Hearing Aid Support on Smartphones and Tablets

By Patrick Baker ~

Persons with Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids and cochlear implants can pair these and other assistive listening devices (ALDs) with smartphones and tablets. This enables hearing-impaired persons to control hearing aids with smartphone apps, answer calls, and enjoy streaming media.

The FDA ruled in 2022 that hearing aids could be sold over the counter, enabling hearing-impaired persons to obtain hearing aids without a prescription. Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids have been available since 2005. Increased use of hearing aids and ALDs has driven demand for improved support on mobile devices – smartphones, tablets, and computers.

The newest versions of mobile operating systems for smartphones and tablets – iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and Android 14 – all claim improved support for hearing aids and other ALDs. macOS Sonoma includes enhanced support for hearing aids on newer Mac computers with Apple processors. Hearing aid support for Windows 11 is still in development.

Numerous hearing aid models have preset programs for different listening environments, such as crowded locations like airports, restaurants, and bars; a high-fidelity music mode; and a preset for telecoil or T-coil systems utilized in classrooms and places of worship, allowing hearing aid users to hear public speakers communicate directly with their listening devices.

Mobile apps and improved integration allow users to view hearing aid settings at a glance, switch between preset listening programs, adjust volume, and fine-tune spoken and streaming sounds. Improved mobile device support enables hearing-impaired persons to utilize streaming news and entertainment apps, listen to music and podcasts, watch TV shows, movies, and other video programming, and stream the sound directly to their hearing devices.

What if you have more than one mobile device to pair with? Apple appears to handle pairing with multiple Apple devices fairly gracefully, enabling users to seamlessly switch between iPad, Mac, and iPhone, depending on which device is using audio. You will need to use the same Apple ID on all devices, and they must be on the same Wi-Fi network.

Anyone with a hybrid setup – a mixture of Apple and Android or other devices – will have to utilize basic Bluetooth hygiene. Some – though not all – Bluetooth devices allow users to pair them with multiple devices simultaneously, such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

However, depending on the model of hearing aids or ALDs you have, you will need to ensure that the hearing aids are paired exclusively with Android devices. This may require turning Bluetooth off or disconnecting the hearing aids from another device’s Bluetooth before connecting them with an Android smartphone, tablet, or Chromebook.

If you pair your smartphone with Bluetooth in your car, you may need to disconnect your hearing aids from your smartphone to take calls through your car’s audio system. 

Here are some troubleshooting tips If the sound from streaming audio and other apps is working intermittently, if you only hear sound in one ear, or if the sound keeps dropping in one or both ears.

  • Make sure you are using the correct listening mode preset on your hearing aids for streaming audio.
  • Turn your smartphone or tablet’s Bluetooth off and back on. Your hearing aids should automatically reconnect.
  • If your hearing aids don’t automatically reconnect, or if you manually disconnected them, go to your mobile device’s Bluetooth settings to pair your hearing aids with your phone or tablet again.
  • Turn your hearing aids off and back on to pair them again with your phone or tablet.
  • Ensure that all of your apps and the device’s operating system are up to date.

Unlike earbuds or headphones, with hearing aids you can still hear the activities in your immediate surroundings as well as streaming audio content. However, you should still be aware of your surroundings and use caution when streaming audio on hearing aids while walking, running, or driving.

Patrick Baker is an IT consultant and founder of Prime of Life Tech. Learn more about his services at PrimeOfLifeTech.com, email info@PrimeOfLifeTech.com, or call (720) 319-7145.

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