Bluetooth Headphones For Hearing Aids

Cyborgs walk among us, but for the time being, it’s really only people with glasses, contact lenses, the occasional hearing aid and the infrequent prosthesis. As with all technology, these devices can be expanded into something they were not originally designed to do – in [Gertlex]’ case, the superpower of listening to music through his hearing aids. he gets a few strange looks from wearing a Bluetooth headset around his neck, but the power to turn his hearing aids ito what are effectively in-ear monitors is a great application of modified electronics.

[Gertlex] began with a Bluetooth headset, his hearing aid, a few resistors, some wire, a 3.5mm audio connector, and an absurdly expensive DAI cable. The DAI cable – Direct Audio Input – is a pseudo-standardized feature on many hearing aids. as its name implies, it allows the wearer of a hearing aid to pipe audio directly into their ear.

By cutting up one of these $50+ DAI cables, [Gertlex] was able to construct a DAI to 3.5mm adapter cable. From there, it was simply a matter of installing a 3.5mm socket on a Bluetooth headset.

It’s a brilliant build, with the most expensive component being the DAI connector itself. [Gertlex] has a few ideas for making these connectors himself – they’re really only three pins and some plastic – and we’re hoping he gets around to that soon.


32 thoughts on “Bluetooth Headphones For Hearing Aids

  1. That’s cool. On Adam Savage’s podcast, he was complaining about a lack of bluetooth hearing aids. While some parts of the technology are really advanced, they do seem to lack in the value adding features department. I suppose this will change as more people who have grown up with headphones and mobile technology start to get hearing aids and demand better interfaces.

    Any chance of adding a mic and turning it into a full hands-free unit?

    1. All hearing aids today can have a connected wireless streamer unit, it’s a peripheral you have hanging like a necklace. It communicates with the aids over RF and with other devices through bluetooth. Newer hearing aids have BT built in and connects, for example, through MFI to an apple unit.

      -source: I work for a hearing aid company

      1. Problem is most are very poorly made. I have several friends that have those and you can not hear them clearly on a phone call because the streamer unit has the worlds worst microphone in them. The microphone is too cheap, does not have any noise cancelling, and is way too far away from the mouth to deliver any useful audio for bluetooth use.

        1. +1 Fartface Great potential, but also great disappointment.

          I recent got a pair of the $5k hearing aides on trial. Individually, they’re great. Unfortunately, they frequently don’t link to each other – changing the program in one should also change the other, but this only happens about half the time.

          If the aids can’t talk to each other, I have little hope that they will talk with the streamer – and experience supports this thought.

          About the streamer – it also doesn’t connect to my BT phone very consistently.

          To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement.

          I still have the opportunity to return them and back out of the purchase, and probably will.

    2. Actually Bluetooth enabled hearing aides have been out for a while, the problem is that even Bluetooth LE takes too much power, I already hate that the batteries last 5-6 days, always dying during a conference/movie.

      My hearing aides use bluetooth between them, such a small distance that it uses less power than bluetooth LE uses. This enabled them to use live DSP and the four mics between them, to tune into music/speech much better than any of the previous hearing aides I have owned. BTW, my hearing aides costs more than my car and motorcycle combined – AFTER health insurance – but it’s still worth it, the sound difference between the $5000 and the $2000 hearing aides is phenomenal.

      I’m going to have to get a DAI cable, I’ve got a few older pairs to hack into now, thanks for the idea!

      1. Hi Strevo, looking for any helpful info on Bluetooth Aids. Wife has 100% SSD and Mother in Law, 95, seriously deaf. I know little about aids other than what I believe might be practical. You seem to be pretty much up there with knowledge. Would probably prefer to communicate one on one. Regards, K

  2. 50 dollars and what kind of connector did it have on the other end,1/4inch? Hearing aids are a very scrutinized industry, nonetheless they are gouging for a patch cord. Now that in ear monitors are common there is less separating aids than ever before, but you will have to call them personal hearing assistants (CYA) or risk C&D. The ears and eyes guys have a protected market.

    1. Would recommend getting an official streamer that does the same thing without patching the aid. There’s a reason BT isn’t inherently supported in older devices. A streamer is worn around the neck and outputs near field RF and inputs BT.

      1. I’d try one if I hadn’t been reading poor reviews of various models for years… also the price and (I think) having to swap out a program on my hearing aids.

  3. Weird – my DAI cable is terminated in a 3.5mm plug. Just slots straight into an off-the-shelf Samsung bluetooth adapter. But I agree, they are absurdly expensive.

      1. I think you may have misunderstood – DAI cable, terminated in 3.5mm plugs straight into Samsung H3000 Bluetooth adapter. Bonus – it does handsfree too. All off the shelf, no fuss, no muss.

        As a followup to Eirinn – I can assure that ‘all’ hearing aids most definitely do not support ‘streaming modules’. Some maybe, but not all.

        1. It’s no fuss, if you have the spare wires. An issue I had that drove this was that the cables themselves were POS’s (especially those from phonak) to the point where the wire insulation would harden in about a year. Thus they only useful thing to do was cut them up :)

          There was much less selection 5 or so years ago as well.

  4. Nowadays, some hearing aids (including mine, from Phonak) can communicate via electromagnetic induction (the protocol is proprietary though) with a device called, in my case, the ComPilot. Basically, devices can communicate with the ComPilot via Bluetooth, and then the ComPilot retransmits whatever was sent to it to the aids.

    It’s convenient but much more expensive. I’d be really looking forward to a reverse-engineered protocol.

