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.
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.
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