Hearing aids: Secret tech you didn’t know about


On your phone, on your tablet, on your TV and straight into your ear

Are you a hearing aid wearer? Not sure you’re getting all the sound clarity you think you should be getting for the thousands of dollars you paid for your devices?

Guess what – you’re probably right. However, what you do need to achieve crystal clear sound may already be in your device, was just never activated, or you were never told about it.

In a recent TEDx talk, a hearing professional was finally given an opportunity to let consumers in on what they’re missing out on and how easy it is to make their hearing aids work as intended in 2024.

“You know those wireless earbuds everyone's rocking these days? Turns out, some modern hearing aids can do that too,” said Juliëtte Sterkens, AuD, HLAA professional advisor for Hearing Loop Technology. 

“They can link up with your phone via Bluetooth, letting you take calls and listen to podcasts right in your ears. Plus, there are extra doodads you can snag, like a little transmitter for your TV or a microphone you can pass around at a noisy restaurant.”

It's like wheelchair ramps, but for ears, Sterkens said, adding that we have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to thank for this.

Now, places like movie theaters and courtrooms have to provide assistance for folks with hearing loss. Lots of airlines offer the option, too, and the Big Apple is into this big time, making it available in all new taxicabs and at attractions ranging from Broadway theaters to MoMA to Yankee Stadium. 

'Looping' you in

The technology is called a “telecoil” – or a “t-coil” or “audio induction loop.” Telecoils are either built-in or added on, a Costco hearing center professional told ConsumerAffairs. Sometimes, they’re already turned on; sometimes their switch has to be flipped. You just have to ask.

Essentially, a t-coil pipes the sound from the original source to the hearing aids. In a situation like a movie theater, you’d get a feed directly from the sound amp connected to the projector.

And they’re saving the day by becoming available to hearing aid wearers in far more places than you can imagine. If you’re a Michigan State Spartan fan, you’ll find the technology inside Breslin Center.

If you live in Wisconsin or Florida or the D.C. area, you’re particularly blessed. Hearing loops are available for Cheeseheads in 850 venues in Wisconsin and more than 400 locations in Florida.

“And now, even Google Maps is getting in on the action, helping you find venues with hearing loops,” Sterkens said. 

Here comes 'Auracast'

Telecoils are a little like landline telephones. Even though the technology has been around since 1937, hearing aid manufacturers haven’t pushed it on consumers. But with the advent of connected devices and our reliance on phones, tablets, and smart TVs, hearing aid makers are becoming more aggressive.

That’s where Auracast enters the picture.

Auracast is a Bluetooth product. And by virtue of that, the possibility of you having a device that is Auracast-compatible is tremendous. Just watch…

Want in on the action?

If this has your ear (pun intended), you can explore the Get in the Hearing Loop toolkit from the Hearing Loss Association of America. And the next time you go to a public venue – a theater or a conference – be sure to ask if they have an assistive listening system.

“Become familiar with accessibility laws in your state or in your country. I believe that together we can make the world more accessible for people with hearing loss,” Sterkens concluded. “If you have trouble hearing in a public venue, speak up.”

Find a Hearing Aid partner near you.