Clearing Up Confusion About iPhone Devices and Hearing Aids

Jennifer Groth, ReSoundBy Jennifer Groth

There has been much buzz in the media recently regarding “Made for iPhone” hearing aids, much of it generated by ReSound’s participation in the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where ReSound LiNX was introduced to a wider audience than we typically reach in the hearing aid industry. While  ReSound LiNX is a high performance hearing instrument incorporating Surround Sound by ReSound technologies and wireless connectivity based on the proprietary ReSound 2.4 GHz digital wireless system, it has been getting attention mostly as the first hearing aid to allow direct connection to Apple devices. As we prepare for ReSound LiNX to become broadly available, it seems like a good time to review and hopefully clarify different ways that hearing aid wearers can interact with iPhone devices. Although other exciting audio streaming and data exchange-based features are possible with ReSound LiNX, the current discussion is limited to phone usage.

Use the phone with no special accessories and no digital wireless connections by holding the phone up to your hearing instrument microphone (acoustic coupling) or setting your hearing instrument to telecoil (inductive coupling).

The iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 are compatible with cell phones in accordance with FCC requirements. Depending on the particular model, they either have M3 or M4 ratings for acoustic coupling, and T4 ratings for inductive coupling. The rating may also be dependent on whether you have activated “Hearing Aid Mode”.

“Hearing Aid Mode” can be activated by choosing “Hearing Aid” in the “Hearing” section of the iPhone device’s “Accessibility” menu. If you have an iPhone 4, Hearing Aid Mode will reduce transmission power of the cellular radio and can result in better sound quality for acoustic coupling. If you have an iPhone 5, iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c, Hearing Aid Mode modifies the acoustic settings of the phone to improve sound quality for inductive coupling. Note that Hearing Aid Mode does not result in any kind of data exchange or streaming to the hearing aids, and is appropriate to use with any brand, style or model of hearing aid. It is not related to “Made for iPhone” functionality.

chart1
Receive the phone signal via a wireless phone accessory or streamer that connects to the phone via Bluetooth.
Apart from the hands-free convenience, a great advantage of this in terms of hearing is that the signal is received in both hearing aids if the individual is bilaterally fit. All hearing instrument manufacturers with digital wireless systems have some kind of device that will do this. For ReSound, this is the Phone Clip+. The accessory or streamer accepts the Bluetooth signal from the phone and converts it to the appropriate wireless signal that can be received by the hearing aids. The Phone Clip+ converts the standard Bluetooth signal to the ReSound proprietary 2.4 GHz digital wireless signal for transmission to the hearing aids. In addition, the accessory must be worn or placed such that a built-in microphone in the accessory can pick up the voice of the hearing aid wearer, convert it to a Bluetooth signal, and transmit it back to the cell phone.

Pairing and connection between the Phone Clip+ (or other manufacturer’s phone accessory/streamer) is handled in the Bluetooth menu of the iPhone.

chart2

Receive the phone signal directly to the hearing instruments with no wireless phone accessory or streamer. This describes what a Made for iPhone hearing instrument can do. Apple has developed a proprietary audio streaming protocol in the 2.4 GHz band that the hearing instrument must be able to tap into in order to receive the phone signal directly. That means that the hearing instrument must have a 2.4 GHz radio, and must also have adopted the communication protocol developed by Apple. iPhone 5, iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c[1] with a minimum iOS version 7.x can communicate with Made for iPhone hearing instruments, of which ReSound LiNX is the first. The hearing aid wearer speaks into the phone itself, so the phone can either be held normally or just placed nearby so that it can pick up the user’s voice. As of today, no cell phone manufacturers other than Apple have made this type of functionality available for hearing instrument manufacturers to connect to.

Pairing and connection between ReSound LiNX and the iPhone is handled in the same “Hearing Aids” screen as the Hearing Aid Mode. When discovered by the iPhone, the ReSound LiNX hearing aids appear in this screen under “Devices”, as shown below. The hearing instrument wearer’s first name as stored in the hearing instruments is shown along with the brand and model of instrument. In this example, a test client named “Aventa” was used, so the ReSound LiNX devices are identified as “Aventa’s Hearing Aids”.

chart3

©2014, Apple and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

Bluetooth is a trademark of Bluetooth SIG, Inc.

[1] Other Apple devices are compatible with Made for iPhone hearing instruments, but we are limiting this discussion to phone use for the sake of simplicity.

