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updated: 6/5/2014 2:01 PM

Hearing aid offers remote control via iPhone

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  • Beltone offers a new hearing aid that can work with an app and be controlled through your iPhone. It soon will make similar versions for other platforms.

      Beltone offers a new hearing aid that can work with an app and be controlled through your iPhone. It soon will make similar versions for other platforms.
    COURTESY OF BELTONE

  • The app that works on your iPhone if you wear the Beltone First hearing aid.

      The app that works on your iPhone if you wear the Beltone First hearing aid.
    COURTESY OF BELTONE

  • Beltone First hearing aid can work with a downloadable app on your iPhone.

      Beltone First hearing aid can work with a downloadable app on your iPhone.
    COURTESY OF BELTONE

  • Todd Murray, CEO of Beltone

      Todd Murray, CEO of Beltone

 
 

If you have hearing loss, you likely know what it's like to use your fingers to manually adjust a tiny dial on a hearing aid. Yet, as technology advances, so do the features on those aids, including wireless control.

In March, Glenview-based Beltone introduced Beltone First, its first hearing aid that works with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch for remote control. It works with the HearPlus app that allows the hearing aid to automatically adjust to the environment, whether in a restaurant, in traffic or in church.

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Besides audio controls, the system also talks with Siri and can wirelessly stream music to be compatible with the hearing aid. In addition, it allows users to take phone calls directly through their hearing aid without having to wear or use an intermediary device, said Beltone CEO Todd Murray, a Wilmette resident.

"Acceptance so far has been pretty extraordinary," Murray said. "Since we introduced Beltone First, we've noticed significant flow to our website."

Beltone is among the industry leaders revolutionizing the hearing aid industry by using wireless technology. ReSound's Linx and Starkey's Halo also offer wireless hearing aids that work with smartphones.

Beltone said it aims to target aging Baby Boomers who may start to experience hearing loss, or any others who are tech savvy and may find the new features accommodating. Each Beltone First hearing aid costs between $2,500 to $3,000, Murray said.

Murray said the company sought to take advantage of the strong smartphone and tablet market by working with Apple to converge that technology with the hearing aid. The first hurdle involved merging the technology, especially battery life, into such a small device, Murray said.

Ordinarily, hearing aid batteries can last about a week, so Beltone was able to "keep the same time while getting more functionality," Murray said.

The aid also can work with iPod Touch and the iPad. Next, the company aims to develop an aid that works with the Android platform, Murray said.

"We've definitely struck a chord with this," he said.

Surfing: AT&T, which has its Midwest headquarters in Hoffman Estates, said the Blackhawks game last Sunday showed its highest data usage of any playoff game at home, where fans used 161 gigabytes, or enough data to stream 525 hours of HD video, a company spokeswoman said. Fans also uploaded and downloaded the most data during a single hour during the June 1 game, when more than 39 GB crossed AT&T's mobile network from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Data usage on AT&T's mobile network during the Chicago Blackhawks' 10 home playoff games averaged more than 136 GB. This is equivalent to more than 388,000 social media posts with photos, or nearly 445 hours of streaming HD video, she said.

•Marengo farmer Duane Dahlman is sharing his soybean production photos from his farm via Soycam.com. This is the second year Dahlman has participated in this Illinois Soybean Association initiative, funded by the Illinois soybean checkoff. Dahlman joins seven other Illinois soybean farmers volunteering their time to post about their crops.

•Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter. Write to her at akukec@dailyherald.com.

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