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Can I use hearing aids for streaming and online meetings?

I don't have hearing loss, can I use hearing aids merely for streaming and phone calls? The answer is yes. It may sound like an expensive option to use hearing aids purely for streaming but it is doable. This article is about the best hearing aids for streaming and what to watch out for.



use hearing aids for listening to music and zoom meetings

This morning I received a call from a young lad who asked "I don't have any hearing loss, can I use hearing aids purely for streaming music?"


Hearing aids are compact and discrete devices designed and built with loads of sound processing for people with hearing loss. They usually come with a multi-year warranty and aftercare that's why they are more expensive than the common earbuds that you purchase for listening to music. But I understand that there are scenarios that make perfect sense to use them for streaming even by people who have no hearing loss.


What other purposes can hearing aids serve besides listening better for people with hearing loss?

Hearing aids with Bluetooth connectivity can also be used by people with no hearing loss for:

  • Zoom and Teams online meetings

  • Streaming music, podcasts, radio through Bluetooth

  • Handsfree phone calls through your mobile phone

  • Listening to TV soundtrack (as wireless headphones)


Why do some people use hearing aids merely for streaming?

Here are the scenarios in which you may want to consider hearing aids for remote work, streaming music and handsfree phone conversation:

  1. You do a lot of Zoom meetings and teleconferences and you found hearing aids are more comfortable than headphones for online communications all day long.

  2. You have a narrow ear canal and most of the earbuds don't fit in your ear canal nicely or comfortably.

  3. You find behind-the-ear hearing aids more discrete than earbuds, so why not?

  4. You may have inherited a pair of Bluetooth hearing aids, so why not give it a use?

  5. You don't have a hearing loss but you have tinnitus and a Bluetooth hearing aid can help with tinnitus sound management.



Best hearing aids for zoom meetings - hearingnow


What should you consider before you buy a hearing aid only for streaming?

If you do not have hearing loss and you are in the market to buy a hearing aid for streaming you need to consider the following points:

  • Hearing aid style - The only styles of hearing aids that everyone can use for listening to music are RIC (receiver in canal) and miniRITE (mini receiver in the ear). The custom-made hearing aids with Bluetooth connectivity such as Resound Custom or Signia Insio are made for a specific profile of the patient's ear canal hence it would be comfortable in your ears, and may not even sound nice.

  • Technology level - As you know hearing aids come in different technology levels. The higher the technology level the better the hearing aid in hearing speech in noisy places as it uses more processing power. Truth said if you are considering hearing aids merely for streaming then you may be just fine with the lowest technology level which is indeed more affordable. The trade-off is that you may lose some nice features such as tap-control on Phonak Lumity that is only offered on the higher technology level. Best to consult with your audiologist about the features before you purchase one.

  • Battery life - Streaming through Bluetooth takes a lot of power from a rechargeable hearing aid. If you want to use a pair of hearing aids mostly for streaming and Zoom meetings my advice is to go for battery-powered hearing aids versus rechargeable ones. The rechargeable hearing aids released in 2024 have a much longer run time but that comes at a bigger price tag. All in all my advice is to aim battery operated hearing aids if you intend to use them merely for streaming music, listening to podcasts and answering calls. Learn more about replacing the battery and other repairs and maintenance of hearing aids here.

  • Bluetooth connectivity - The Bluetooth connectivity of hearing aids is not the same. Some hearing aids such as Phonak and Resond have a better Bluetooth range and stability. Please read more about Bluetooth connectivity and the range of hearing aids in this article. In addition to that except for Phonak and Unitron hearing aids which use classic Bluetooth the rest of the hearing aids need an intermediary gadget to connect to laptops and computers for streaming and Zoom or Teams meetings. Please consult this with your audiologist and consider a budget for it.

  • iPhone versus Android - If you have an Android mobile phone then your best choice of a hearing aid for streaming music and connectivity to a laptop for Zoom meetings will be Phonak or Unitron. Phonak hearing aids use classic Bluetooth that is platform-independent meaning they can nicely connect to Android mobile phones as well as iPhone handsets. The rest of the hearing aids use a low-energy Bluetooth protocol called ASHA (Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids) that is designed for hearing aids. Most Android devices may be able to do a nice job streaming music to ASHA hearing aids but not all can provide you with a hands-free phone conversation.

  • Sound quality - The sound quality of music through earbuds is much better than hearing aids. This is mostly associated with a bigger speaker unit and designed for music acoustics of the earbuds that are always super-seal. Nevertheless, some hearing aids have a better speaker-amplifier frequency response than others. For example, Oticon hearing aids have a better high-frequency response, and Starkey receivers have a better dynamic range. A general advice for using hearing aids for streaming music and hands-free calls is to use Power receivers (versus Medium power or Low power receivers). The Power receivers can provide a fuller sound quality.

  • Fitting - The best setting for hearing aids for those who wish to use them for hearing music is to fit them with power-domes (also called double-dome). Such fitting is the closest to the acoustics of earbuds, it seals your ear canal from the outside noise and keeps the sound in the ear canal which is critical especially for low and mid frequencies. Your audiologist will be able to fit them with the right size of the power dome that makes a good seal yet is comfortable in your ears. Another thing that you may need to attend to is the length of the speaker wire that needs to be picked correctly for you if the hearing aids have had a previous owner.

  • Setting - Last but not least, the hearing aids need to be programmed to provide a flat gain over all frequencies for people with no hearing loss. If it has been programmed for the previous owner it needs to be rested to the factory setting. Your audiologist could set up different settings for listening to recorded versus live music or any other setting that you wish for. I would suggest adding more bass as default. Remember that almost all premium hearing aids have a mobile app that gives you some degree of control over the low, mid and high-frequency gains.





Conclusion

Using hearing aids for streaming and Zoom meetings may sound like an expensive option but it can be a very practical option. Please feel free to post your questions at the bottom of this page, or get in touch if you have any questions about using your hearing aids for streaming.





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