Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bluetooth Headset with your Cochlear Implant

Did you know that you use can a Bluetooth wireless headset with your cochlear implant? You know those little things that people commonly mistake cochlear implants for? A bunch of idiots even steal cochlear implants off children because they look so much like Bluetooth headsets and that goes to say a lot about the caliber of our thieves in the US.

Well, I never thought I could use that until the morning of June 12th at approximately 10:30 in the morning when I took the workshop, “Bluetooth and You” presented by the very lovely Tina Childress, who is an audiologist at Advanced Bionics. She is a late deafened bilateral cochlear implant recipient as well. It was already a standing room event when Laurie and I had arrived with people hanging out in the hallway, standing on their tippy toes and craning their necks to find out what is up with that sexy digital wireless protocol called Bluetooth. With sheer determination and our pearly white smiles, Laurie and I swiftly moved through the audience and positioned ourselves - flat against the wall of Carson Room #3.

But wait, what is Bluetooth? It is a way for electrical components to talk to one another − wirelessly. For example, let us take your standard run of the mill television remote control that used infrared technology, point that bad boy at the television, and change the channel. Heck, go crazy use any remote but providing that you have working batteries :) the channel should change demonstrating an example of how electrical components talk to one another wirelessly. Bluetooth is just another way for us to cut the cord, so to speak. Bluetooth has a limited range of around thirty feet. You can use Bluetooth to communicate with all sorts of devices including cell phones, hearing aids and headsets, earpieces, PCs and printers, cars, digital cameras and GPS’s. You can get the gist that it is getting popular. :) Back to the presentation...

Once the presentation got underway, I watched Tina as she slipped a wireless Bluetooth headset right next to her cochlear implant. If my eyes were any wider, I think they would have fallen out of my head because I was blown away that a Bluetooth headset, a device that any normal hearing person could use was snuggling right next to Tina’s cochlear implant. I walked into that workshop with over 24 years of conventional hearing aid experience that led me to think I could never use one a Bluetooth headset. That was then and this is now.

Now Tina, like myself, has an Advanced Bionic cochlear implant and they are the only one cochlear implant company that has a T-Mic microphone auxillary ear hook.This is not to be confused with T-Coil that is just a small wire that can pick up electromagnetic signals from a telephone, TV, microphone and FM systems. The T-Mic is an ear hook with a microphone at the end that is designed to be placed in front of the ear canal opening and it takes advantage of the natural curvature of the ear to collect sounds as you can see here.

With this T-Mic technology, I can pick up a phone and place it right over my ear, like everyone else and after 24 years of fiddling with T-Coil hearing aids, I was more than happy that I didn’t have to try to find that awkward T-Coil spot anymore. But, I couldn’t understand how it worked because most of the Bluetooth headsets I've seen are ear bud style meaning they go in the ear canal that look like this.
With the T-Mic, you can use the ear buds but since the sound is being driven into the ear itself and away from the T-Mic, you would hear it but not as clear because the sound is being pumped into an ear canal and that don't help because well, we can't hear that way :) To fully utilize the benefit of T-Mic, sound had to be directed right in front of it. I was determined to find out the trick to this whole Bluetooth headset/Cochlear Implant business. So I did what any inquisitive deaf technological geek would do, I cornered Tina :) who was more then happy to let me test drive her Bluetooth headset. Once I saw the style of the Bluetooth headset, I went “Ah-hah!” It was flat and then it all made sense to me.

After I listened to the weather from Tina’s Bluetooth headset, I was sold. I decided that once I got back to New Jersey that by the way has a $250 fine if you are caught talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device, I was going to get me one. After some comparison shopping, I picked up this little gem of a headset from Motorola, the H700 for $40 bucks (see picture below). If you take a look at the top right picture, you will see that it is flat so that it fits right over the T-Mic which is exactly what you want.
This is the kind of headset you want to get if you want to start looking like one of those corporate yuppies exhibiting symptoms of bipolar disorder while rushing to Starbucks for a venti low fat vanilla with nonfat whipped cream, two pumps of caramel, and one pump of vanilla at 145-degrees soy latte light with soy milk and a shot of cinnamon! I’m sure you’ve seen them. :)

Now since my entire body is in proportion, my ears are big just like my butt and it can handle something else hanging off my ears. However, I cannot wear my glasses along with my cochlear implant and blue tooth headset. It has to be one or the other, the glasses or the headset. If you got teeny tiny ears, then this might be a better alternative for you, for under a hundred $130 bucks, the Noizfree Beetle Bluetooth headset available with one or two earhooks. It works with all T-Coil equipped behind the ear hearing aids and cochlear implants. You can use these with Bluetooth enabled cellphones, computers and listening systems.
Or you just might want to cut the coils all together and go with the Artone Bluetooth neckloop that works with all T-Coil equipped hearing aids and cochlear implants as well as Bluetooth enabled cellphones and computers! The only downside is that it cost $165 bucks.
This particular neckloop will help people that have bilateral hearing aids or cochlear implants with T-Coil activated. They can just flip their devices to T-Coil and listen to a phone call or streaming music from their computer or Ipod.

