How can I get headphones to work with my hearing aids?
December 5, 2012 12:32 PM   Subscribe

How can I get headphones to work with my hearing aids? The noise leaking out of them is making my fellow commuters (and me) unhappy.

I wear hearing aids and without them my hearing is very limited. I also like to listen to music and podcasts on my way to work. But it’s proving to be very difficult.

I have been searching – for years – for headphones that will work well for me, but I’ve yet to have any luck. I am wondering if there is some way to modify the headphones I have or if there is something I don’t know about that will work.

My hearing aids actually have Bluetooth connectivity and I have a device (an ICOM) that sends the signals from my iPhone to my hearing aids. The only trouble is that the volume is not loud at all. My audiologist has turned the volume up as high as it can go but it’s still far too quiet. Also, as a safety feature, the sound I get comes from both my aids (i.e. the outside world) and the iPhone – therefore loud sounds from the outside world – of which there are many – totally drown out the sounds of the music/podcasts. This setting has been adjusted to the absolute minimum of outside sound, but it’s still not workable.

I thought that using around-the-ear headphones with a big cup would work. But that has two drawbacks: a) feedback noise as a result of the pad being too close to the aid – this in, oddly, just one of the aids and b) I need to have the volume very, very loud and the sound really leaks out for all to hear…I know this because someone told me on public transit. I had no idea this was happening and I stopped wearing them on the way work as I don’t want to annoy my fellow commuters.

I am at a loss. I have tried so many things and I have not been able to find (online or off) anything that might address this. Any suggestions for a) a way to make my headphones stop leaking noise -- besides duct tape and some foam, which crossed my mind for a nanosecond or b) something new that will actually work, would be most appreciated.

Oh, I can wear in-the-ear ones – and do on planes and such, but it’s a huge pain to use them on my commute as I have to take my hearing aids out and put them back in whenever I need to hear since I can’t hear much without them and it can be dangerous– i.e. changing buses, hearing announcements, avoiding cars whizzing by, people trying to tell me my headphones are leaking a lot of noise etc.
posted by Lescha to Technology (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Why not use the Bluetooth connectivity, but instead of using over-the-ear headphones, use over-the-ear hearing protectors? I do not understand hearing aids very well, but I presume that the feedback from the headphones was caused by the magnet in the headphone. That would not be an issue with the hearing protecting earmuffs, which should keep out surround sound as well as reduce the disturbance to other passengers.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:44 PM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Alternatively, get full over-ear headphones. The Bose you linked to just sit on your ear. These (and others like them, no particular recommendation) are designed to completely cover your ear.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:47 PM on December 5, 2012

This isn't a solution, only a workaround: you could have an earbud in one ear and a hearing aid in the other? You'd have to set your device output to mono, which would be less annoying for podcasts than for music.
posted by aimedwander at 12:48 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does your hearing aid have a T-coil? If so, you could obtain a neck induction loop and enjoy headphone-free, silent (to others) listening by connecting the music device's audio output to the neck loop.
posted by maximum sensing at 12:54 PM on December 5, 2012

A quality pair of studio headphones or dj headphones are going to block out the outside noise as well as prevent your music from leaking.

Search for isolating headphones. No noise cancelling, no fancy electronic stuffery, simple quality sound isolating headphones. The good ones will look something like what a pilot would wear (and may well be patterned after such headphones)
posted by freq at 12:56 PM on December 5, 2012

Response by poster: To answer: No, no T-Coil. My old ones had that and it was a dream. The new ones only have the Bluetooth business. But some very helpful advice so far. Thank you.
posted by Lescha at 1:11 PM on December 5, 2012

I do not understand hearing aids very well, but I presume that the feedback from the headphones was caused by the magnet in the headphone

No, it's caused by an object's (any object's) proximity to the microphone. It's exactly like the feedback you hear at a concert when the performer's hand or mouth is too close to the mic.

Lescha - I don't have specific advice since I have t-coils and use the HATIS Epic II, but I have found the people at Hearing Aid Forums to be very helpful. Here's their subforum on Bluetooth devices.
posted by desjardins at 1:19 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The headphones that you linked to are not very good at isolating sound (even though they appear to be "closed", rather than open).

I would suggest to see if you can try e.g. a pair of Sennheiser HD-280 pro's or even these. They really are excellent with respect to isolation.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 1:38 PM on December 5, 2012

If the aids are bluetooth, then they likely have a streamer as an accessory. A pendant you can wear around your neck under clothes which can plug directly into your iPod and then bluetooth the signal to your aids.

I memailed you, and can tell you more because I have been through this and learned a few things.
posted by Danf at 2:25 PM on December 5, 2012

Ask your audiologist about adjusting the ratio of "outside world" sound to "audio input" sound for your iCom. I also have Phonaks with a bluetooth streamer (although, it's the newer comPilot), and it came set at a 50/50 ratio, which was near useless, imho. I went to 10/90, and it's turned out to be a much, much better ratio for real world scenarios, for me at least.
posted by article at 2:57 PM on December 5, 2012

You should be able to get direct input shoes and leads for your hearing aids. is the connevans site which should explain it. I used to use `ear hooks` which are essentially an induction loop hooked over the ear, next to the hearing aid, but direct input is sooo much better. Doesn't keep falling off, there's no electrical interference, the sound's way clearer, i can switch between just music or music and outside world, it rocks. I'm assuming you have behind the ear hearing aids rather than in the ear ones.
posted by katie_w at 4:16 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

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