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Using headphones with hearing aids

Last update on Apr, 11, 2023

Just because you wear hearing aids doesn’t mean that you have to give up on listening to your favorite music through headphones. Through advancements in modern hearing aid technology, you can find a pair of headphones that work with your hearing aids and allow you to listen comfortably to the music you love most.

Can you wear headphones with hearing aids?

If you’ve recently learned that you need hearing aids, it might seem impossible to continue to wear headphones as you once did. However, thanks to recent advancements in hearing aids and the help of Bluetooth technology, hearing aids and headphones can successfully be worn together to enjoy music and TV audio. While users might have to try a few options to find the right listening combination with their hearing aids, finding headphones for the hard-of-hearing has never had so many possibilities. 

Bluetooth® headphones for hearing aids

As you choose what hearing device options are available to you, consider Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids. Bluetooth connection allows you to stream sound directly into your hearing aids from your TV or phone. With this type of hearing aid, you won’t need to wear headphones over your ears, or remove your hearing aids to wear in-ear headphones. You may choose to wear noise-canceling headphones over your hearing aids if you prefer, which can keep out any additional background noise. 

Headphones for the hearing impaired

If your hearing aids don’t include Bluetooth capabilities, there are still numerous options for hearing aids and headphones use. Different styles of hearing aids are more compatible with certain types of headphones, so it may take some trial and error to determine what works best with your hearing aids. At stores, try out different types of headphones to get an idea of how they will work with your hearing aids and what feels comfortable. The product might not be specifically marked as headphones for the hearing impaired, but through trial and error, you can find a product that suits you.

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How to select the right headphones for your hearing aids

As you look for a combination of hearing aids and headphones that work for you, the most important thing to consider is the type of hearing aids you wear. Explore how different styles of hearing aids can guide your purchasing decisions: 

ITE hearing aids are the most discreet of all hearing aid styles and are custom-molded to sit inside the ear canal. Because of their position inside the ear canal, this type of hearing aid is usually compatible with most over-the-ear headphones

Another option is bone-conduction headphones for hearing impaired people. Rather than sitting in or over the ear, these hearing aids sit directly in front, causing sound vibrations to move directly to the cochlea instead of moving through the eardrum. However, given the external position of the device, the sound quality can be lower compared to traditional over-the-ear headphones. 

BTE hearing aids are devices with the receiver, microphone, and amplifier all placed behind the ear. Because of the position behind the ear and the fact that this type of hearing aid ranges in size, the best combination for BTE hearing aids and headphones is over-the-ear headphones

Similar to BTE, the shell of RIC hearing aids sits behind the ear, but RICs are a smaller and more discreet design. Due to the position of the shell and speakers built into the ear tip of the device, RIC hearing aid users should consider over-the-ear headphones

If you wear BTE or RIC hearing aids, it’s important to choose a headphone model that does not cover the hearing aids’ microphone on the outside of the ear. This prevents external noise from filtering in over what is playing through the headphones. Explore several hearing aid/Bluetooth headphone options to find a pairing that fits comfortably with your devices and doesn't cause feedback. 

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Headphones to listen to music, watch TV or make calls

Just as important as considering how your hearing aids might affect your headphone-buying decision is evaluating how you plan to use the headphones. Will you be listening to music, watching TV, talking to friends and family, or using them for other audio streaming? 

Different headphones are designed for different purposes and it’s important to consider how the specific features of each model will meet your needs. There is no magic bullet solution for each type of audio usage. That’s because your headphones depend entirely on you: your comfort, your hearing needs, your usage and your preferred fit. Some headphones are specifically designed for people with hearing loss. However, regular brands and styles can also be used to function as  headphones for hearing impaired people to listen to music or watch TV. Read reviews of the products to learn how others use them and determine if they are the right fit for you. 

Wireless vs. Bluetooth headphones: Which is better?

One factor to consider as you choose your headphones is how they connect to the sound you want to hear. Wireless headphones for hearing impaired people, as well as hearing aids and Bluetooth headphones, can both be successful ways to connect to your devices. Modern headphone technology often includes either wireless or Bluetooth capabilities, but what do each of these options entail? 

Headphones work by amplifying an audio signal that is transmitted to the headphone through a cable or Bluetooth connection. Both wireless and Bluetooth headphones connect sound between the device and your headphones without the use of a cable, but each streams audio in different ways. 

  • In the case of wireless headphones, sound is transmitted through low-powered radio signals, infrared, internal memory or KleerNet. They usually have high sound quality and a strong connection, but don’t have a great connection range, aren’t compatible with every device and aren’t the easiest to use.
  • Bluetooth, on the other hand, uses short-range radio waves to transmit audio signals. These headphones have great range, can connect to multiple devices and have Bluetooth-hearing aid-compatible features, but can have lower sound quality than wireless headphones.

When comparing Bluetooth vs. wireless headphones, there is no clear winner for best product for hearing aid wearers. Instead, it’s important to think about how your hearing aids might interact with the product, your potential uses for the product and your technology capabilities. This will look different for every person, but these considerations are helpful steps to determine what actually works for you. 