This entry was posted in Global Audiology Monthly Column, ReSound Newsletter, Technology Innovation, Wireless and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Clearing Up Confusion About iPhone Devices and Hearing Aids

  1. Mikalai Paulavets says:

    The only actual benefit described in the article, though important, is the elimination of third device while streaming to the phone. Other than that – no revolution has occured.

    • Lorin Gregory says:

      Missing the point, as a person that uses streaming 16 to 18 hour a day, being able to stream with out a additional interface is a big revolution, it means that I don’t have to carry another device, and there is less cost to me to have this added advantage of streaming and understanding conversations on my cell phone and which happens to be one of the worse listening environment

      • how is the battery drain?

      • gnresound says:

        Hi Steven,

        The great thing about the new SmartRange platform is that it allows for even more functionality with no appreciable current drain in normal hearing aid use. Using the Made for iPhone functionality (i.e., streaming music, movies, Face Time or phone calls, etc) will increase the battery drain, dependent on how many hours a day streaming is used. Someone who is wearing ReSound LiNX and using the Made for iPhone streaming functionality will see similar impact on battery life that someone would experience if they were wearing ReSound Verso and using Unite wireless accessories to stream from their Unite TV, Mini Microphone or Phone Clip.

  2. Tim Strini says:

    Yet another breakthrough for COSTCO shoppers.

  3. joy please says:

    Jennifer, thanks for explaining the different ways of using iPhone for hearing. But could not really grasp the 1st mode you mentioned. Holding the phone up to microphone – how is that different ? I mean, my dad uses his non-smartphone Nokia the same way for his phone calls. How is Apple different by being HAC ? Also, did not get the ‘switch on Telecoil’ part ? Do you mean, if the telecoil is switched on, the phone could be away, yet one can hear the call ?

    • gnresound says:

      Holding the telephone up to the hearing aid microphone is not different than what hearing aid users have been doing for decades. The idea is for the sound to be picked up by the microphone in the hearing aid and amplified so the wearer can hear it better. One of the biggest challenges with this way of using the phone is that it tends to make the hearing aids whistle. Even with modern hearing aids that have special processing to manage hearing aid whistling, it can still be problematic. Another problem is that the hearing aid microphone is also picking up other sounds in the environment, and the phone signal may not be strongest one and may also be of relatively poor quality. This means the user has to try to pick out the sound from the phone from whatever else is going on. Finally, for cell phone users, there may be interference from the GSM signal that causes a buzzing in the hearing aids. This latter effect is what the hearing aid compatibility mode in the iPhone 4 models is trying to alleviate. If your dad is able to use his non-smart cell phone successfully like this with his hearing aids, that is wonderful!

      Many hearing aids are equipped with telecoils. The telecoil is basically a tiny metal rod with a coil of wire wrapped around it that can pick up magnetic signals and turn them into an electrical signal that can amplified by the hearing aid and end up as sound in the wearer’s ear canal. The telecoil is most often activated manually by a button or switch on the hearing aid, or it may activate automatically when in the presence of a magnetic field. Telephones that are compatible with hearing aid telecoils produce a magnetic signal that can be picked up by the telecoil. This avoids the whistling issue mentioned above and it also helps shut out extraneous background noise. The magnetic signal emitted from the phone is pretty weak, so you do have to hold the phone up close to the hearing aid to pick it up. For hearing aids that are worn behind-the-ear, it often requires some experimentation to find the right placement of the phone in relation to the hearing aid. For hearing aids that fit inside the ear, you just hold the phone up to the ear normally.

      • Judy T. says:

        So the LiNX does not have a telecoil? That is a big disadvantage for those that need to be able to use a loop, FM or other devices.

      • gnresound says:

        No, the ReSound LiNX does not have a telecoil. It is optimized for size. However, the ReSound LiNX is only the first of many hearing instruments to have digital wireless connectivity to the ReSound Unite accessories and the iPhone. Fully featured hearing instruments with telecoil and direct audio input capability will follow. In the meantime, there are numerous ReSound hearing instruments that have these features if they are preferred over the iPhone connectivity.

      • Judy T. says:

        Thank you for the response. I hope you can come up with both direct wireless and T-coil capability. Some of us need more than cell phone functionality.

  4. DW says:

    You have to use the phone for the microphone? That is a big disadvantage compared to the current Phone Clip+, which I wear on a lanyard, under my shirt. I don’t see this being very popular if it is not hands free.

