Hearing aid technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, and today the millions of people who suffer from some form of hearing loss are able to listen to their favorite sounds, music, etc. When it comes to streaming music, it is important to mention that most hearing aid wearers do not need headphones. Many hearing aids available today are Bluetooth enabled and produce stereo-quality sound which is sent directly to the device.
Some people prefer having a separate device to use as headphones. Others may have hearing aids that are not Bluetooth ready. In either case, plenty of options are available.
- Normal Headphones. If you have ITE hearing aids, it is likely that you can simply find a good pair of headphones to fit over your hearing aids.
- Bone-Conduction Headphones. These headphones do not actually rest inside or on the ear, but directly in front of it, which means they do not interfere with your hearing aids.
- Headphones for Single-Sided Deafness. Some manufacturers make headphones specifically for people that experience hearing loss in only one ear.
- Amplified Headphones. They can deliver signals more loudly than other headphones and provide the option to boost low, mid, or high frequencies individually to suit your individual hearing.
Bluetooth Hearing Aids
Bluetooth hearing aids have essentially made headphones unnecessary for hearing aid wearers. Many of the industry’s top hearing aid manufacturers not only produce Bluetooth hearing aids, but they have developed hearing aids that provide the same stereo-quality sound expected from high end headphones. In addition, many hearing aid manufacturers offer a “music” setting that optimizes the sound for the music you are listening to and allows selection of your own preferences. Here are some ways that hearing aids allow you to listen to music simply and without headphones:
Many hearing aids can connect to virtually any other Bluetooth device, including phones and music players, allowing the ability to stream music right to your ears.
- iPhone Hearing Aids
Starting a few years ago, some hearing aid manufacturers began producing hearing aids that connect directly to America’s most popular phone, the iPhone. These hearing aids give you incredible sound quality and are very easy to use.
Even if your hearing aid does not connect directly to a device you want to stream from, there are a variety of accessories available that allow you to turn your phone into a Bluetooth capable device.
Apps are available for a lot of things, including streaming music from your smartphone to your hearing aids.
Many hearing aids are so small that you could just wear headphones over them. Others, while larger in size, can easily be combined with certain types and styles of headphones to offer the comfort and convenience you need. Even better, the majority of hearing aids that are being introduced to the market today are Bluetooth enabled which allows for music to be streamed directly to your device without needing headphones.
What About Hearing Aids Without Bluetooth?
If your hearing aids do not have Bluetooth or if you prefer to wear headphones, many options exist. It all depends on the type of hearing aid you wear, the level of sound quality you want, and the way that you are going to use your headphones. Below is a summary of the different types of headphones and which headphones fit which hearing aids. It is important to figure out what you want before you start evaluating headphone options. In addition, the only way to really find out if a specific headphone style or brand works for your situation is through trial-and-error. We recommend going to a store and trying some on or ordering a pair and listening for a few days to see if it suits your needs. Check out the return policies prior to purchase so you can trial a few until you find the right pair.
Types And Design Of Hearing Aid Headphones
- In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids
Finding headphones that fit over ITE hearing aids can be a pretty easy process. ITE hearing aids continue to get smaller and more discreet which means often simply using a high-quality headphone over your hearing aids will work. Some of the smaller ITE hearing aids may even allow you to use earbuds along with your device. At minimum the vast majority of ITE hearing aids are small enough to put headphones directly over.
- Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids
If you wear BTE hearing aids, you will almost certainly need over-the-ear headphones unless you plan to stream directly to your device. BTE hearing aids are also getting smaller, making it easier to find headphones that fit over them comfortably and also produce quality sound. The key to finding a good pair of headphones is to ensure that they fit completely over the microphone, located behind the ear. If they don’t, then you will mostly hear sounds from the outside which may negatively impact your listening experience.
- Over-the-ear headphones
Over the ear headphones are still a very common and popular option. Many have noise-canceling capabilities. These headphones are probably the most common to use for those who have any type of hearing loss. They feature a large, cup-size earpiece that could cause irritation through contact with your hearing aids, but are often large enough not to touch.
