(BPT) - Bluetooth technology is steadily expanding the role of modern hearing aids from tiny marvels that make use of artificial intelligence to process sound into true, state-of-the-art multimedia hubs now capable of two-way communication.
The primary goal of hearing aids has always been to improve speech understanding. While this hasn’t changed, manufacturers are now building Bluetooth technology directly into the most advanced hearing aid microchips. This lets consumers directly connect to virtually any wireless electronic device, eliminating the need to wear a body-worn accessory.
Let’s take a brief look at how the latest Bluetooth hearing aids are transforming the way we live.
They can now directly connect to any Bluetooth-enabled phone
According to Dr. Elizabeth Thompson, director of business development and veterans affairs at Phonak, previous generations of hearing aids could only directly connect to an iPhone, which greatly limited people’s options.
“Pew Research Center found only 33 percent of American smartphone owners used an iPhone while a whopping 66 percent used the Android operating system,” said Thompson. “Furthermore, another study showed 38 percent of all Americans over age 65 still use a classic flip phone. Until now, there has never been a Bluetooth hearing aid that was truly made for all devices and allowed universal connectivity — including the ability to directly connect to an iPhone, an Android device (e.g., Samsung, LG), or even a classic flip phone that is Bluetooth-ready.”
Bluetooth hearing aids enable truly hands-free calls
The latest Bluetooth hearing aids allow you to answer a phone call with a simple press of a button on the hearing aid. Built-in microphones on the hearing aids themselves feature automatic voice pickup, allowing people to have two-way conversations through their hearing aids. Thompson stated this is the first time this has ever been done with hearing aids.
“This is indeed the first time a hearing aid wearer can have a true hands-free conversation without having to touch the phone at all,” she said. “This is especially convenient in the car, where your phone may be in a pocket or purse, or if you need to have a conversation while leaving your phone on the table or countertop, for example if you’re cooking.”
They stream wireless stereo sound directly from your TV
According to research firm Statista, Americans spend an average of 4.5 hours per day watching TV. And if you are or live with someone who has hearing loss, you probably know that sometimes the volume of the TV can become an issue.
“With a card-sized TV Connector, hearing aid wearers simply plug the device into the back of the TV,” added Thompson. “The ‘plug and play’ TV Connector instantly pairs with Bluetooth hearing aids, allowing viewers to stream high-fidelity TV sound in-stereo at their preferred volume level, independent of other viewers. Wearers have reported a markedly better experience in understanding dialogue, especially when the person on TV is talking fast.”
Bluetooth hearing aids are available right now
While all of these new advances may sound like the future, hearing aids with built-in Bluetooth technology are available today. For more information, visit tryphonak.com or find a licensed hearing care professional who has been specially trained in fitting the latest hearing aid technology.
(BPT) - When it comes to technology, smarter is better. There are smart watches, smart televisions and just about everyone has a smartphone.
So what about a smart home?
Smart thermostats and lighting timers represent the first steps toward smart home technology for many homeowners, but in a lot of cases, they were the only steps. Since then, technology has continued to develop, and today there are scores of home goods that can talk to one another while allowing you total control of your home from your smartphone, tablet or another device.
It all sounds so simple, so perfect, yet many consumers remain confused on how to make the most of smart home technology in their house. Instead of finding the installation welcoming, they see it as daunting and expensive.
This doesn’t have to be the case. Installing — and enjoying — smart home technology in your house is easier than you think. Follow these five simple steps and your home will be a smart home in no time.
* Determine what you’d like to control remotely or automate based on time. Having total control of your home sounds great, but it also leads to total responsibility and sometimes you don’t need all that. For example, lighting solutions are a popular automated option. The smart dimmer by Leviton allows you to dim and time lighting to meet your needs once you download the app, providing you increased functionality all from your smartphone or tablet.
* Select technology that works with your home. When you're shopping for products — like lighting switches — you should always be mindful of functionality. For example, does your home operate on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth? Understand the base functionalities of your home and you'll streamline your shopping process.
* Seek professional help. If you’re concerned about your ability to set up your smart home technology successfully, don’t be afraid to seek out some guidance. Call on your contractor to assist you in the installation. You can also download helpful guides and how-to instructions from the manufacturer’s website. The more information you have before beginning the project, the more comfortable you’ll be with the installation.
* Download the proper apps. The key to your home’s smart technology lies in the corresponding apps. Make sure you’ve downloaded the right one to match your system. Many smart home technologies offer both iPhone and Android apps to provide the functionality control you need.
