Hearing aids smarten up - New model syncs up with iPhones

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL — Rosa Henry of Front Royal got by with one traditional hearing aid for years until a hearing test a few months ago convinced her that it was time for an upgrade.

Her new bluetooth-infused unit, the Beltone Legend, allows her to talk on the phone using her hearing aid and adjust its volume using her iPhone.

"It's worked really well," said Henry, 68.

"It's more than just a bluetooth hearing aid," said Teresa Nichols, a licensed hearing aid practitioner at the Beltone Hearing Center in Front Royal.

One of the more amazing features is its ability to sync up with other units of its kind. If a person is wearing one in each year, they will synchronize, determine the ambient noise level and where voices are coming from, then make adjustments to help wearers concentrate on their conversations. They even recognize bothersome extraneous noise and can block it out automatically.

"What do people want?" Nichols asked. "They want to be able to go to a restaurant without hitting buttons and be able to sit wherever they want to sit and be able to hear the person right across the table from them."

When a nearby person is a little too loud, wearers can easily make their own adjustments, Nichols said.

"They don't have to have an iPhone," she said. "We have the bluetooth volume control so that we can show them; 'Hey look, just shut this right off.'"

Wearers also can adjust the bass and treble, she said.

Henry said she still is learning all of its features but she likes the bluetooth.

"It's very simple," she said. "I just put my hearing aid in and when my phone rings, it rings in my ear. Nobody else can hear it."

When she answers, she gets the same reaction from her friends and family that a bluetooth user might get.

"They think I've lost my mind."

The hearing aid also can be used to adjust the television sound. Other hearing aids can do that, but the Legend doesnít require the user to wear a converter around his or her neck like the others do.

"That's huge," Nichols said.

The TV link is an accessory that plugs into the TV and pairs to the hearing aids and sends them the sound.

"Let the person who does not have the hearing loss set [the volume] and then the patient can adjust for volume and clarity," Nichols said.

The water-resistant Legend is available in several sizes, ranging from the traditional behind-the-ear model to units that fit right in the ear canal.

The smallest units donít have all of the features, but they have some, Nichols said.

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