How Bluetooth Hearing Aids changed my life

While this might be unusal for my American-English speaking audience, I am the type of person who uses phrases like “changed my life” only for things that literally changed my life. Life-changing events happen usually not that frequent, but today I want to talk about one of them. Late 2019 I got my new hearing aids, the Phonak Audeo Marvels. Those have built-in Bluetooth technology and that really changed my life.

Note: I wrote a full review of the Phonak Audeo Marvels before. This article here focuses on the Bluetooth functionality only.

Before the Marvels entered my life, I already had hearing aids (Phonak Bolero) which I could connect via Bluetooth. However, they needed an adapter, the Phonak Compilot, which was a clunky device to wear around the neck. I loved and hated the Compilot. Of all hearing aid accessories it was probably the one I used most, but many times I did not use it although it might have been of help. In this article you will find out why.

Receiving Phone Calls

Since I became hard of hearing I stopped receiving phone calls. It was just too hard to understand the caller. I was super picky about the circumstances if I ever picked up a call. I required a super silent environment and the best connection possible. So what I did was basically letting every call go to voicemail, find a calm environment and listen to it. Then if possible write an email or a letter back to that person that called me. My friends and family knew that I would rarely pick up a call and at some point they just gave up on it and switched to text-based communication only.

Also with the Compilot adapter, receiving phone calls did not become more attractive. First of all, you need to wear it and have it connected to the phone when the call comes in. But the Compilot was not really designed for wearing it all the time. It was super clunky and physically annoying when you have it hanging around your neck. It needed to be switched on the entire day, but the battery would not actually last an entire day. For charging, you had to connect it to a USB cable, which while wearing it, puts you on a leash. So, I was not receiving phone calls with the Compilot either.

With built-in Bluetooth hearing aids, I don’t have these problems anymore. I don’t have to wear a clunky device around my neck, which I have to charge all the time. I just need my phone and my hearing aids. Also, leaving those two connected all the time is much easier and in most cases I don’t have to initiate that. They just find each other and when a call comes in, everything is ready to use. Needless to say, I stopped emphasizing that people should prefer text-based communication when they want to reach me. I kind of became a normal person, I guess.

Making Phone Calls

With the Compilot at least I would make phone calls. I would still be super selective about the environment. I would make sure to be alone and in a silent environment. Then I would gather all my courage and make the call. However, I would still only do that if there is not the option or the time to use text-based communication instead.

With the built-in Bluetooth hearing aids I become much less reluctant to make phone calls. Like normal people I would not hesitate to call the doctor to make an appointment, I would just do it. Oftentimes I even use that medium to quickly organize things where I before would rather write a dozen emails than making a call of 5 minutes.

Listening while Exercising

My number one use case for the Compilot adapter was listening to audiobooks while running on the treadmill in the gym. That hasn’t changed much. However, for a lot of sporty exercises I had to remove the Compilot, because it was physically annoying. It would hang in my face when I did upside down poses or it would hurt when it got between my body and a gym machine. Those problems disappeared with the built-in Bluetooth hearing aids. Finally I can listen to my audiobooks whatever I do in the gym.

Listing to small stuff

You know those funny video clips that people share in WhatsApp groups or on social media? When audio was essential in those clips, I would likely not listen to them. For me that always meant to look for my Compilot adapter, put in, connect it to the phone (often with several tries, because Bluetooth). That was just too much effort for listening to something for 5 minutes. When the person that sent it to mewas dear to me, I would try to listen to it in the evening when I had time and the nerves to fiddle with the adapter. But oftentimes by then I just had forgotten about it. Sorry, Mom.

Now that changed. Since my hearing aids are most of the time connected to my phone, all I have to do is press the play button – like hearing people do. Depending on the sender I realize now that in some cases I wasn’t missing much of quality, but generally I think I am now more connected to my friends and family and also receive quite some interesting content (with the exception of that annoying cousin that sends videos when he is drunk all the time).

Access to Education and Entertainment

Because being able to listen to something was so cumbersome in the past, I rarely went through the effort. My commute was just 10 minutes by train, but if you spend 3 of those minutes setting up your equipment, listening to that podcast just isn’t that attractive anymore.

Overall I can say that I now listen to a lot more things. Podcasts, audio books etc. I feel I can fill my time with a lot more education and entertainment. I make much more use of the dull situations in life (like a commute) by consuming interesting content. Finally I have the feeling I am not left behind in this respect.

Connectedness and Productivity at Work

Before I got my new hearing aids, I hated to make conference calls at work. At my workplace we already mostly do video calls with video on (and not everyone turning off their camera as it seems to be normal in other companies). Video already made it easier for me to follow meetings, because I could lip-read. However conference calls were still tiring and and exhausting to me. The sound quality in conference calls is never really good, hence I had to get along with accommodations.

In some meeting rooms we had induction loops installed, which I happily used. However, then Covid-19 came along and I was sent to work from home. Far away from my induction loops, my only way to make conference calls now is to connect my laptop via Bluetooth. With the Compilot adapter, that was doable, but also often not very convienient. In particular, the battery of this thing does not last a working day. So if I would’nt have gotten my hearing aids just in time before Covid, I would have needed to cancel meetings with the justification “Sorry, running out of battery for today”.

Technically speaking I still have similar problems with Bluetooth-hearing aids. They also run out of battery faster than the previous ones, but they do last longer than 8 hours and if they give up in the middle of my working day, I can just put in new batteries and move on with my meetings. (However, with rechargable ones, this would not be possibe. I wrote an article about it here.)

With my new hearing aids, things have changed. I am still not a fan of conference calls, but I do not avoid them like the plague anymore. In particular since there is a real plague outside going on, I would rather have a few more conference calls to connect to my colleagues than stepping outside. I switched from creating endless email threads to quick 10 minute calls, just because it is so easy, because there is a lot less hassle with my equipment now.

Summary

Overall, my new hearing aids with built-in Bluetooth changed a lot how much I communicate with my family and friends, how connected and productive I am at work and how much interesting things I now listen to all the time. Thank you, hearing aid industry.

Last but not least: not everything is awesome regarding those new hearing aids. But I’ll save that rant for next time. 😉

About Helga Velroyen

Born 1982. Living in Munich (German) with husband, cat and snake. Hard of hearing and wearing hearing aids since about 10 years. Software engineer at Google by day. Geek by heart.

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