* Set your schedule and optimize as needed. Your smart home is an ever-evolving machine, and the more time you take to continually customize your preferences, the more you’ll get from your system. Establish your initial schedule and then add voice control through Amazon, Google or Apple. Finally, don't be afraid to make continued improvements. You’ve already tackled the biggest hurdle of installing your system, and the ongoing small adjustments you add will make your system great.
To learn more about today’s smart homes and lighting technologies available from companies such as Leviton, visit www.Leviton.com/DecoraSmart.
People love their smartphones. A survey of nearly 12,000 adults identified the most desired features, including price, battery life and screen resolution.
(BPT) - It's easy to be overwhelmed when it comes to choosing a cellphone provider. Everyone claims to offer the best, cheapest and most comprehensive service. It can be especially baffling for seniors who, despite boundless wisdom elsewhere, may be newcomers to this technology.
When you boil it down, it's actually fairly simple. You need two things: a device that does what you need it to do, and a way to connect that device to a reliable wireless network. And there's no reason you shouldn't get it all at a price you can afford.
It's all about the phone.
The type of phone you choose will determine everything else you need. Will you use it primarily to make and receive calls? Do you want to send and receive text messages? Will you be searching the internet or using social media?
Familiarize yourself with the types of phones on the market, and decide which is the best fit. Cellphones range from simple models offering basic call-and-text functions to sophisticated smartphones, capable of performing a mind-boggling array of tasks. Make sure you're getting what you really need, and don't tie yourself to something you'll quickly outgrow.
Coverage is key.
Your cellphone is only as good as the network it connects to. Before you sign up for service, you'll want to be sure a provider can deliver coverage to the places you'll be using your phone the most.
While most providers display general coverage maps in their retail stores or on their website, distinctively local things can impact cellphone reception. Your home's building materials may create interference, or tall buildings standing between your neighborhood and the nearest cellphone tower could disrupt the signal.
Rather than relying solely on a map, ask around. Check if your neighbors are happy with the quality of their cellular service. Or have friends make calls from your house to hear what the reception and sound quality are like. This could go a long way toward narrowing your choices.
Minutes, texts and data: Solving the plan puzzle.
The last piece of the puzzle will be deciding what type of monthly service to sign up for. Cellphone plans are packaged in a dizzying array of formats, but there are three basic types.
Contract plans bound you to a carrier for a fixed term, usually two years. This means if you're dissatisfied, there's no opportunity to change until the contract expires without paying a significant penalty. Prepaid plans allow you to buy a fixed amount of minutes, texts and data, and use them until they run out. At that point you'll have no service until you purchase more.
No contract, post-paid plans offer a nice mix of both. There's no long-term agreement, so you can make changes without penalties. Unless you cancel, your plan renews month-to-month, so there's no worry about running out of minutes and losing your service. There are even special rates just for seniors: Consumer Cellular, who specialize in wireless service for users over 50, offers exclusive discounts to AARP members.
Avoid surprises on your bill.
Before you sign up, ask about any penalties or hidden fees that may apply. Some carriers charge a fee just to activate your service. On contract plans, you're required to pay a hefty "early termination fee" if you cancel your service early. Find out up front to avoid being ambushed later on.
Whatever you choose, your monthly bill should be straightforward and understandable. You should be able to tell at a glance what period of time the bill covers, what your monthly charge is for accessing the carriers network, the cost of your monthly plan (and what it includes), plus any applicable taxes or fees.
Put yourself in charge.
Shopping for the best deal on your cellphone service is no different than shopping for a dishwasher or an automobile. No one knows better than you do what your needs are.
Just remember: there's no shortage of wireless carriers in the market, and they're all vying for your business. Use this advantage wisely - do your homework, ask questions and don't be afraid to walk away if you don't get the answers you want.
(BPT) - It's a common refrain: technology is killing our relationships. Couples have swapped date night for Netflix binging. They Candy Crush their way through an intimate conversation. They've replaced long walks on the beach with an all-out Facebook investigation into their friend's cute new puppy.
We can blame a lot of our relationship woes on today's tech - it's true - but when technology's power is harnessed the right way, it can actually become the very thing that saves us from love's most common pitfalls.
So before powering down all of your electronics, consider the following three scenarios where technology might be the only thing that can help you save an untimely end to your relationship:
1. Your loved one is having a tech meltdown.
Admit it: there is no greater frustration known to mankind than when you've been working on a document for hours and the program crashes. Or when the printer isn't printing. Or when you can't access the baby pictures that you're trying to show to your grandma.
The urge to pick up the computer/phone/tablet and throw it against the wall becomes a dark force within you. Your tech-savvy partner is out for the whole day and now the dog is even starting to judge you.
So what do you do? You call your partner - wherever he or she may be - and rant about the problem.