Bluetooth vs wireless headphones: There is no clear winner for best product for hearing aid wearers

How to fix echo in headphones

Occasionally, you might notice a slight echo in headphones as you try to listen to audio. There are a few possible explanations for this annoying technology issue, but fortunately, there are also several ways to solve the problem of headphones echoing: 

  • Unplug and replug your headphones: If you wear wired headphones, it’s possible that daily movement and usage has jostled the wire that connects your headphones to your phone or computer. Unplug, then replug in your device after a few minutes to reconnect the cables. 
  • Adjust the earcups: Over-the-ear headphones are great tools for blocking out outside noise, but only if they are worn properly. Make sure that the earcups are flush against your head, preventing any outside audio from slipping in. This outside noise can disrupt what your devices are picking up, creating an echo in headphones’ sounds. 
  • Lower your speaker’s volume: Outside, unwanted noises can also create an echo if your speakers are up too high. Not only is this dangerous for your overall ear health, it’s also frustrating to listen to. Lower the volume and if your headphones have a microphone, be sure to turn it off to limit sounds that it could pick up around you and prevent your headphones’ echoes. 

If the problem of your headphones’ echo sound  persists, there might be either an issue with the quality of your headphones or with your hearing aids. Schedule an appointment with your hearing care professional (HCP)  to determine if your hearing aids need to be reprogrammed to listen to audio more successfully.

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Tips to listen to music with hearing aids

There are additional technology devices that you can take advantage of to enhance your listening experience and make the most out of your headphones:

An equalizer is a tool that allows the wearer to adjust the volume of higher and lower frequencies of any streamed audio, similar to adjusting a hearing aid. Some phones offer apps that can be used as an equalizer, but speak with your HCP to explore options.

Hearing aids come with programs designed to help you hear at your best in any noise setting. If you’re a music lover, music programs like Miracle-Ear’s Music Master program are designed to offer a powerful listening experience and clear sound quality. The program includes three settings for enjoying live music, recorded music, or when performing.
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Can you use headphones as hearing aids?

The short answer is no, using Bluetooth headphones as hearing aids is not recommended. If you already own in-ear headphones, it may seem like a convenient fix to use Bluetooth headphones as hearing aid replacements instead of investing in hearing aids. However, there are several reasons why earbuds and headphones shouldn’t be used to treat your hearing loss: 

  • Earbuds aren’t FDA-approved: Earbuds are technically considered PSAPs (personal sound amplification devices), which should only be used to accentuate sounds in certain settings. They aren’t approved by the FDA to address hearing loss issues. 
  • Earbuds do not have microphones: Therefore they can only transfer sound that is sent directly from a connected device. 
  • Earbuds don’t help with severe hearing loss: Like other PSAPs, earbuds could be useful for people with very mild hearing loss, but they cannot properly amplify sound to address more severe cases of hearing loss. 
  • Earbuds can damage your ears: Because earbuds deliver sounds directly to the ear canal, they can cause more damage to your ears if the volume gets too loud. Additionally, these devices can push earwax further into your ears and cause hearing blockage. 
  • Earbuds aren’t customized: When you choose your hearing aids, your devices will be customized to fit both your unique ear shape and hearing loss needs. Earbuds usually come in a one-size-fits-all pattern and are bought over-the-counter, meaning that they will not fit perfectly in your ears, sit comfortably for hours as needed or properly adjust to allow you to hear most effectively. 

Headphones and earbuds can amplify sounds and help hearing in some situations, but only hearing aids are proven to effectively treat hearing loss. Using Bluetooth headphones as hearing aid replacements won’t be as useful as a device chosen with the help of a licensed HCP and fitted to your ears and needs. Your headphones can be a great addition to enjoy your favorite sounds when used in conjunction with hearing aids, but Bluetooth headphones as hearing aids on their own shouldn’t be used in place of specifically designed devices for hearing loss.

Can you use Apple AirPods as hearing aids?

With the recent rise in popularity of small personal earbuds, it may seem enticing to replace your hearing aids with a pair of Apple Airpods that you already own. However, as with other headphone and earbud styles, using a pair of Apple AirPods Pro as hearing aids is not recommended. While the newest iterations of the product contain features like noise-canceling, head-tracking sound and audio transparency, these tools only amplify sound around the wearer and don’t actually address underlying problems. In short, replacing Apple AirPods as hearing aids won’t properly treat your hearing loss

For some people with hearing loss, wearing Apple AirPods as hearing aid support or as assisted listening devices can be a successful way to connect with loved ones and use this modern technology. When paired with your smartphone or other personal device, the noise-canceling and outside noise-masking features can be effective in helping you focus on listening to music or enjoying a phone call without the disruption of background noises. Additionally, volume-boosting technology can help amplify sounds in a given area around you.

Explore your devices’ setting to learn more about accessibility features and how to pair your AirPods with your technology devices to connect and amplify sounds. Despite your devices’ capability for using Apple AirPods Pro as hearing aid support, it is only useful in certain settings and use cases. Remember that using Apple AirPods as hearing aids replacements isn’t a recommended way to treat your hearing loss

Wearing hearing aids shouldn’t mean that you have to accept a sub-par experience in  listening to music, enjoying your favorite TV shows or talking to loved ones through headphones. By choosing  headphones that meet your hearing loss needs and fits with your hearing aids, you can comfortably listen to the sounds that enhance your life. If you have questions about how to choose the right headphones for you, schedule an appointment at your local Miracle-Ear to speak with an HCP. 

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The Bluetooth® word mark and logos are registered trademarks owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc.

Apple, Apple AirPods and Apple AirPods Pro are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Other trademarks and trade names are those of their respective owners.

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