With 1.5 billion people living with hearing loss, Bluetooth® technology has the potential to transform the hearing aid market, which is where LE Audio was first conceived. Firstly, the LC3 codec can help enable hearing aid developers to offer improved battery life (up to 50 percent), reduce the size, or create new form factors that may have been limited by battery constraints while maintaining or improving the audio quality. Secondly, LE Audio provides the ability for hearing aids to directly connect with smartphones, TVs, and other source devices for calls, audio, and video content without the need for additional intermediary devices.
Bluetooth hearing aids already exist on the market today via Apple’s MFI hearing aid technology and Google’s ASHA implementations. ABI Research expects increased penetration of Bluetooth technology in these devices over the coming years, thanks to LE Audio’s ability to standardize the user experience, open up the market beyond closed vendor ecosystems, and enable innovative interoperable Auracast™ broadcast audio use cases.
While the conventional hearing aid market has grown in recent years, reaching 19 million units globally in 2021, growth in the hearing aid market is expected to accelerate further over the next few years, particularly in the U.S. In August 2022, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized its rule to establish a category of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids that consumers with mild to moderate hearing loss can purchase directly from stores or online retailers without a medical exam, audiologist visit, or prescription. The aim is to help expand adoption via greater competition, lower costs, and greater access. By the end of the decade, ABI Research expects this OTC market segment will have overtaken the existing hearing aid market size by a significant amount and that these devices will benefit from rapidly embracing LE Audio.
LE Audio: The Future of Bluetooth® Audio
Get new forecasts about when and which audio devices will adopt Auracast™ broadcast audio, along with predictions for when public locations will deploy this new Bluetooth capability to enable new audio use cases in their venues.
Enabling a Global Assistive Listening Ecosystem
Auracast™ broadcast audio has significant potential to become the next-generation assistive listening technology. However, it will need to overcome a number of hurdles if it is to build success.
Auracast™ broadcast audio has significant potential to become the next-generation assistive listening technology.
Firstly, hearing aid uptake today is itself still limited; reasons include high costs, stigma around hearing aid use, lack of perceived need, and educational barriers. Therefore, another driver of longer-term Auracast™ adoption will be to increase the usage and adoption of assistive listening devices more broadly. This will require greater choice and flexibility in assistive listening solutions, smoother purchase cycles, higher-quality devices, more affordable products, the removal of stigma, greater awareness of hearing loss, and education on adoption benefits. Greater availability of OTC solutions across different regions will also accelerate adoption, but this will likely depend on regional restrictions and availability.
From a regulatory perspective, much work also needs to be done to incentivize Auracast™ broadcast audio as a primary assistive listening technology in various public venues or within new buildings as standard. Despite being around for several decades, the assistive listening market in public spaces itself — whether that be hearing loops, FM systems, IR, radio-based solutions, or other technologies — remains relatively limited in terms of their installed base.
Related to this will be the need to educate all aspects of the industry on what Auracast™ broadcast audio can do, where it is deployed, and how it can be used. One of the biggest problems with assistive listening solutions today has been lack of awareness of whether a solution is available and how it can be leveraged, among both staff and hearing aid users alike.
An ecosystem of system integrators and installers will also need to be formed to help rollout Auracast™ broadcast audio solutions across a larger number of public venues. The technology must meet specific standards that go beyond what is available today and ensure that all user experiences are high quality, intuitive, and standardized, regardless of where it is implemented. Here, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) will play an important role via its deployment guidelines, branding, and licensing requirements in order to ensure a consistent Auracast™ broadcast audio experience across all venues.
It will also be critical to ensure that Auracast™ adoption does not detrimentally impact current users of assistive listening devices, and there may need to be a lengthy managed transition. There is likely to be a significant period when existing hearing loop technology will co-exist with growing numbers of Auracast™ solutions.
What Product Developers & Public Locations Need to Know About Auracast™ Broadcast Audio
Watch this discussion on how Auracast™ broadcast audio will introduce new opportunities for wireless audio developers and allow public locations to enhance their visitor satisfaction while increasing audio accessibility for all.
While both technologies are likely to coexist for the next couple of decades, the ability for LE Audio to broadcast one or several audio streams to an unlimited number of Auracast™ receiver devices will help create a more scalable assistive listening solution that could eventually supersede existing hearing loop deployments and open up additional accessibility options for those with hearing loss. Despite the aforementioned challenges, Auracast™ transmitters have the potential to be more cost effective, provide a more consistent and higher-quality experience, and be easier to deploy. This will allow for a much greater expansion of assistive listening solutions than other technologies can achieve.
Auracast™ transmitters have the potential to be more cost effective, provide a more consistent and higher-quality experience, and be easier to deploy.
Furthermore, as more and more OTC hearing aids, conventional headsets, and true-wireless earbuds support LE Audio and Auracast™ broadcast audio, the lines between consumer devices and assistive listening devices will increasingly blur. Many more people with mild to moderate hearing loss will be able to take advantage of lower-cost, interoperable solutions that can engage with future Auracast™ deployments and benefit from improved assistive listening experiences. This greater variety of devices should hopefully lead to the removal of any remaining stigma around those with hearing loss and instead spur on a wave of innovation and greater accessibility for millions of people around the world.
Auracast™ Broadcast Audio
Auracast™ broadcast audio will deliver life-changing audio experiences that will enhance the way you engage with others and the world around you.
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