Bluetooth 5 Low Energy And Its Role In Hearing Aids As Part Of The “Internet Of Things”

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Very interesting article!

My main takeaway is that the current crop of MFi/BLE-communicating hearing aids and especially Phonak & Unitron’s “Belong platform” will quickly become outdated and obsolete.

Mental note to future buyers of EBay used hearing aids; Don’t buy the first crop of iPhone/both-phone streaming hearing aids as they will quickly be replaced by updated more efficient models.

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Same old story, don’t buy now, something great is coming up next year… I like the progress, and i really think Phonak is pushing the market with their direct aids.

My old aids are starting to have some problems, so I really look forward to the Audeo B Direct I’ll get in a few days :slight_smile:

However the situation is different for me in Denmark than for most in this forum. Everybody with hearing loss can get HA’s for free. This includes fitting, warranty, insurance etc. You’ll get new ones if you throw them away. If not, you can get new ones every four year. It’s quite awesome I’d say :smiley:. It also means the system is quite different from what most experience here… But that’s a topic for another time if someone wants to hear more :wink:

With that in mind, I see it could make sense to wait, but only if the hearing aids one have still works. Otherwise there are still the normal hearing aids without bluetooth. Or one could choose not to use the bluetooth functionality.

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On second thought??

Maybe @Volusiano has a point that future Firmware updates could extend/prolong the lifespan of hearing aid hardware/platforms. In other words, maybe these future more-efficient communications can be addressed by simply updating the software/(hearing aid Firmware) instead of releasing a new hardware/platform.

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It’s been over two years since this article got hearing aid users excited about Bluetooth 5. We’re still waiting.

Hmmm. The following passage from the article caught my eye:

“This is why we have an ironclad rule of a minimum #13 battery size — regardless of loss — for any 2.45 gHz–capable hearing aid for streaming robustness, especially in this new era of Thimerosal-free cells. Starkey’s engineers correctly foresaw this issue in their Halo devices; however GN’s ReSound and Beltone divisions still sell #312–fueled devices, despite the numerous problems related to streaming dropouts and oxygen starvation experienced in all five generations of devices since 2011 due to the 2.5 mA radio drain on top of what the DSP & class D amp draws.”

Is the author suggesting that 312 batteries aren’t sufficient for streaming on the latest premium-level hearing aids like Oticon Opn? And what are thimerosal-free cells?

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Haha. Maybe it goes to show the credibility of the article? OK, while I don’t get 7 days with my OPN, i still get 4-5 days consistently with it depending on how much I stream. That’s “sufficient” enough for me.

Obviously the HA mfgs don’t give a hoot about that “iron clad” rule

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Caveat emptor here, this is an article spliced with opinion from the (in)famous Dan Schwartz, blog owner. So it’s not only a guest article, but also an opinion piece.

Technically it’s very interesting and personally I like to read what he has to say (my being employed in tech and all), but he has ruffled a few feathers in the industry.

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i am using battery powerone size 13 still voltage written on tecnicall specification is 1.45v hahha

Thimerosal is the mercury based catalyst that was used to control the oxidation speed of the zinc oxide cells. It’s now largely been engineered out and ‘Mercury Free’ cells are fully available.

312 Batts can produce enough power for most streaming and control of devices. If you’re a ‘power user’ and constantly streaming, I’d suggest a 13.

Don’t forget that there have been some significant steps in circuit design and power usage in that period of time too.


Thanks for your expertise, as usual, Um_bongo.

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@Um_bongo: In fact, I have over 30 years experience both engineering and fitting hearing aids.

  • We are Not Yet up to “Digital Moore’s Law” 2.4 gHz radios, which require IC design rules with a linewidth λ of 11 nM (110 Å) or smaller, to cross over where analog draw more current;
  • SWORD is analog, and uses 40 nM technology to minimize current drain (the smaller the linewidth, the higher the capacitive losses, which is why you see custom hearing aid and CI ASIC’s use a special 85 nM linewidth);
  • The issue with the so-called “mercury free” cells is oxygen starvation combined with the higher internal Thevenin internal impedance the change in battery chemistry.

At AAA in Nashville, I had a long conversation with an engineer colleague for a Big Six mfr, who said they are hving nightmares with the switch-over. The “least worst” is Varta from Germany, which is sold as PowerOne in the US.

Oh, and By The Way, this isn’t the first time we had battery chemistry issues: We went through the same crap in 1992, when 1.3V mercury and 1.5V silver oxide batteries were (all-but) banned, due to contamination of the electrostatic precipitation (scrubber) sludge which occurs in municipal incinerators & trash-to-steam (or “waste-to-energy”) plants, like this one, where I learned about the problem a quarter-century ago.

@grantb5: Of course I ruffle some industry feathers; but bear in mind, you’ll see my focus has always been on protecting the patient, the end-user, as there is plenty of incompetence, even fraud, in this industry.

I don’t think I questioned how many years you’d been doing this for.

I’m aware that there are trade-offs to be made at the IC layer level, especially wrt analogue vs digital. The other posts above were discussing the amount of life one can expect from streaming from their aids - real word examples of BLE implementation.

You seem to have conflated this argument with your other post about the Sword Chip.

We use PowerOne batteries after we started getting reliability problems from the mercury free Rayovac, which Rayovac flat out denied. I’m also aware of the previous iteration of battery technology. It would however seem really foolish to argue that streaming isn’t possible on a 312, when loads of users do exactly that.
And FWIW, I have a non-streaming user with a pretty severe HF loss who is on the current Sword platform (albeit Unitron) who gets 8 days on a 312.

Can you provide a source that states thimerosal was used in batteries? The only thing I can find is that a mercury/zinc amalgam was used to reduce oxidation. The only use of thimerosal I know of is as a vaccine preservative. Thanks.

I have run into the problem with my new Phonak Direct HA. The first time that happened, I thought I simply had a bad battery. Then I discovered by simply opening the battery door for a few seconds (sometimes I now do 60 seconds)and then closing to reactivate. Sometimes the HA will work a full seven or eight days without a problem, other times I have to go through the reboot every two or three days.

I assumed that this was the form of Mercury used as suggested by Discpad in the post above. I’m afraid I don’t know enough about Mercury chemistry other than knowing it effectively suppressed the oxidisation as you noted.