  5. BC says:

    DW, you are so right concerning the phone as the microphone. I was using a Siemens IC analog aid for 10 years and was way over due for an upgrade. My occupation requires many hours on the cell phone and was looking for a hands free solution. I discovered the Resound Verso and was fitted for them by a very qualified audiologist. Since the release of the Linx was so close to my purchase date my audiologist arranged for an even exchange when the new Linx came available which was just this past week.
    I used the Verso with the phone clip for about a month, other than the clip portion of the phone clip breaking therefore making it necessary to use the lanyard I was thrilled with the convenience and quality of sound from the device.
    I was not aware or was my audiologist that the I phone was the mic for the new Linx, I was given the impression from her that somehow the hearing aid itself had the mic built into it and therefore still completely hands free. Not the case, although the sensitivity of the I phone is very good experimenting with it I have discovered I can be 6-8 feet away from the phone while conversing and the listener can hear me fairly well. But while driving with road noise etc. listeners have difficulty with the phone in a cradle mounted to the dash or in my lap. I have to hold the phone close to my mouth therefore negating the hands free feature.
    I am considering asking for the Verso with phone clip back, it fit into my lifestyle and environment much better.

    • Dusty says:

      Actually, the phone clip will also work with you LiNX, so there’s no reason to step back in technology. You can just add the phone clip.

  6. Steven sommer says:

    What the difference 7 and 9 linx hearing aide

  7. Paul M. Brown says:

    Today my wife purchased a Resource Linx hearing aid and a Resource Unite Mini Microphone. The hearing aide is a great improvement over her older analog hearing aid and the microphone helps her hear people who have soft voices; however, she can not distinguish sounds received by the Linx hearing aid directly from her I-phone 5s. Would the Resource Unite Phone Clip+ work better for her than the direct connection between I-phone and Linx hearing aid? If so, can she use the Phone Clip+ with a Linx hearing aid or does she need to turn the Linx hearing aid in for the Verso (she has 30 days)? Also, it appears that the Resource Control App requires Phone Clip+. Is that correct?

    • gnresound says:

      The sound from the iPhone to the hearing aids would be comparable regardless of whether you use the Phone Clip+ or stream directly from the iPhone to the LiNX hearing aids. In fact, we have evidence suggesting that it may even be a bit better directly from the phone. There are some “tweaks” that can be made to ensure the phone signal is optimum. First of all, the audiologist can check the settings in the listening program that the iPhone comes through. It may be necessary to increase the volume in this program, especially if the hearing aids are being worn with a small eartip that does not close off the ear canal. Secondly, it should be ensured that the hearing aids actually are connecting and streaming from the iPhone. Sometimes the sound is actually coming from the phone’s speaker and, because it is picked up acoustically and amplified by the hearing aids, the user may not realize it. By swiping up from the bottom of the iPhone screen, a menu comes up that lets you select where the sound is output. Obviously a bystander would be able to help tell that the sound is not coming from the iPhone speaker. The buttons on the side of the iPhone can also be used to increase the volume of the signal coming from the iPhone, which can also be helpful. And finally, the volume on the hearing aids can be increased either by triple-clicking the Home button on the iPhone and using the volume sliders, or by downloading and using the volume control in the ReSound Smart app (free at the app store). The ReSound Smart app communicates directly with LiNX from the iPhone. It is true that the ReSound Control app requires the Phone Clip+. However, note that the ReSound Smart app and ReSound Control app have the same remote control functionality, but the ReSound Smart app has additional functionality. Finally, it is possible to use the Phone Clip+ with the LiNX hearing aids if that is preferred.

  8. BC says:

    It was good to find out that the phone clip will work with the Linx and I am thrilled with the new technology of my new Linx hearing aides. But I have experienced a new problem recently and I have an appointment with my audiologist tomorrow, we are going to conference with tech support at ReSound. The problem is since I upgraded my iPhone software to the new 7.1 version the phone will not pair with the Linx aides. It recognizes the aides but will not pair. Hopefully we will get this figured out tomorrow I just hope it’s not a fix or a patch that we will have to wait for from Apple. Have you had any one else with this problem?

  9. george wells says:

    I don’t care what the phone will do can you here people and understand then where there is a lot of noise ?

    • gnresound says:

      Hi George,
      Yes, ReSound LiNX performs very well in background noise. It uses Binaural Directionality, which helps you understand speech in noisy situations by amplifying sounds you need to hear and reducing background noise.

