Guest Article: Using The Apple Watch With Hearing Devices

Today’s Guest Article on the Apple Watch is by Hearing Aid Audiologist Joan McKechnie.

apple-watchThe Apple Watch has been a huge success for people interested in keeping up with their health, fitness and wellness. From reminding you to move around if you’ve been sitting for too long to telling you how many steps you’ve taken per day, the Apple Watch has done a great job in holding people accountable for their own health. Now the Apple Watch even allows people who wear certain ReSound and Starkey hearing aids and Cochlear BAHA devices to synchronize their hearing devices with the watch based on the acoustic environment they are in.

Hearing aids are tremendously beneficial for most people with mild to severe hearing loss; however, they have some issues, too. One major drawback of using hearing aids is that environmental factors influence the functioning of a hearing aid. Therefore, the setting you use in a noisy room will be different to that in a quiet environment.

resoundRecently, an innovative app for the Apple Watch called ReSound Smart App by ReSound allows individuals using certain models of ReSound hearing aids to fine tune the sounds that their devices capture. This means that when a person is speaking to you, you can block all unnecessary sounds in your environment and enjoy the conversation without any disturbance.

From the Apple Watch, the app also allows users to opt between different modes, even using the hearing aid as a music receiver! In addition, you can also take calls and apply different settings on the device according to your environment. This means if you choose to listen to music or take a call, you can block out other unimportant sounds such as wind or traffic. The app allows you to control treble too. Note that even when the battery of the Apple Watch dies, your hearing aid will continue to function – you’ll just lose access to the different settings in the watch until you charge it and start using it again.

Molly Watt showing off her Apple Watch

Molly Watt showing off her Apple Watch

Molly Watt, a lovely British woman who has Usher Syndrome Type IIa, last month reviewed the Apple Watch for The Hearing Blog based on its accessibility and features, making a strong case it’s a compelling item for all deaf-blind:

So far for me the most useful App on the Apple Watch is Maps – on my iPhone I can plan my journey from one destination to another, for me it will be on foot with Unis my guidedog. This is where Haptics really come into its own – I can be directed without hearing or sight, but by a series of taps via the watch onto my wrist – 12 taps means turn right at the junction or 3 pairs of 2 taps means turn left, I’m still experimenting with this but so far very impressed – Usher syndrome accessible!

starkeyOriginally designed for the iPhone, Starkey’s Halo hearing aids are also now compatible with the Apple Watch. The Watch gives access to numerous functions and also includes GPS features. The Watch uses geotagged memories to switch hearing aid modes automatically when the GPS detects that the hearing aid user is in a tagged location. If you arrive home, the Apple Watch will automatically switch your hearing aid to home mode.

 

[Editor’s Note: Many of the features we first reported in our November 2012 scoop are indeed present in the TruLink app, including geotagging.]

 

Just like with the Resound smart app, users can fine-tune sounds and adjust sound quality of their Halo hearing aids with the TruLink Hearing Control app. You can block out background noise and improve sound quality and also stream music and phone calls on your hearing aid.

Another great feature of the TruLink Hearing Control App is “Find my hearing aids.” This feature allows you to find your hearing aid with the most recent location and time automatically saved in the Apple Watch.

[Editor’s Note: Although audiologically the Starkey Halo is very good, including a novel method of frequency lowering, and although it was the first “Made for iPhone” aid to recognize the current drain requires a #13 battery, the lack of a 2.45gHz remote mic and other wireless accessories is a serious shortcoming. Given they build 900mHz SurfLink wireless accessories, all we can say of this oversight is what were they thinking?!]

 

Hearing aid control using the Apple Watch is still new and introduction to more features and improvements in existing settings are undoubtedly going to take place over time. Hearing aid users will enjoy more control on their device and this will hopefully encourage more hearing impaired who could benefit from wearing a hearing aid, to start using one.

joan_mckechnieAbout the author:

Joan McKechnie has earned a BSc Honors in Audiology & Speech Pathology. She works for UK-based HearingDirect.com, and is HCPC Registered (Health Care Professions Council in the UK) and has many years experience in the hearing aid industry.

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About the author

Dan Schwartz

Electrical Engineer, via Georgia Tech

One Comment

  1. Brandon
    July 8, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Does anyone know if the Apple watch can be used as the microphone when paired with a “made for iPhone” hearing aid such as the Resound Linx? Without the apple watch the user must use the phone as the mic while on a phone call etc, but it’d be cool if the apple watch could take over this duty.


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