You can use for more then just talking on the phone, if you have a MacBook, PC that comes with Bluetooth built in or a Bluetooth USB drive, you can pair your headset with your computer and listen to music or audiobooks. I was jamming to my Itunes playlist all weekend via my Motorola H700 Bluetooth headset. You know what else you can do? You can purchase a Bluetooth adapter for Ipods that will enable you to listen to music or an audiobook from your Ipod.

I bid you all good toothing.


Valerie said...

Alex has one, I think he just lost it, and it turned up in my hands. Oh well finders keepers.....I have a bluetooth.

Can't wait to try it. I'll be yahooing if for answers.

mishkazena said...

Hey, that's neat. I am glad they came up with this headgear so the c.i. users can enjoy this nifty device, too

Laurie said...

Abbie, I have the Beetle, which is a Bluetooth for HA's and CI's. I love mine and made a unique discovery with it yesterday. . . .will post about it soon!

Anonymous said...

Abbie, THANK YOU for this post! I kinda knew what a Bluetooth was and what it did, but not really. And I had no idea how they would work with a CI. Or if they would work at all.

It really is awful that people are stealing CI's from kids, thinking they are Bluetooth headsets. Jerks!

Anyway, it was so cool to read an in-depth description of what they do and how CI users can benefit from them. :)

~ Wendi

Unknown said...

Abbie.. Thanks for visiting my blog awhile ago. Kudos that we are neighbor! We should meet someday! I have to say that I love your blog. You have a terrific sense of humor! You got me cracking up! I am a CI user (Nucleus Freedom ROCKS!) Your writing is quite sensational ! You should be an author. Perhaps you could write, hmm, "A Diary of a MAD CI user". Just kidding!
I have people come up to me and asking me what kind of a bluetooth I have lodge into my skull. I have told them that it is a bluetooth surgically sewn into my head. You should have seen the terror looks of their eyes. They were petrified! Duh, its hearing aid.
Who knows, we might have five different stuffs around one single ear in a few years. I am not sure if I am completely sold on the bluetooth but I use T-coil to listen to my iPod during my run.

Hope we can meet someday and share the "horror" stories of using CI. ;-)

Alex said...

Good Lord Abbie...

People should pay you to be a spokeswoman for this stuff!

You had ME hooked and I can't use it not just yet! :-P

I will def look into this and bug you on AIM next time we speak about this and how it may or may not be useful with my lovely hearing aids. They are lovely by the way :)

Very interesting and my Aunt had also mention this too when she got a blue tooth for her phone. She said "man now I feel Alex here!" LOL


Abbie said...

Au contraire my dear Alex, you can take advantage of bluetooth technology with the neckloop now with your two hearing aids. There make bluetooth adapters for standard phones that could pair that neckloop with and take with you to station to station. Neat right? :)

This might be of special interest to you, Plantronics has a section dedicated to Bluetooth technology in intercom systems including aviation. I know you said that airplanes cannot use a telecoil because it screws up the reading but it is apparent that they can use bluetooth aboard.

I'm picturing your eyes getting way big now.

Anonymous said...

Hi Abbie!

Finally here I am trying to catch up my favorite blogs since I got back from Nicaragua!

Bluetooth headset with CI? Wow, that is pretty neat. I never heard anything about it til now, I guess that is why we all learn new things everyday! :-P Like you, I was blown away hearing about it and how so cool the color is! Ha ha. I have to say this is far very good technology which ever cease to amaze me, I wonder what is next... be sure to keep us posted!

Your ears are big just like your butt? Thanks for leaving that to my imagination! ;-)


Anonymous said...

Damn typo! (I'm blaming it on Alex!) I meant to say "very good technology which NEVER cease to amaze me."


Kim said...

Hi Abbie,
So when I went to IFHOH, they discussed bluetooth compatibility with newer aids. Are you saying I could get bluetooth with my older aids and phone without having to deal with FM loops? I'm still not sure how this technology works, but it sounds cool!

Anonymous said...


Totally because of your post, I ordered a Motorola Bluetooth H710 from Amazon which just shipped. I look forward to trying it out soon.

Lori (Loreene from HearingJourney.com)

Marco said...

Hi Abbie.....thanks for this post. I have also had luck with this Sony Ericssson Headset: http://www.sonyericsson.com/cws/products/accessories/overview/hbh-ds220?cc=us&lc=en

It is a bluetooth receiver with microphone which you can plugin your personal audio in. So nothing else on the ears and no other audio to audio conversion. It flows all electrical from mobile via bluetooth to the headset on your collar (with MIC) then via the audio cable to the CI. I got a colleague using it as well with great success.