  10. frankeric says:

    Hi Jennifer. I’m on day 3 of Linx 9 and I’m very pleased with the sound. My only complaint and one that will have me return them, is that they stay paired with my iPhone 5c all day and will auto pair if I get out of range. However for the 3rd day something in the evening happens that I can’t live with. When I remove the aids to shower at night then put them back in after 30 minutes to make sure my head is dry, they will not pair at all. I’ve tried opening the battery case and not opening the case. Does not matter. They will not pair until the morning. Then it take all of 15 seconds. What is going on?
    frank

  11. david says:

    Other than the iPhone/iPad, etc. capabilities, is there any difference in sound quality with the Linx as compared to the Verso 5? Price? In other words, if I don’t need the iPhone/Pad wireless function, is there any reason to switch to Linx from Verso?

    • gnresound says:

      Hi David, There are definitely improvements with ReSound LiNX as compared to ReSound Verso. ReSound LiNX has double the processing speed of ReSound Verso, enabling it to analyze the environment and adapt more quickly to the world around you. The sound quality has improved significantly from the Verso even if you’re not looking to use the Made for iPhone functionality. ReSound LiNX also features a new case that is more cosmetic and durable, and additional algorithms & features that increase comfort and speech intelligibility for certain hearing losses. One nice feature of ReSound LiNX is the ability to fine-tune your hearing aids (volume, treble/bass) from your phone. So even if you don’t need to stream audio, the Made for iPhone functionality may be helpful. Please let us know if you’d like more information!

  12. Lydia Murphey says:

    I am confused about using the Iphone as a microphone to assist in noisy settings. How do you use the iphone as a microphone? Do I need to download a microphone app? Once I do that will it stream to my Linx hearing aids.

    • gnresound says:

      Hi Lydia, the microphone functionality is called “Live Listen” and it is part of the iPhone native functionality (meaning you don’t need an app for it). Once your hearing aids are paired to your device, triple click your home button. This will bring up your iPhone hearing aid menu. Underneath your battery life indication at the top you’ll see “Start live Listen.” Click on that and your phone will act as a microphone. Then, you can click “End Live Listen” when you’d like to return to normal functionality. If you still have questions, let us know and we’ll connect you with our customer service who can walk you through the process.

  13. Frank Harwood says:

    Jennifer, My wife just became a Resound LiNX 9 user. We are very happy with the device and the technology is impressive. My questiion pretains to steaming audio such as music using iTunes. Apparently, if audio is being streamed from an iPad (iOS7) it will be received at the LiNX but can not be heard on the iPad. Are we not doing something correctly or is this the way things work. If so, is this a limitation of the iOS7 iPad hearing aid support or something else?

    Thanks, Frank

    • gnresound says:

      Hi Frank, we’re happy to hear that you’re having a good experience with ReSound LiNX! Unfortunately the audio streaming on the iPad works the same as how a regular Bluetooth device would work. If you have the hearing aids paired, the audio will stream directly to them, but not heard via the speakers on the iPad. We hope this answers your question!

  14. Frank Harwood says:

    Thanks for getting back to me on this. I was afraid that was the case!

  15. John S says:

    I have been a Resound LiNX 9 user since they were released and am overall very satisfied. The long awaited Apple IOS 7.1.2 update has resolved my worst complaint. That being the dropped connections to my IPhone 5 requiring me to turn my phone off and back on to restore connection, sometimes multiple times a day. This no longer happens so one big issue resolved. I do have one other issue concerning the streaming option. I don’t always want the streaming option on as I still prefer to use my IPhone in regular mode and use my cars hand free option for calls. I know I can go to the screen on the IPhone and change the output, but this is both difficult and dangerous while driving. The problem is when I turn the two streaming options to off on the IPhone hearing aid screen, they disappear completely and require me to re-pair the the hearing aids to the phone to recover.

    • gnresound says:

      Hi John, we’re happy to hear you’re enjoying your ReSound LiNX! When driving, we suggest that you manually change the Bluetooth connection to your car system before driving away. To do this, swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone screen to access the Control Panel. In AirPlay, change from ReSound LiNX hearing aids to iPhone. Then, you can connect your iPhone to your car Bluetooth system.

      After your drive, you can either go back to AirPlay to connect to your hearing aids. Or, if that doesn’t work, open and close the battery doors on your ReSound LiNX to reboot and they will automatically reconnect to your iPhone. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach back out!

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