The need for better audio accessibility is greater now than ever before. According to the World Health Organization, half a billion people currently need audio accessibility, and 2.5 billion people are projected to have some degree of hearing loss by 2050.
“Hearing and understanding speech in various environments can be a daily struggle for people with any degree of hearing loss,” says Barbara Kelley, executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America. “Audio quality innovations can benefit everyone while also improving communication access to those with hearing loss.”
Existing ALS Challenges
While current assistive listening system (ALS) technologies, such as inductive loops, have been providing great benefit to people with hearing loss, they suffer from a number of challenges that have limited their deployment, including poor quality, high cost, and lack of privacy.
With loop systems, deployment is expensive and labor intensive. Venues that want to provide assistive listening have been scared off by the price of installation. Non-loop assistive listening solutions are typically not convenient for the user. It usually means picking up an FM or infrared receiver at the venue since they are not standardized. “Currently, there is just no way to equip all the possible places offering live audio with telecoil systems,” said Jeff Solum from Starkey.
To help overcome the challenges associated with current ALS technologies, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) worked closely with the hearing aid industry to define and introduce the next generation of assistive listening system technology, Auracast™ broadcast audio.