- On-ear headphones
On-ear headphones are a little smaller and more portable than their over-the-ear counterparts, but they also do not offer the same level of sound quality and amplification that people with hearing loss may need. These are a good option if you have a smaller hearing aid and mild to moderate hearing loss. They also work for people that do not want much in the form of noise reduction or cancellation.
- In-ear headphones
Most hearing aid wearers do not even consider in-ear headphones or earbuds. Even those with the smallest ITE hearing aids often bypass in-ear headphones because they perceive this style would be annoying or rub against the hearing aid. They also do not provide any protection to your ears like on-ear and over-the-ear hearing aids do.
- Bone-conduction headphones
Bone-conduction headphones seem to be the “hot and new” headphone technology. Bone-conduction headphones sit just in front of the ear so that you can listen to music while still having access to the sounds in your environment. These headphones rely on sound being transmitted through vibrations on the bones of the head and jaw, bypassing the eardrum and sending sound directly to the inner ear.
- Noise-reducing headphones
Noise-reducing headphones cover the outer ear to reduce external noises and are worn in areas where noise levels can be dangerous or just to block out unwanted noise. While noise-canceling headphones actively work to cancel noise using microphones and speakers, noise-reducing headphones cover your ear so that noise cannot enter.
- Noise-isolating headphones
These headphones can isolate low, mid, and high frequency sounds. They allow adjustment independent of other noise. Many people who suffer from hearing loss experience a decline in high frequencies first while mid and low frequencies can still be heard normally. Noise-isolation headphones allow you to control not only the volume of the sound that enters your ears, but also the frequency of that sound.
If none of the options above are exactly what you are looking for, there are a couple of alternative options below. These are a little less common but are viable choices allowing you to listen to music.
Speakerphones are devices that come with a microphone and a speaker, allowing you to engage in conversations. The process is similar to older telephones which allowed you to speak into a speaker yet the base of the phone was where the sound came from. Speakerphones allow people with hearing loss to use this function alongside other devices so that they can make calls or even listen to music while doing other things.
- Neck loops
A neck loop is a piece of wire in the shape of a loop that goes around your neck. You can listen to various audio devices through your hearing aids as the neck loop acts as a receiver for the device in your ear. Neck loops can be compatible with cochlear implants, hearing aids, and other devices so that it can turn your hearing aids into streaming devices. The neck loop changes incoming sound into a magnetic signal that is then transmitted.
What If You Don’t Want To Wear Hearing Aids?
If you do not want to wear hearing aids at all while you are listening to music, there is an option for that as well. Many people who experience hearing loss only have mild to moderate symptoms and can still hear many things, such as music, naturally. Amplified headphones can produce more amplification than normal headphones and can also give you the option to adjust the low, mid, and high frequency sounds to suit your hearing. This is a great alternative if you want to listen to music without your device but just need a little help to make the listening experience better.
Choosing The Best Hearing Aid Headphones: How Audiologists Can Help
If you cannot find headphones that produce the listening experience that you are looking for or if you cannot figure out how to make the streaming and Bluetooth options on your hearing aids work optimally, simply ask your hearing healthcare professional. Audiologists have expertise not only in hearing aids and ears, but also the entire science of hearing and listening. They also possess expertise on most hearing aid features and options. As such, audiologists will know all of the options available including which headphones work well with different hearing aids and how to set your features and Bluetooth for the best listening experience possible.
Protect Your Hearing
Even if you are experiencing hearing loss or are using the Bluetooth function of your hearing aids, you can still have additional noise-induced hearing loss if you do not take precautions. You should follow the 80-90 rule when using hearing aids, ear buds, or headphones regardless of whether or not you wear hearing aids. This means you should listen at 80% or less of your device’s full volume for 90 minutes or less each day. Any louder and you could damage your hearing further. The more time you spend listening to music on headphones, the increased chance you have of negatively affecting your hearing. Too many people think that when they have hearing aids it is not possible to damage their hearing further…This is incorrect. Continue to practice good hearing health. Those with hearing aids should consider actually protecting your ears even more. When in doubt, schedule an appointment with your audiologist to make sure you are protecting the only thing that allows you to hear…your ears.