‘Made-for-iPhone’ hearing aids’ (MFi)

android v apple hearing aids

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.

It was Apple who took the lead in working with leading hearing aid manufacturers despite Android being the more widely used platform. Apple have a simpler single platform system to work on (see section below for more info 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 mobile phone streaming without the need for an intermediary accessory – phonecalls, phone apps, music etc.
  • Direct wireless TV streaming without the need for an intermediary neckloop / clip-on accessory.
  • Direct remote control functionality –  via a phone app for volume & programme control, plus advanced features such as directional focus, wind noise reduction, etc.

Some important notes:

  1. ‘made-for-iPhone’ hearing aids are great hearing aids – you do not have to own an iPhone to use them.
  2. Android phone users can now stream direct to some MFi hearing aids – see the section below.
  3. TV can be streamed to MFi hearing aids regardless of what mobile phone you use.
  4. You can stream almost any other Bluetooth mobile phone to MFi hearing aids by using the appropriate streaming accessory made for the hearing aid – see all accessories here.

 

It has taken a long time but Made-for-Android hearing aids are finally here (2019 onward) – but why did it take so long?

The bottom line is that it was hardware / technology that prevented hearing aids from connecting with Android. Apple moved much more quickly than Google and managed to establish a commanding competitive lead which became industry standard.
Before the ‘made for Android’ protocol was developed Phonak and Unitron launched made-for-ALL hearing aids (in 2018 with the Phonak Audeo B-Direct and then 2019 the improved Phonak Marvel) – these are designed to connect to almost any Bluetooth enabled phone by using the older Classic Bluetooth technology (rather than low energy bluetooth 2) – this only allows audio streaming to one ear, but Phonak and Unitron use their own inter-ear technology to then stream the signal to the other hearing aid – a two stage process that works quick enough that the wearer does not notice. So a solution for all phones, but not such a good solution for iPhone users – we feel made-for-iphone hearing aids may be better for iPhone users.
Later in 2019 Resound and Starkey led the way again by launching hearing aids that adopt a specific ‘made for Android’ protocol using low energy Bluetooth-2 – the technology only works on Android phones that can operate on Android-10 operating system or later (the first phones were Google Pixel 3 and 4, but now more are becoming compatible) – BUT these hearing aids also adopt ‘made-for-iPhone’ technology, so really they are MFi and ‘made for Android’.
So bearing in mind the above – the term MFA is just an abbreviation, and not a licencing program like MFi, and may be used to describe ‘made for all’ and ‘made for Android’ hearing aids – yet they are different technologies.
In summary:
  1. MFi hearing aids connect direct to iPhones.
  2. Some MFi hearing aids also now incorporate made-for-Android and thus maybe MFi + MF Android.
  3. MFA hearing aids could indicate made-for-all OR made-for-android.
  4. Made-for-All uses older Classic Bluetooth which connects to almost any phone (Windows included, etc).
  5. All Made-for-Android hearing aids incorporate MFi technology.
If you are confused – that is why we suggest coming to see us for a free hearing test consultation!

We can supply the following MFi protocol hearing aid brands:

ReSound Oticon Widex Signia Starkey – Bernafon 


For ‘Made-for-All’ and ‘Made-for-Android’ – click here

 

 

The key two features in our opinion are streaming phonecalls / TV direct to your hearing aids, and choosing what direction you want to hear (spatial configurator technology) – with Signia hearing aids you can zoom left, right, front, back, and narrow the beam.

 

Signia Spatial Configurator

Streaming

The key feature is being able to stream your phone calls, audio-books, music, and apps (i.e. Google maps directions) direct to your hearing aids for improved speech clarity.

Using your phone app means you no longer have to carry around a separate remote control.

Direct high definition stereo streaming from TV’s  without the need for a neckloop or clip on accessory (you do require a TV adaptor though).

You can also use more advanced features such as foreign speech translator apps to hear what a foreign person is saying direct in your hearing aids!!

Remote control

Having more control allows you to fine tune your hearing aids in different environments to suit your needs – sometimes we can then fine tune them based on how you use your controls.

These functions will change between the phone apps provided by each manufacturer.

Basic remote control functionality may include:

  • Volume control, synchronized or left / right separately
  • Mute function
  • Home function – to reset any changes back to default
  • Programme change – for different environments
  • Changing directional focus for noisy environments
  • Controlling wind noise and general noise
  • Changing the frequency response

You can also save your settings to a ‘favourite programme’ for future use, and can set that programme to turn on automatically when you reach a frequent destination (such as a surround sound programme for the local cinema).

Streaming your calls and apps – i.e. using a foreign language translator to translate what someone says to you, and hear it direct in your hearing aids; or using google maps sat nav app and hearing directions crisper in your hearing aids whilst driving.

ALSO:

You can locate lost hearing aids using the built in hearing aid locator

We can remotely assist you by changing the settings of your hearing aids and sending them to you via the app – meaning less visits to see us in the early fine tuning days.

Find My Hearing Aids

Some of the brands have a find-my-hearing aid feature helping to locate lost hearing aids. This technology works using location services from the phone and you can track where the hearing aid was last used and hopefully find it again – to the point where the battery was last live.

Phone calls

MFi hearing aids do not (at present) have the ability to answer phone calls via the push button on the hearing aids, nor do they transmit the speakers voice via the microphones on the hearing aids – thus ‘handsfree calling’ is NOT a feature of MFi hearing aids. If you want hands-free calling and the ability to answer calls by pressing the hearing aid then you should consider the Phonak and Unitron hearing aids.

Interference

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.

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