  5. I am just starting to tinker with hearing aids (for myself) and am following these threads closely. I am hoping to create some useful modifications and I will share them here. My background is in the audio and electronics industry. I own a small metal mill and metal lathe, a stereo microscope for surface mount work, spectrum and modulation analyzers plus equipment which will modulate carriers (AM or FM) from a few hundred hz up to 1.3ghz. In other words, I can do a lot of “non contact hacking”. I can also, probably, make a DAI connector from raw stock.

  6. Re: Cyborgs, I’ve never really thought of things like glasses/contact lenses/hearing aids/ etc. as counting since they’re not actually embedded into the body. On the other hand, there are plenty of legitimate cyborg tech out there that could have been pointed to such as cochlear implants; surgically implanted artificial lenses for treatment of cataracts; artificial hips/joints; metal plates/screws for badly damaged bone structure; heart pacemakers; and brain pacemakers. There have even been some significantly successful human trials of things like artificial hearts; completely artificial eyes; and limb prosthesis with direct connections to the brain.

    1. I, personally, resent the idea that it’s the visible disabilities that are ‘cyborg’ tech. What about people who have part of their digestive system replaced by plastic, or insulin pumps, or the aptly named surgical procedure “bladder augmentation”? Again, the visible differences get the attention when some of the larger “whole organ replacement” technology (which is far from glamorous like google glass; an ostomy bag to replace your whole large intestine seriously isn’t shiny) get ignored. There are cyborgs walking next to you in the grocery store that you won’t see because they hide the not-so-glamorous or disturbing or even the ones that contain serious medication. Pain med pumps, similar to insulin pumps, can get a person mugged for the amount of very strong narcotic. They won’t mug you for a spinal e-stim implant, but you’ll set off security alarms; picture an implant that is designed to deliver comparatively large voltage/current pulses to nerves know to only sense pain in the spine, to keep them from building up the charge to fire properly.

      Not that the tech isn’t cool. My step-grandfather keeps trying to cook up some ideas for a new class of hearing aid and enlist my help on the modern electronics (he thinks “music distortion dsp, hearing dsp, should be the same thing. right?”). I should take him up on the idea, given the number of patents he has already he might be on to something.

      this post brought to you by your friendly neighborhood privilege checking committee

      1. The Cyborg thing is just HaD sensationalising – no one can seriously think a hearing aid user is a ‘cyborg’ any more than someone who uses a bluetooth handsfree or a pair of binoculars is a cyborg.
        Quin – I empathise with your comments regarding visible disabilities. One of the problems with deafness is that it is pretty much invisible, partly because hearing aids are so discrete and the public so unobservant.

        1. I dunno, I look at old cyborgs portrayed in movies like Metropolis and I see technology that is still just in the future, but also that our technology would make many of that time think we had reached the point of a true cyborg. Plus, in studying post-gender philosophy, the “Cyborg Manifesto”‘s accidental inclusion of some post-gender themes brings it up regularly in conversation. So it’s a thought that stumbles past me rather often.

          Which leads me to consider the Ship of Theseus, but kinda backwards; how much needs to be replaced before we CAN (not must or will, as the paradox) call a person a cyborg? A temporary hearing aid may be no different from a removable handsfree headset, but a cochlear implant is a semi-permanent or permanent organ replacement; isn’t it? If a cyborg is not a distinct life form, but just a state of a human being, then how many pieces being replaced crosses that line? Is it X organs, or Y percent by weight. or scars left by surface area? Do parts and organs need to have electrical or neural connections to count? Is the line defined as an absolute and objective point of view, and if so who’s, when’s, where’s, and why? If it is subjective, then why can I not call myself a cyborg now, I have multiple organs replaced with medical devices, other’s augmented by glass and plastics and metal and organic compounds, and still more affected by synthetic medications. So, unlike Prof. Warwick, when can I justly call myself a cyborg?

          Not an easy question, but one I enjoy pondering and one that jumps to my mind every time I get close to seeing a surgeon again; even if they are just checkups and not plans to slice me up again.

          1. To me, the big thing when I think of cyborgs from sci-fi is the idea of interfacing nerves with electrical control systems (the cyber part…). Since that’s only *just* beginning to happen in research, I’m happy to play along in the meantime with jokes about being a cyborg myself. I don’t think it’s hurting anyone…

  7. Can’t you get one of these DAI cables from some place where they don’t rob the sick? Canada maybe (if you are US based)? Because I can’t imagine they are $50 everywhere if they are simple 3 pins and some plastic.

    Or maybe you can get a design for a 3D printer to make the plastic part and insert some cheap pins.

    1. I used to be able to get them for ~$40 USD, but that place is gone and I haven’t found any places of late.

      Are there any common connectors that use 1/16″ and 3/64″ diameter solid pins? I’m not aware of any. Instead of 3d printing, I’d just use epoxy or a mill for press-fit holes in e.g. 1/8″ delrin.

      I wrote up my own thinking as a new project. I welcome your thoughts!

      1. I’m not one that knows all the pin diameters of things, so I don’t know if they are cheaply sourceable. I can tell you though that I used brass nails from the hardware store once as a pin, and another time I used some solid copper mains wire; stuck a bit of it in a drill and with some sandpaper and a small file ground it down to a size I needed.

  8. If a way could be figured out to externally engage the telecoil that is in most models of hearing aids without having to use a neck worn transceiver, this would be a moot issue. I am a wearer of “Behind The Ear” (BTE) hearing aids and have a transceiver which is neck worn via its inductive loop. This transceiver connects to my phone via bluetooth and passes audio to my HAs via the inductive loop to the telecoil inside my HAs. There is also a 3.5mm jack on the bottom of it for non-bluetooth audio sources to connect via a standard stereo audio cable. When I’m wearing it, it works fine, but I do get some second looks at times because the transceiver lays on your chest in the same area that a neck worn police badge lays.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.