If you've been on the receiving end of one of these calls, you know how they all end. The few troubleshooting suggestions you can rationally muster without being able to see the problem at hand are all met with an "It's still not working!" The frustration flows on both sides of the call with no resolution in sight.
But by adding a "remote control" application into the mix you can now virtually (and safely) access a computer and solve any problems from anywhere with an internet connection.
A number of companies produce this kind of software. TeamViewer offers a free version for personal use and their latest version has improved security features and, for the first time ever, offers mobile-to-mobile remote control so you can even help your loved one with their phone faux pas.
2. You've left the tickets to the big show at home.
It has happened to all of us. You're finally at the check-in for the sold-out BeyoncÃ© concert - where Jay Z is expected to make an on-stage appearance - and where he will rap-battle with a hologram of himself.
The security guard calls for "tickets, please!" You reach into your pockets, and your heart drops as the realization sets in: the tickets have been left at home, saved on the computer.
You start calculating the damage - both emotional and fiscal. Your partner begins to glow red with rage.
But you need not fret! Remote control software lets you log in to your home computer, even when it's unattended, from your phone, your partner's phone or that tablet in your carry-on.
It's the perfect opportunity to prevent such a moment from spiraling into an all-out "incident" that will be held against you for years to come.
For added bonus points, use your smartphone's built-in personal assistant and ask her to remind you to bring the tickets before you ever leave the house.
Admitting you're forgetful is the first step. Stepping up your tech savviness is the second.
3. That special getaway you've planned is about to be ruined by work
One of the quickest buzzkills to any vacation is the unexpected work assignment from the boss or client who doesn't care that this is the first time you and your partner are getting away together - without the kids/dogs/cats/ferrets - in over a year.
Enter virtual meeting applications.
They let you present documents, share files and even speak to your attendees all through the app with no need to long distance dial-in. You can tell your boss you'll handle the presentation and still plan that special vacation without worrying that a big project might flare up. And your partner can still take in all the R&R she or he has been longing for.
You see? With a little help from technology, you can bring out the relationship champ you always knew was within you.
(BPT) - When it comes to parenting, there are as many styles as there are stars in the sky. It doesn't matter if you're a known helicopter parent or you prefer detachment parenting methods, there's one thing everyone can agree on: You want to parent with compassion and confidence.
Every mom knows that managing a family can be a full-time job. Throw in your career and a social life and you might find yourself asking: how do some parents make it look so easy? There's no magic formula, but there are a few strategies that these 'Total Boss Moms' implement to manage those hectic days. Take it from an expert:
"Being a total boss mom means juggling a chaotic schedule with ease - like a boss," says Tamera Mowry, actress and host of 'The Real' talk show. "When I'm running a mile a minute, I rely heavily on my smartphone to help me manage my days."
Here are five tips for parenting like a total boss that will help you stay organized, cut wasted time and save money:
Prep early and often
Packing lunches, organizing backpacks, prepping dinner - staying on top of all the day's to-do's can be overwhelming. The best way to reduce stress and stay organized is to do as much as you can early. That means use Sunday night to chop vegetables for the week's lunches and dinners. Pack backpacks and pick out clothes the night before. Finally, parents who get up before their kids have a few moments of silence to shower, read the paper and get a cup of coffee down before the little ones wake.
Stay connected to stay in charge
Being connected is essential to being a boss. Fortunately, that doesn't require an expensive mobile plan. Starting at $35 a month, Total Wireless offers unlimited talk and text plus 5GB of 4G LTEâ€ data with no contracts or hidden fees. Plus, with nationwide coverage on America's largest and most dependable network, you have confidence you're always connected. Learn more at www.totalwireless.com.
Stay organized with a central calendar
When parents and kids all have different obligations, it means schedules can get chaotic. Set up a shared electronic calendar that both you and your partner can access to see what the day holds. If possible, use color coding and other sorting tools to designate items for each family member. Then set alarms and always make sure you can access this calendar on your smartphone throughout the day.
Use group texts to save time
Save time and stay up-to-date by using group texts to communicate quickly with multiple people. "I have a group text with the girls from 'The Real,'" Mowry says. "A busy mom doesn't have a lot of time, so being able to streamline those conversations about work and personal life is a real time-saver. This way everyone is on the same page and we can plan things outside of work easily, too."
Stay healthy with the help of your smartphone
It can be easy to overlook your own needs between everything you manage, but they're just as important. "I use the fitness apps all the time. As a busy mom, I need to make sure I'm staying healthy," says Mowry. "I can keep track of the calories I'm burning on my phone. I can also make sure all the food items I'm buying at the store are healthy for my family."
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