The term MFi is more colloquially recognised now as ‘Made for iPhone’, but ultimately means for iPhones, iPads and iPods (and Apple Watches).
MFi is a licensing program for developers of hardware and software peripherals that work with Apple’s iPods, iPads and iPhones.
The MFi program covers various device connectors including the headphone jack, original dock connector and the newer Lightning connector, as well as Apple AirPlay support. Companies joining the MFi program and passing certification tests are able to display certain MFi-related logos on their product packaging, like the “Made for iPod” badge.
So, ‘MFi‘ is an Apple specific certification that allows / approves other technologies to integrate with Apple devices.
Smart-phones became ubiquitous in the late noughties (true smart-phones as we now know them that is) and it was soon obvious to hearing aid manufacturers that their digital hearing aids would have to be designed to be able to be directly linked to our mobiles phones in order to make them more functional, effective, and appealing.
So, despite Android being the much more widely used platform, it was Apple who took the lead in working with leading hearing aid manufacturers as Apple have a simpler single-platform system to work on (see the next section for more on this).
Made-for-iPhone (MFi) hearing aids were first introduced by ReSound in 2014 with their ‘ReSound LiNX‘ hearing aid, followed very shortly by Starkey with the ‘Starkey Halo’. There are now five leading global hearing aid manufacturers offering premium spec hearing aids with made-for-iphone technology (ReSound, Starkey, Widex, Bernafon and Oticon).
The main three benefits of MFi hearing aid technology are:
- Direct wireless audio streaming from iPhones & iPads– phonecalls, music, apps etc.
- Direct wireless TV streaming
- Advanced remote control functionality – via a dedicated app
Please note however:
‘made-for-iPhone’ hearing aids can be used just as hearing aids alone. You can ignore the benefits of MFI, or you can use other accessories supplied by the hearing aid manufacturers to enhance their functionality.
Hearing aids have now been developed to stream direct audio from Android and Windows phones, and also older style phones with Bluetooth.We decided it was easier separate the pages on this as the developments were changing. Therefore please read our dedicated webpage on Made for Android Hearing Aids.
We cannot say one made for iphone hearing aid is better than all the others – they are all good. But, particular features of one brand may suit you more than another – and we can help guide you through all the advantages. The key is trialling one or two following discussions on the merits of the leading brands. At Crystal Hearing we WILL advise on the best product to suit your needs, rather than the product that gives us the most profit.
We can supply the following Made for iPhone hearing aid brands:
For ‘Made-for-All’ and ‘Made-for-Android’ – click here
As MFI (and MFA) hearing aids develop more and more features will become available – in fact as we write this some exciting new app technology is being launched – such as fitness tracking and fall detection and voice activated commands!
The key initial benefit is of course helping you hear better, and that can be done via AUDIO STREAMING to your hearing aids (phonecalls, TV, etc) and REMOTE CONTROL of your hearing aid settings (to change directional focus etc).
One of our current key and simple features is the Spatial Configurator in Signia hearing aids – a simply setting on your phone that allows you to choose which direction you want to hear – or change the width of beam focus for front facing requirements.
‘Spatial Configurator’ – By Signia
Direct Mobile Phone Call Streaming
As mentioned the first key benefit is direct audio streaming – this means streaming audio from your mobile device to both of your hearing aids. This can include phone calls, music, and apps like Google Maps.
INTERESTING FACTS – for people with severe to profound hearing loss:
- Streamed phone-calls to both ears improves phone call listening by an average of 50% in speech recognition tests
- If you stream video phone-calls (i.e. Face-time) this increases to approximately 70% improvement.
NB: Some MFi hearing aids now also offer handsfree calling – meaning the microphones of the hearing aids pick up the hearing aid wearers voice – no need to hold the phone. But, you do have to answer the phone normally (whereas with MFA you can answer the phone by pressing a button on the hearing aids).
Direct TV Streaming
You can receive high definition stereo streaming from your TV direct to your hearing aids (you do require a TV adaptor but it plugs into your TV – not an accessory you wear or hold near you).
Made for ALL hearing aids may well connect to Bluetooth TV’s but you may get audio lag – if you use their TV streaming accessory you will not get audio lag (i.e. the lips move before you hear the speech).
Via the dedicated phone App for the hearing aid you can now control your hearing aids without the need for a separate remote control.
Having more control allows you to fine tune your hearing aids in different environments to suit your needs.
The key functions may change between the different manufacturers.
Remote control functionality may include:
- Volume control
- Mute function
- Home function – to reset any changes back to default
- Programme change – for different environments
- Changing directional focus for noisy environments – left, right, back, front
- Controlling wind noise and general noise
- Changing the frequency response
With some hearing aids you can save preferred settings.
You can geo-locate programme settings to automatically switch on when you arrive at a frequent place. Check out this short video on Starkey Soundpsace – it is so easy to use!
FIND YOUR LOST HEARING AIDS! – You can locate lost hearing aids using the built in hearing aid locator
REMOTE FINE-TUNING – We can adjust your hearing aids remotely. This is a great way of tweaking the settings on initial set up to make sure you get the very best set-up, without repeated trips to see us. It also means we can supply hearing aids, at our prices, to clients travelling greater distances.
FIRMWARE UPDATES – Resound hearing aids only at present – keep your hearing aids up to date with live updates via the dedicated app.
LIVE LANGUAGE TRANSLATION – You can use google translate to decipher what a foreigner is saying, direct in your ears. We have no idea how you reply though!
LIVE CALL-TO-TEXT – Converts your calls to text as they speak so you can follow calls better – a boo for those with severe to profound hearing loss.
FALL DETECTION AND ALERTS – Sensors in the hearing aids can detect if you fall over and automatically trigger an alert in the app to notify family members.
FITNESS TRACKING AND WELL BEING – Using sensors in the hearing aids you can keep track of your health and well being with visual analytics.
REMINDER ALERTS – You can set all sorts of reminders in the app to play audio alerts in your hearing aids.
STARKEY LIVIO AI features via their THRIVE App
MFi hearing aids can only connect to one Apple device at a time. Whereas the Phonak and Unitron MFA hearing aids can connect to two Apple devices simultaneously – i.e. a Macbook or iPad and an iPhone.
Mobile Phone calls
MFA hearing aids streaming in larger data packs for better quality call streaming – MFi will improve when Bluetooth LE 2 comes out. That said – both are very good.
MFi hearing aids can no allow handsfree calling – but not handsfree answering – so unlike MFA hearing aids where you can answer your mobile phone calls by pressing the button on your hearing aid – with MFi you still have to answer the phone in the normal way, by pressing the answer point on the phone screen.
Music / Media Streaming – from Apple devices
MFi does not currently stream in true stereo – this is likely to change on the next upgrade. MFA hearing aids do stream in stereo, but at the expenses of higher battery drain.
With 2.4gHz streaming technology it is not unheard of to have interference from other electrical items – this appears to be quite rare but it is not unheard of.
MFi hearing aids are available as medium sized receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids (including rechargeable option) or custom in-ear hearing aids as per the left image (CIC, ITC, full-shell, and remote microphone (Resound only)).
In 2019 ReSound launched completely-in-canal MFi hearing aids – the downside of these is that they have a somewhat ugly antenna loop sticking out of the hearing aid – you can see this in the right image, if you look just above the battery door compartment.