use with the iCom. I’m getting mixed meassages and I also need to see how it’s set up. Is there a website that I can see and read about it?

  46. 46 Peter Staats January 20, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    The answer to affordable hearing aids is not insurance coverage. Sure hearing aids are expensive. That is largely a result of FDA restrictions that assure a lack of competition in the dispensing of hearing aid services. If over-the-counter hearing aids could be sold freely, then entrepreneurs would develop techniques for matching them to your hearing deficit without the need for the audiologist monopoly. Insurance coverage would only allow providers to raise hearing aid prices even more, as has happened in other health care arenas.

  47. 47 Richard January 21, 2010 at 1:26 am


    I am 41 and about to get a 2nd hearing aid. Right now I am using a Widex hearing aid but want to convert to something for both ears and the Bluetooth capability is a huge plus for me.

    I have some newbie questions as I am doing research:

    1. Do you actually have to wear the iCom or can it just be sitting on the table next to you?

    2. Are there advantages/ disadvantages to particular models of bluetooth hearing aids or is the technology really the same and it just comes down to style/ preference?

    3. I feel like I am getting mixed signals in the reviews of connecting to the TV regarding Iogear, Motorola, and VOIS (I do understand this one has sound issues). I do get annoyed by delayed sound with lips not in sync so I am totally confused which one might be best with my preferences.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences. This has been really helpful in understanding all the technolgy

  48. 48 Marion January 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Just got my Phonak Audeo IX about two hours ago. I have been wearing one hearing aid (in canal) for about 10 years now- but have upgraded to two. Very interested in the iCom as I have an iphone and have already made a test call and very difficult to hear with my new aids. Have not tried a regular phone yet. I had very little difficulty with phone with just my old aid.

  49. 49 dan January 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm


    I did some earlier posting regarding Bluetooth and hearing aids.

    1. Do you actually have to wear the iCom or can it just be sitting on the table next to you?

    —I have the Phonak Audeo’ YES aids. I purchased the iCom and found it works well with my aids. However, just like any computer driven device, I have had to reset it once over a three month period. The iCom contains the Bluetooth coder/decoder that couples to you phone or other Bluetooth devices. What appears to be a plastic loop that goes around your neck is actually an insulated wire. It serves not only to retain the iCom, but the wire loop inductively couples into the aids. Laying on a table or desk, it will not couple to the aids.

    2. Are there advantages/ disadvantages to particular models of bluetooth hearing aids or is the technology really the same and it just comes down to style/ preference?

    —I can’t answer that. Once I determined newer digital aids have Bluetooth I then selected what I believed to be the best aid with support. My audiologist provides great support and batteries at his cost. That is important to me.

    3. I feel like I am getting mixed signals in the reviews of connecting to the TV regarding Iogear, Motorola, and VOIS (I do understand this one has sound issues). I do get annoyed by delayed sound with lips not in sync so I am totally confused which one might be best with my preferences.

    —I tried the Vois and it seemed to work quite well. I was able to walk throughout my house with no loss of signal. It is 110 Volt AC driven and not portable. The audio sounded fine to me on my Phonak aids. I did not pay attention to possible voice delay or lips not in sync, so I can’t address that issue. The IoGear works fine for me with no lip sync problem. It has a rechargable battery. It has a weak signal and will not pass well through the human body. So, as long as I face the source (TV, Laptop or stereo) I’m ok. But as soon as I walk away with my back to the source I begin loosing signal within 10 feet. Facing the IoGear I can be as much as 30 feet away.


  50. 50 Refined Designer January 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Appreciate the quality of your posts Dan. Thanks for sharing.

  51. 51 Glenn Seymour January 24, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    have just ordered the Phonak Exelia with the icom device. Have not received them yet.
    I have an interest in learning to play a keyboard and sing. Am looking for a microphone that will work with the blue tooth capability of the hearing Phonak aids . ie I have never been able to hear myself sing so I am hoping this will help ie like the singers I often listen to
    Anyone have any experience with this or suggestions for a microphone and transmitter that will work with the Phonak aids.

    thanks in advance.

    Glenn Seymour
    919 624 7022

  52. 52 Jean February 8, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I have had great sucess with the Phonak Audeo Yes hearing aids and the ICOM when used with my work telephone and Jabra A7010 handsfree interface. Bought the at&t EP5632 digital, bluetooth, cordless for home phone. Pairing goes fine, but the 0000 code does not work as I get no sound. Anyone ideas appreciated.

  53. 53 dan February 8, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    You may have already gone through the routine, but with my laptop I had the same issue. I just kept trying and trying including rebooting the laptop and reseting the iCom. Turning on one then the other, then try reversing the procedure. I finally got it to work, but I cannot tell you why or how. Some devices will not request the code, some will. I did find that once the code is accepted, the code is never requested again.

