“Streamers,” Bluetooth, and Pacemaker Compatibility

Hearing Health & Technology Matters
November 11, 2014

This week’s post is a followup on an earlier blog post in September concerning “streamers” and Bluetooth connectivity. Siemens has released its EasyTek, and at a recent training session in New Jersey audiologists were told that the device was compatible with pacemakers. However, when looking for written backup on the Internet I found a Norwegian handbook  that advised people to check with their cardiologist before using EasyTek with a pacemaker. I also came across a “draft” instruction manual in English stating the same thing.

Siemens used to be upfront and definite about saying “yes” or “no” to the use of neck-type “streamers” by patients with pacemakers. Now, however, Siemens is offering the same unhelpful, generic advice that several other companies offer: they tell the patient to “ask your cardiologist.”

As a provider, I don’t like this answer and I am sure the cardiologist doesn’t either. If the device has a magnetic signal, the cardiologist will probably just say no to cover themselves. I have tried several times to get a straight answer from  Siemens on this issue, but as of this publication date, I have not heard back. If more of us ask, possibly we will get an answer. I hope so.

Why do I worry about this? Because I want to give my patients all the choices that the manufacturers give us. I recently had a couple who were getting new hearing aids and they do worry about pacemakers being in their future. Initially, they selected the GN Resound Linx because, yes, getting Bluetooth connectivity without a streamer would be nice (and we wouldn’t have to worry about anything around their neck if they did get a pacemaker.) They found they LOVED it, but the color they wanted was on back order, and well, they really did want to change the volume AND the program ear level after all (in a RIC product). So I had to switch them to another brand.

So, asking these types of questions before fitting a product on a patient is important. But getting all of the choices right and not getting sidetracked is a challenge. So I want to know well ahead about a hearing aid, is there a telecoil? Can the button handle serve as a program button AND a VC in a relatively small instrument? What if the patient thinks they will be getting a pacemaker in the next few months? What technology can I give them that will be suitable in case that happens? We can’t predict our patients’ future medical issues, so I want to get all the information I can that will enable me to fit them with hearing aids that will work for them over the LONG (longer than manufacturers suggest) life of the hearing aids.

Phonak reached out to my practice for a training session this coming week, for which I scheduled a couple of providers. I assumed the purpose was to tell us more about their new line and connectivity choices. But there was no followup from the company and I didn’t even know if there really would be a seminar in my area. My office was able to track this down, and it turns out that there will be training–but the day before we were originally told.  I was hoping to report on the possible changes if any when it came with pacemaker compatibility.

Sheesh! It really is a challenge to keep educated on all of this. I like to know about new products, whether I sell that brand or not. So, if any of you have information on Phonak’s newest connectivity choices, please share them in the comments section.

So Siemens, what’s the answer? Is it safe to use the EasyTek with a pacemaker? Yes or no!

Featured Image from us.hearing.siemens.com

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