The European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA) represents the major European hearing instrument manufacturers, offering smart hearing aid and implant solutions for people with hearing loss. Members of EHIMA develop, manufacture, and market hearing instruments on a large scale in one or more countries in Europe as well as exporting their products worldwide. Products manufactured by EHIMA members account for 90 percent of the global market share.

In a recent interview with Nikolai Bisgaard from EHIMA, we discussed the impact Bluetooth® Audio Sharing will have on hearing aids and assistive listening systems.

“The Bluetooth® Audio Sharing (broadcasting) feature opens up amazing opportunities for streaming audio signals to large audiences.”

Q&A with Nikolai Bisgaard from EHIMA

What is your role in the development of the LE Audio specifications?

EHIMA approached the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) in 2013 with a wish for specific features that would allow hearing aids to employ Bluetooth® technology to expand the connectivity to other devices. Low power operation makes Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) the most attractive version for hearing aids, but the lack of an audio transmission protocol was a serious shortcoming at the time. Having worked in the hearing aid industry for decades, I realized the huge potential of the new version and have been employed by EHIMA to promote the new standard.

What has you most excited about Bluetooth Audio Sharing, and how might it impact the lives of people with hearing loss?

The Bluetooth® Audio Sharing (broadcasting) feature opens up amazing opportunities for streaming audio signals to large audiences without prior pairing of the source and the hearing aids.

Many people with hearing loss must have access to assistive listening systems with direct streaming to fully enjoy sound in public venues where competing noise and reverberation pose serious challenges. When an affordable mainstream technology like Bluetooth can provide such services, we will see a proliferation of assistive listening systems to the benefit of hearing aid users across the world. Many users of headsets and earbuds will also benefit from these new opportunities.

Can you explain the difference between Bluetooth Audio Sharing and existing options (e.g., telecoil/loop, etc.)?

The Bluetooth® Audio Sharing system will have many advantages over the telecoil/loop systems. Improved sound quality and no interference from other electronic devices are important benefits. The ease of installation of a wireless system will also help to make this technology popular.

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Bluetooth Audio Sharing holds the promise to satisfy many use cases, such as large-area listening in public venues, 1:1 hearing assistance at service counters, public TVs, and personal audio sharing (e.g., streaming music to multiple speakers or earbuds). Which use case are you most excited about and why?

We are excited by most of these use cases that, in time, will bring important benefits to hearing aid users, but the large-area listening in public venues is currently the use case we believe will bring the most benefits for hearing aid users.

“Bluetooth® Audio Sharing will enable listening…in venues where noise often prevents you from a quality experience.”

How will you use the Bluetooth Audio Sharing feature?

The majority of all modern hearing aids already use Bluetooth® technology for programming the devices to the specific need of each use. When LE Audio is implemented in coming generations of hearing aids, they will be able to benefit from Bluetooth Audio Sharing as well as connectivity to phones, TVs, and other devices. Bluetooth technology will be a new input source that hearing aid users can select.

How will new Bluetooth Audio Sharing capabilities impact our lives?

Bluetooth® Audio Sharing will enable listening to all sorts of audio material in venues where noise often prevents you from a quality experience. For instance, TV monitors in public areas are normally muted, and you must read the transcribed text in ticker lines. With Bluetooth Audio Sharing, you will be able to pick the sound directly in your hearing instruments, headsets, or earbuds and listen without disturbing other people.

When might we expect to see hearing aids with Bluetooth Audio Sharing capabilities hitting the market?

That is hard to say. The specifications are just about to be finalized, and since hearing aids are medical devices and thus subject to rather strict regulatory requirements, it will take some time to get products out. The transmitters for assistive listening are provided by some specialized companies that also need to develop and market their products before it all comes together.

Do you plan to have products and solutions with LE Audio and Bluetooth Audio Sharing capabilities?

I am confident that all major hearing aid manufacturers are cooking on their first products with LE Audio.

FEATURED INNOVATION

Bluetooth Audio Sharing

A new, global consumer service, Bluetooth® Audio Sharing will deliver audio accessibility and enhanced listening experiences for everyone, improving the way you engage with others and the world around you.

LEARN MORE

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