    Maybe someone has a good procedure, but my advice is just keep trying all combinations you can think of.

    Good luck,

  54. 54 WiSnooky March 26, 2010 at 11:41 am

    For those of you interested in a good performing Bluetooth hearing aid solution I can say for sure to stay away from the Siemens Tek Connect.

    I have had hearing problems all my life and at 33 I decided to do something about it. No doubt this was delayed due to horrible insurance companies that could care less if we hear anything! (STILL ANGRY) So the audiologist and I spent some time talking about possible solutions and in the end I went with the Siemens Pure 500 and the Tek Connect.

    While the Pure 500’s have seemed to perform wonderfully I have had a horrible experience with the Tek Connect. It seems to freeze in the Bluetooth mode and remain on that channel even after the call has ended. I had it replaced and the very next morning the new one out of the box did the same thing. This part is very important to me since I am a sales rep for a technology company. I am on the phone way more than the average person. I have spent about $4000 and I barely wear the hearing aids since they seem to impede my ability to work instead of easing it. It seems that this is a great concept that is in great need of improvement.

    Does anyone have any Bluetooth pairing device that works well? Does the iCom truly perform? If you use the iCom, do you make a lot of calls? Lastly, does anyone know if it is compatible with Siemens Pure series?

    @bobh, I feel badly for you since at least my Audiologist drove me away from the Starky’s once we started talking about Bluetooth. I promise I will share any good devices I find here…and believe me I will find it!!!

  55. 55 Peg April 27, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Am a 50 year old that has worn hearing aids since I was 23. My hearing loss is a genetic condition, and is getting worse and worse. I tried Oticon Bluetooth hearing aids with a neck loop back in November before Thanksgiving. I did not care for the unnatural sound that they emitted. I have been wearing Sonic Innovation Natura 2SEs for about 9 years now. These were the first aids that my ears just seemed to “open up” to. They just sounded so natural. But, alas, my loss has gotten so much worse, that even with the aids in, I cannot “understand” much of what is being said.

    My audiologyst informed me that April is the month that hearing aid companies introduce their latest models of hearing aids. Has anyone been to their audiologyst within this month and been able to test out some latest aids?

    I really want to get a bluetooth that I can use with my cell phone, MP3 player and one that I can use with a TV, as well. I presently use a wi-fi with my TV. My problem with this, is that I need my hearing aids on under the headset to hear. The headset does not have a high enough volume for me to listen comfortably.

    Thanks for any help on these matters.


  56. 56 Colin April 28, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Hi, I have just read this entire blog post and cannot see why these hearing aids are classified as “bluetooth”, i.e. if they depend on having the iCom or similar device hanging round your neck, then surely they are working off normal induction loop principals (and not bluetooth). I can see how the bluetooth connection goes from cell phone or A/V equipment to the iCom, but the signal must thenm be transferred into the hearing aid by normal induction methods! Maybe I’m missing something here! I live in the UK and have a free digital hearing aid as provided by our national health service… I can use this with any bluetooth neckloop and pair that to a cell phone etc!

    I’m lost… Also, I just tried investigating more about these Phonak aids and EVERY single Phonak site is down (page cannot be found.. URL does not exist etc).

  57. 57 Nancy Hale April 30, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I just purchased new hearing aids form Resound. I have been searching for something to help me in phone communications. Can this icom work with my aids? Where can I get it?
    Thank you

  58. 58 Peg May 1, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I, myself, would go to my audiologist and confir with her about the ICOM. I know that through her I can have her demonstrate the device with my particular hearing aids (and hearing loss) and I generally get a 7 to 10 day trial period in which to use the device in many circumstances.

    Good luck with it and keep us posted. I’m going in to my audiologist in a month or so. She told me she was having some reps from different companies coming in for demonstrations of new products.

    So I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  59. 59 Jamie Nielsen May 12, 2010 at 1:34 am

    Does anyone know if there is somewhere to find a used hearing aid. I can’t afford a new one and don’t even know if people sell their old hearing aids but I need one badly. Also, what might people charge for a hearing that they don’t use anymore?


