Bluetooth hearing aids in secure facilities

My son was recently diagnosed with hearing loss and he will need to wear HA’s. The problem is that he works in a top secret defense facility where Bluetooth is not allowed. Does anyone know if there are good hearing aids that do not have Bluetooth technology or if the Audi can turn off Bluetooth off on top HA’s like Widex, Oticon, Phonak, etc.?

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If the aids do have Bluetooth but not connected or paired to anything. And at least my aids can be placed into airport mode. Also my aids and most aids can only connect to certain devices, it is not true Bluetooth except for Phonak aids.

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I wear Oticon OPN 1 aids - about years old - what are bluetooth capable. If I turn off bluetooth on my phone, it turns off the streaming capability to with my phone, so should work easy enough. Any audiologist should be able to cover that with him. Nice of you to to explore this forum to learn about what he will be dealing with!

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I know that some models of Widex don’t have Bluetooth, and some of the lower-end models of other brands(like the Resound KEY KE261 don’t the Bluetooth, but they still have some kind of wireless signal.
For custom hearing aids, you can ask for them without bluetooth and wireless.

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As the resident phonak lyric user i’d be remiss if I didn’t suggest that possibility. It’s not for everyone, but some really swear by it. I’ve left a review thread on this forum.

The lyric is an analog device with no features like Bluetooth.

The sound is fantastic (benefit of analog) but there’s inconvenience because he’ll need to visit the audiologist every 2 months (give or take) to have them exchanged … they stay in the ear 24/7.

Not every audiologist offers them, so if there’s interest the first trick is to find one near you.

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The Phonak Lyrics come to mind. No Bluetooth, relatively simple analog amplification.

I have asked the question of what others that work in a scif can wear, and they’ve never answered me. I hope to not need to go back in there till I get read out at retirement.

WH

I am in a similar situation as your son. BT is only one part of it. Having any uncleared electronic device is still a no-go and would need to be reviewed and a waiver/exception issued. I personally opted to only use the HAs outside of work, to avoid the security and medical clearances issues. I only have a few years left and my loss is high frequency, so I am still able to converse normally without them. Just problematic with masks.

The only HA without BT (or wireless functionality) would be the Lyrics. And they are near invisible so if he chose to wear them it is up to him whether he wants to disclose that.

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You can put Bluetooth Aids in airplane mode which turns off all Bluetooth / wireless features but not 100% sure if that’s a permanent thing?

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Disabling of BT does not solve the problem. You can not introduce any electronic devices to the secure area.

The true solution would be to work with the agency and have a set of HAs securely procured, cleared and introduced to the secure area. They would never leave the secure area. The user would have their HAs to use outside of this area, when they enter the area they would remove the unsecure aids, go into the space, use the secure aids.

Same goes for digital watches, phones, keyfobs, etc. All these never go into the secure area.

That is the proper/approved way to handle situations like this.

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I have the Widex 440 Evoke Custom IP’s and I use a COM-DEX to stream direct. The COM-DEX uses Bluetooth and is an optional product, it goes around your neck to stream music and phone calls. If not using the COM-DEX I do not believe anything is using Bluetooth. I would imagine the other custom Evokes would be the same and also the Moments (you would need to check which models). The 440 is top specification, and has speech in noise and reduced wind noise. Then you have 330, 220, 110 each with less features. I love mine and enjoy being able to choose whether to stream direct or not. The size of the customs usually (but not always) correlates to the level of hearing loss. Mine is moderately severe so I have the slightly bigger IP. Having something all in your ear leaves the back of your ear free. It may take a few attempts to get the shells right as it’s a bespoke product but once this is done it’s a great option as custom fits usually give a better acoustic performance (again your level of hearing loss would determine how much better).

We have an array of little locking letterboxes outside our secure controlled areas, where you leave your phone and toys. You take a little metal key to protect your goodies. For the scifs the rule is pretty much leave it in your car. Do the pat-down dance where you check your pockets & etc. There is a set of boxes where you leave your car keys outside THE DOOR. There are so many reminders, yet folks still forget and bring stuff in, then it is time for a visit with a security officer.

I would personally disclose even the lyric. I wouldn’t want to have that conversation when it was discovered. And there are systems to detect electronics in some of them. I wouldn’t want to be taken aside for “the talk.” Something would go wrong, it would be discovered, and then your career is in trouble. Some of us lose the career if we lose the clearance. Better just to do the “Mother-may-I?” in advance.

WH

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I had a top secret for the president eyes only while serving with the White House Communication Agency. Think God that was before smartphones and my need for aids. But we were never asked to lock up our keys, wallets, or the pagers we were required to carry. Yes back then I fully believe the security was lax. And in talking to the ones there now it is still lax.

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Generally, receive-only pagers, ordinary car key fobs (transmit only) and similar electronics can be admitted to most controlled areas, but must be cleared first. Two-way pagers, two-way car fobs, bluetooth devices, smart watches, etc are all obscene things. When I was a daily resident in the scif, I didn’t buy an apple watch because I’d not be able to wear it for about half my waking hours… It would be a liability that I’d forget one day and they’d confiscate it.

While I tend to see common rules, the security management for each facility often have their idiosyncrasies. What wasn’t allowed somewhere else will be allowed here & vice-versa. But best just to be prepared to have to leave electronics outside. You never know when you’ll be asked to travel or your facility will have an issue and you have to relocate, and the new place has different rules.

I guess I’d have a conversation with the facility security officer to come to some understanding.

WH

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Way back I used to provide engineering services—15 jails/5 psychiatric hospitals/4 centres for developmentally challenged. I was amazed with the jails…I didn’t even need to go through a metal detector.
First occurrence. A medium security jail. They asked for business cards–didn’t have. A colleague spoke for me. Away from the guard he said, "Good thing we’re not at the local psychiatric hospital. They would have said, “Ok. Go sit over there and sit beside Napoleon.”

It took 6 months to chose a simple grill design in the air conditioning system. I surely wouldn’t want to have to talk to those people about changing a setting (to airplane mode) on my hearing aid app!

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Talk to HR. That’s what they are there for and they probably have encountered this before. But yes, you can turn the Bluetooth off and/or not use it.

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Actually HR would have near zero to do with this. Each agency is a little different but it would fall to the Technical Security Countermeasures office (or similar) plus the MED office. And also depends whether facility is in USA or abroad. But I think we’ve run this topic to ground. All good advice and insight given by everyone.

Would be great if the original poster chimed back in with how her son handled this (without names/agencies of course!).

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I agree with this, it’s like saying “well, my mobile phone is in airplane mode so it’s ok to take into the secure area”.

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Thanks for posting this really good question btw. I have recently been granted access to a secure area where we can’t bring mobiles / laptops in. It’s only for temporary access to a classified terminal. Never thought about the HAs. My current set don’t have Bluetooth as they are relatively old, but my next set will. I guess I’ll need to check with the IT security team on that.

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Most CIC or TIC do not have Bluetooth due to their small sizes. I had the Rexton • M-Core iX they have a great sound plus they are very discrete, the problem for me was that they did not have Bluetooth so I returned them

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The issue isn’t only BT in most facilities. ANY electronics are suspect. ANY radio that receives and transmits (and most HAs today are programmed wirelessly) is suspect.

It really comes down to the facility security management. I know of a facility that will allow you to bring in service-owned laptops if you allow the security people there to go into the laptop setup and disable all wireless and secure that with a password. They can turn it back on when you leave. Most other places won’t even consider it. Some places don’t allow keyfobs, others will. You need to KNOW that what you intend to bring in is acceptable before you try to do it/get caught.

WH

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