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‘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 2000’s (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 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 6 world leading hearing aid manufacturers offering premium spec hearing aids with made-for-iPhone technology (Signia, ReSound, Starkey, Widex, Bernafon and Oticon), plus lesser-known brands such as Rexton and AudioService, and even Philips in America!

The main three benefits of MFi hearing aid technology are:

  • Direct wireless audio streaming from iPhones & iPads– phone calls, music, apps etc.
  • Direct wireless TV streaming 
  • Advanced remote control functionality –  via a dedicated app

MFi hearing aids were originally developed to use BLE Bluetooth (Bluetooth Low Energy). iPhone’s 11 onwards have now been developed to use LE Audio Bluetooth allowing for two advantages over BLE.

  • Handsfree calling on iPhone 11 onwards
  • Auracast compatible for social streaming – more on Auracast here

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.

Android and iphone 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:

ReSound Oticon Widex Signia Starkey


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

The key initial benefit of hearing aids is, of course, helping you hear better, especially in the presence of background noise. We would all like hearing aids that were fully automatic and could adapt to every listening environment, but it is not as simple as that and we all have our own personal requirements. The automatics can vary depending on our age and our ability to process sounds. As hearing aid professionals we do our best to set hearing aids up automatically, but people often want, or need, more than that. As mentioned above, the main benefits of MFi hearing aid technology are:

  • Direct wireless audio streaming from iPhones & iPads
  • Direct TV streaming
  • Advanced remote control functionality 

Mobile Phone Streaming

This means streaming audio from your mobile device into both of your hearing aids. This can include phone calls, music, and apps like Google Maps, and language translators, and Siri, etc.

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).

Streamed signals greatly improve listening response.

The introduction of LE Audio Bluetooth in iPhone 11 onwards allows for handsfree calling with MFi hearing aids (more on handsfree calling with hearing aids here).

oticon intent auracastoticon tap control


Direct TV Streaming

You can receive high definition stereo streaming from your TV direct to your hearing aids via a TV adaptor that plugs into your TV.

The introduction of LE Audio Bluetooth into hearing aids in 2024 will allow multiple hearing aid wearers to connect direct to LE Audio compatible TV’s without the need for an intemediary streaming device.


Remote control

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
  • Easy access to telecoil loop programme

With some hearing aids you can save your preferred settings.

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.

 

Signia Spatial Configurator

‘Spatial Configurator’ – By Signia

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!

ALSO:

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

Multiple devices

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.

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.

Interference

With 2.4gHz streaming technology it is not unheard of to have interference from other electrical items – this appears to be rare but it is not unheard of. (I have never hear of it from our clients – but thought i’d raise the point)

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).  (CIC = completely in canal, ITC = in-the-canal mid-size)

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.

In 2023 Starkey launched their first MFi CIC hearing aid – Starkey Genesis. These use a 312 battery so they will not be true CIC; maybe more of a MIC size (mini-canal). These will be suited to those with larger ear canals.

Ok this is where things get very exciting!! As of 2024.

Social streaming is about to get very big, and very beneficial to all hearing aid wearers – like never before!!

 

Confused? Let us help you

Free trials available on leading brands

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