Recently, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced the completion of the long-anticipated Bluetooth LE Audio specification suite. This advancement in Bluetooth® technology will help create new use cases and products, from broadcast audio to enhanced hearing assistance.

Bluetooth LE Audio will improve the performance of Bluetooth audio, add support for hearing aids, and introduce Auracast broadcast audio – a new capability that will enable an audio source device (e.g., a smartphone) to broadcast one or more audio streams to an unlimited number of audio sink devices (e.g., earbuds, speakers, hearing aids, etc.). This new capability will deliver unique audio experiences that will enhance the way we engage with each other and the world around us, allowing people to listen together, hear better, and unmute the world.

Why We Need Better Support for Hearing Aids

Every year, more people rely on hearing aids to improve their quality of life and help manage hearing loss. 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.

According to Nick Hunn, CTO of WiFore Consulting, hearing loss can lead to depression, loneliness, and dementia, largely because of social isolation that results from difficulty engaging in and maintaining conversations. “Sadly, more and more people are suffering from hearing loss,” says Hunn. “With loss of sight, we can manage and repair most of the deficiencies with corrective lenses. With hearing loss, once it occurs, it can’t be repaired, and it’s only going to get worse. We need better solutions and greater accessibility for everyone with any hearing impairment.”

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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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Lower Latency, Lower Power Consumption & Better Audio Quality

Hearing aids, unlike earbuds, often must be turned on all day. Bluetooth LE Audio adds lower latency, lower power consumption, and better sound quality to Bluetooth® hearing aid devices, allowing developers to offer more features without impacting the battery life. The effect this will have on the next generation of hearing aids cannot be understated. “We’ve made great strides toward rechargeable hearing aids, but we also have these zinc-air batteries that can last five to seven days,” said Jeff Solum, wireless system architect with Starkey Hearing Technologies. “We want to create this new wireless system, this new ecosystem, without impacting the battery life of what a hearing aid wearer has been used to over the years. And Bluetooth LE Audio allows us to do it.”

“The real change that Bluetooth® LE Audio is going to make is that everything that is accessible for an earbud consumer is now going to be accessible to someone with a hearing aid.” 
– Nick Hunn, WiFore Consulting

Including low latency and high-quality audio into Bluetooth LE Audio will enable a smartphone to be used as an external microphone, allowing you to point the phone at people you are conversing with, stream that audio directly to your hearing aid, and benefit from better sound quality. “Imagine a network of Bluetooth LE Audio phones that could stream into your hearing aid and provide you with sound quality and comprehension that’s even better than what people who do not use hearing aids experience,” said Richard Einhorn, consultant at Einhorn Consulting, LLC.

Once hearing aids can provide the same connectivity performance as other audio devices, hearing aids become destigmatized. “I think for hearing aids, the real change that Bluetooth LE Audio is going to make is that everything that is accessible for an earbud consumer is now going to be accessible to someone with a hearing aid,” said Hunn. “I hope Bluetooth LE Audio it is going to be one of the things that helps reduce the stigma so we soon think about hearing aids the same way we think about glasses. It’s just something that we need to help enjoy all those everyday experiences.”

Auracast™ Broadcast Audio

Auracast™ broadcast audio is another major innovation to come out of Bluetooth LE Audio for hearing aid users. Auracast™ broadcast audio is a standardized method for public broadcasting, and it holds the potential to change the way in which we experience the world around us.

Thanks to Auracast™ broadcast audio, nearly everyone will be able to experience the benefits of broadcast audio across a wide range of venues, private or public. Public locations – including conference centers, movie theaters, transportation centers, places of worship, and more – will deploy Auracast™ broadcast audio to promote better living through better hearing for everyone. “We can now have an infinite number of listeners on one Bluetooth® stream, and that can be used in a lot of scenarios – from silent TVs in sports bars to public announcements in transportation centers,” said Einhorn.

Auracast™ broadcast audio allows any receiver to receive an audio signal without connecting and pairing, letting you share music from your phone to multiple people around you. This use case is further expanded when you consider restaurants or transportation hubs with multiple muted TVs. Thanks to Auracast™ broadcast audio, you will be able to use your phone to scan for all available broadcast streams and select the stream you want to hear. That audio will come directly into your headset, earbuds, or hearing aids, automatically synchronizing between both sides.

“Auracast™ broadcast audio takes us to social audio, enabling it to be shared with more people and creating a common experience.” 
– Joel Linsky, Qualcomm

“When you think about Auracast™ broadcast audio, when you look at  public places like airports, bars, train stations, or shopping malls, you will soon be able to connect to an Auracast™ broadcast audio stream,” said Kanji Kerai, wireless system engineer with Meta Platforms, Inc. “Users will be able to select from the available broadcast streams on their phone and hear it straight in their earbuds. That is a very powerful feature, and it will enhance wireless audio for years to come.”

Auracast™ broadcast audio also has the capability to create a social audio experience. Much of how we consume media today can be isolating. For many, it is a way to shut out the outside world. “Bluetooth® audio has been about personal audio,” said Joel Linsky, VP of Technology at Qualcomm. “It’s my audio between my devices, and I have those experiences. Auracast™ broadcast audio takes us to social audio, enabling it to be shared with more people and creating a common experience.”

A Future With Auracast™ Broadcast Audio

Solution providers can now qualify their devices to use the Auracast™ name and trademark when they launch a new product, ensuring interoperability with other Auracast™ devices, such as earbuds or headphones. Whenever you see that logo displayed on devices, it will guarantee interoperability in participating public venues. “Venues can put in a broadcast Bluetooth LE Audio transmitter, and if it meets the requirements for Auracast™ broadcast audio, then they can put a sign up saying Auracast broadcast audio is here, much in the same way that places used to put up a Wi-Fi sign,” said Hunn. “Anybody going into that venue – whether it’s a café, a bar, a bus, an airport, etc. – will know that they can use their Auracast™ capable earbuds or hearing aid to pick up and listen to whatever’s being broadcasted.”

FEATURED INNOVATION

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.

LEARN MORE

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