  60. 60 Chuck October 23, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Hi Kristen, thanks for your info. I was trying to see what to do about my hearing aids connecting to bluetooth, etc., and my Googling about found your website’s posting. Nice site!
    As to the insurance coverage dilemna, I too was pretty mad at the government(s) and medical powers that be, for protecting this industry that charges SO much for what should be, esp. in this age, much more cheaply available. So this was a major peeve of mine also. Now I believe that the real problem is with a lot of manufacturers and resellers’ cartel on these ‘medical’ devices (which should be produced more cheaply ‘en masse’, just like eyeglasses, since there are so many folks out there who need them.)
    So I have better news for you: I found this year that CostCo wholesaling company has a ‘relabel’ or their own generic brand name (Kirkland) hearing aids, several varieties, selling for probably 1/2 or less than the usual commercial aid costs. I ended up buying what probably are the equivalent of Siemens Pure 700 series for $1000 each. I think they work pretty well, and the audiology services seem standard for the life of the aids. They are warrantied, etc. So this appears to be an excellent deal. Others companies (Sears?) may be doing the same as Costco — but I’m not sure.
    Also, this year (for first time) my company’s PPO insurance (in its premier year as the exclusive plan our company) policy paid for up to 1000 apiece for 2 hearing aids (that’s 2000 total). Unfortunately, their “preferred provider” list didn’t include Costco. It only had one service that charged over twice the Costco price. The Costco aids were “out of network”, so I lost out on “network” deductibles that would have covered most of the cost. The “out of network” deductible cost me $1500, which was about the full cost, but I managed to be reimbursed for the remaining 500 or so at a 65% reimbursement rate — amounting to about 300.
    In hindsight, the best news is that Costco & Siemens (and other aid mfrs.) are going the “rebranding” route, that may save many needy people a lot of money. Maybe if we pass this news on, the movement will grow! There are a lot of folks who really need them to ‘survive’, including many facing age-related hearing loss. God bless, Chuck

  61. 61 dan December 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Well, it’s been a year since I purchased my Phonak Audeo Yes aids, and iCom. This is synopsis of the past year.

    First, as electronic devices they occasionally require re-booting. I, as a retired Electrical Engineer can live with, and expect that. Thus no problem.

    Second, I have been to my Audiologist at least twice per month over the past year. The volume was to great, it was too low, left and right ears are not balanced in volume. Plus, the icom volume and my iogear volumes are adjusted seperately, and are still not adjusted properly. (This AM I listened to a CD on my laptop while reading email. Both the iogear and direct connect methods are out of balance.)

    The year started out well, and I was so happy with increased listenability, I had them adjusted for more. Then that turned out to be too much, and I had them adjusted for less. And, each time I had to bring my Bluetooth devices with me to have seperate adjustments made for them. Then I started hearing clicking sounds on loud volumes. My Audiologist did what he could to solve the problem including a new aid on the right side. But, they clicking has persisted. Now even moderate volumes, particularly with the icom, iogear and direct connect produce the clicks. The Audiologist asked if I had tinitus (sp), which I do. She surmised that was the problem. That was a month ago. I left they audiologist office rather upset I hadn’t been asked that before. But then, it doesn’t really matter because I KNOW it is not tinitus, it is the Phonaks saturating, thus producing the clicking on volume peaks.

    The Phonaks are robust (I’ve taken them in the shower, in dust, rain etc.). However, they do not get the battery life stated. I do well to get 4 days per battery. The clicking is beginning to greatly disturb me and I am going in again to discuss the issue. If necessary I will contact the manufacturer. For $3,600 I expect much better performance than I am getting.

    I realize these are aids, and not correcting devices like eyeglasses. But I did expect much better than I am getting.

    And one more thing. I simply cannot understand our TVs. I have gone to direct connect to my icom or stereo headphones in order to understand TV speech.

    In summary I am frustrated with results. I believe a solution is to provide software with hearing aids so users can make their own adjustments as needed. Adjustments made in the quiet Audiologist’s office simply don’t make it. Invariably I leave and realize by the time I get home (a 20 mile drive) they are not adjusted satisfactorily.

    Sorry to sound negative, but I could have gotten more satisfaction from the purchase of a CRX than I have with these aids.

    All that said, I am going to make yet another appointment today. Please wish me luck. I need it.


  62. 62 R3 December 8, 2010 at 12:31 pm


    Thanks for the “person who uses them” review. Agreed to the point of saying it out loud when you mentioned the problems of TV watching. Beyond the simple frustration issues, I’m perplexed as to the way the hard of hearing & deaf communities are outright ignored by seemingly every video manufacturer.

    For over a year I’ve been dealing with issues concerning lack of captioning on several setups; I discovered a short time back that HDMI cabling does not carry CC coding — it was just plain left out of the specs, according to what I’ve read. That dumbfounds me that something so critical could be so blatantly overlooked. I guess no one with hearing issues is on the committee.

    There’s also the issue of subtitling; I’d really like to see an amendment to the ADA that states that no video product can be sold in the USA without a true subtitle track. (I know that’s a can of worms, because I’m only thinking of English subtitles, and we’re quite the melting pot in terms of language. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t been tackled yet.)

    A&E video is the worst offender; they sell a lot of BBC-origin programming in the US. They do not offer subtitles on the great majority of these releases. I once called them about it; their operator was quite rude, asking me how I could call her on the telephone if I was deaf? This was followed by the question that, if I wasn’t deaf, what did I need subtitles for?

