Streamers (Part 2) – Why I Don’t Use Them

In my last post, I discussed all the positives that so-called “Streamers” provide those who use hearing aids. However, I don’t use them. To illustrate why, here’s a scenario thats probably familiar to most of us, you’re in the library or another common area listening to music and someone you know sees you and comes over to talk.

With headphones:

Your friend sees you.

They come over and tap you on the shoulder.

You remove your headphones, your friend says “Hey, how’s it going?”

You reply and have a nice conversation.


With a streamer:

Your friend sees you.

They come over and tap you on the shoulder.

They don’t see any headphones over your ears, so they start talking to you. You see their mouth moving, but you can’t hear them. Instead, you’re still listening to whatever music or podcast you have on.

You fumble with the numerous, poorly identified buttons and finally find the one that turns the streamer off so you can hear your friend. They’re probably still oblivious to your inability to hear them so they’re still talking. Maybe you try to fake your way through the conversation, or maybe you just say “Hey I have to wait for my streamer to turn off” to which they’ll stare dumbly at you, because they have no idea what you’re talking about.

You’ve hit the “off” button on your streamer, but it still takes a frustratingly long time to turn off, and then for your hearing aids to boot up normally. You and your friend look at each other awkwardly and dumbly. Until finally, everything works normally and you’re able to say “Ok, i can hear you now.” Of course you’ll then have to explain to your friend why you couldn’t hear them and why you choose to use such a frustrating device.


Conversations like that are why I choose to avoid streamers, but there are lots of other reasons you may choose to keep that device in a drawer. It needs to be charged almost every day, and the batteries are very poor. The average student who might listen to media on the bus, while studying, while at the gym and then on the bus again in the same day, will generally drain their battery before their day is through, at least in my experience with the devices. Not to mention that they are very easy to accidentally leave on, and the need to have bluetooth on constantly if you are expecting a phone call also unnecessarily drains your phone battery too.

As well, they aren’t very practical to wear while exercising. You have to worry about sweat running down your chest onto the streamer, and if you move too much, the streaming may be choppy or disconnect entirely.

Another consideration, if you see someone in the street talking to themselves, you may keep your distance until you see that they are wearing ear buds and having a conversation over the phone. However, if you use a streamer, people won’t know that you are using your phone and may actually think you are talking to yourself.

Personally, I use a pair of earbuds for all my music and podcast listening needs. There is no battery to worry about, no bluetooth connection hassle and I can wear them anywhere. I simply turn up the volume as I need it, and get over the fact that the sound quality is rather unbalanced, as the earbuds do not compensate for the slope of my hearing loss (there are some apps which attempt to help with this, but none that I’ve used are very good). Is it possible that this might mean that certain frequencies for which I’m less impaired are actually being played too loud? Maybe, I try not to worry about it though (I know I should), because for me its the most practical solution.

I know that every hearing impairment is unique, and for many, streamers may be the best option. This post is not at all intended to encourage people to ditch their streamers, but instead to explain why I and many others choose not to use them. In next week’s blog post, I’ll explain to you what I think would be the best hearing accessory that someone could make to get over the drawbacks of both streamers and conventional headphones. As always, thanks for reading and be sure to post any questions or comments down below.


(For full disclosure, my experience with streamers is almost entirely with the Oticon line, both the previous and current iterations of the devices. However, I am fairly familiar with the devices produced by Widex and Phonak, and to my knowledge they share similar problems. If you’ve used these, or other devices, please share your experiences below!)


  1. Nick Higgins · January 18, 2016

    I have experience of using the Siemens mini tek with some Siemens impact aids. The mini tek was easy to control and a small unit worn clipped to shirt or on a lanyard. I fully appreciate your comments but growing up in the Walkman years not being able to use one as I had at that time to store one aid. I did discover you could get single ear hook and a single earbud for single hearing aid wearer.
    I currently have gn resound linx2 which stream directly to the iPhone. The sound quality streaming music or the or YouTube videos is awesome. As the phone is your streamer and we all carry phones it does away with one piece of kit. Only starkey and resound seem to have thought of this whilst others still go for the independent streamer. The controls are easy and once you initially make your friends aware they know.
    In my job as a teacher students are greatly impressed with my hearing tech and jealous they never know if I am listening to them or Spotify. In some respects it seems better for us now in that respect.


    • Hearington · January 19, 2016

      I’m glad you brought up the ReSound system. I’ve heard great things, but can you speak to the battery life of the hearing aids when streaming? I’ve heard that it can be a little less than satisfactory.


  2. Nick Higgins · January 19, 2016

    The battery life is about a week or less. However as we carry batteries around as a habit regardless I can cope with that. I think the market needs to head in the direction of linking aids to smartphones via apps. The individual personalisation of bass treble comfort in noise wind reduction and geotagging of all these settings is really what a lot of us have been asking for. There is progress out there.


    • Hearington · January 19, 2016

      That’s encouraging. However I’d still be a little leary to jump to a new hearing aid platform as well as a new smartphone without being more familiar with the product.


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