    FWIW, Acorn Media now has the release rights to several of the series A&E used to sell, and they are slowly releasing new sets with SDH (subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired).

  63. 63 Karen Cristanelli February 16, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Is there any way to get the land line phones @ my job thru my bluetooth hearing aide @ work?? Please help I’m afraid I will lose my job and I can’t here on the phones I am suppose to answer. These are on a rotary system and I am no the only perosn answering these lines.

  64. 64 deejayq February 22, 2011 at 2:49 am

    I hope I’m not too late to respond to “Colin” from the UK, who posted last April. I only just found this forum the other day. But my comment is to confirm for him and everyone reading that calling these or any hearing aids currently on the market (Feb. 2011) “bluetooth compatible” is something of a marketing ploy and is technically incorrect. NO current hearing aids have true bluetooth reception and processing built into the hearing aid itself. That means yes: they require the Phonak iCom or similar devices. Just today, I attended a “free Lunch & Learn event” sponsored by Oticon and my local audiologist, where I quizzed the Oticon rep on this very question. She says it will be quite some time yet before they will be able to build bluetooth into hearing aids directly: if they could do it today, she said, the h-aids would be as large as your fist and could no longer fit behind your ear, let alone inside them. I find that characterization equally hyperbolic, as today’s bluetooth receivers for hearing aids (like this iCom, for example) are already much smaller than your fist. But whatever. On the other hand, my audiologist informs me that another brand of hearing aids, Starkey (which, before today, I had never heard of) ARE apparently working on putting bluetooth right inside the h-aid and could be first-to-market with them before the end of this year. So there ya go. I suppose we must all be patient and see what Starkey, or Phonak or Oticon or whomever come out with next. Hope this helps!

  65. 65 audiologist July 15, 2011 at 6:13 am

    Wow, that’s really cool. I knew the technology was coming; I didn’t know it was here yet. I agree that it’s a shame that health insurance doesn’t cover hearing aids. (I’ve worn them since I was 2 and I’m 30 now. I feel your frustration. I have several people in my life who struggle with hearing loss, which can make it difficult to communicate. The only advice I can give you is to go to an audiologist who will help pick the right hearing aid for your cousin’s level of hearing loss. I own the Phonic Exelia and absolutely love it. In fact, I’m currently listening to music at work. Through my computer speakers on, which is connected to my iCom through an audio cable? Talk about convenience! Best of luck, Marguerite.

  66. 66 Rev Wazoo September 4, 2011 at 9:28 am


    Sounds like many here would have valuable input and perhaps interest in the device/ connection of devices I’m interested in.

    issue: an audiologist will certainly help pick the right hearing aid for you but still has to average all the sound situations you will be in. Simple volume presets are insufficient as different environments present different challenges and really require different filtering and boosting.

    I want a hearing aid with an adjustable equalizer on which I can save, say, 10 presets which work best for me in various situations from crowded restaurants with clattering silverware to booming ocean surf to crowded pub hubbub. I could select one I’ve saved or fine-tune the equalizer on the spot to current circumstances.

    This is where smartphones’ pre-processing of audio should come in and indeed I’ve stumbled across something might be a start though haven’t tried it yet.

    SoundAmp (iPhone app)
    claims to do some of this though only to your earphones. It says it also includes instant playback of 5 to 30 seconds as well. If it could also transmit to your hearing aid then we’d be most of the way there.

    Anyone tried SoundAmp? If so, is it also possible to send it to a hearing aid?

    Then, with my phone on the table in front of me in restaurant or pub, or on my belt/in waistcoat pocket/shoulder strap etc when standing (or, indeed, plug in a microphone and clip it to me where best able to pick-up the voice of the people I’m talking with) I could utilize all the processing power and adjustability of an iphone (a small computer built for audio processing after all) which a hearing aid by itself will never rival.

    Any thoughts and info would be welcome.

  67. 67 Aaron October 5, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I am a hearing aid user who recently had a problem with the powerone batteries (size 13 , 1.5V @ 310 mAh) the whole 60 in the Case seem defective ! Then I order another 60 from them and now am having the same problem , especially when I use the icom with my iPod touch via Bluetooth ,some batteries last a few minutes ….Any sugestions? Maybe it’s my hearing aids ? They’re 4 years old

  1. 1 The Buzz On Hearing Aids- New Technology Trackback on February 9, 2009 at 7:57 pm
  2. 2 Level 25 | Claim: allergic to wi-fi Trackback on February 11, 2010 at 12:31 am
  3. 3 Bluetooth and Hearing Aids » Glenna Mendez Trackback on March 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm

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