It’s only been a few months, but the release of Auracast™ broadcast audio is already having a major impact across the audio market. With the promise of letting users share audio, unmuting silent TVs, and helping everyone hear their best, Auracast™ broadcast audio will enhance how we engage with others and the world around us.

Auracast assistive listening

Recently, the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH) published a declaration praising the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) for its work with the European Hearing Instrument Manufactures Association (EHIMA) in creating Auracast™ broadcast audio, “a wireless universal technology…that promises to assist hard of hearing individuals to hear better in venues where hearing aids and cochlear implants are insufficient to function.”

With 61 million establishments globally that could take advantage of Auracast™ broadcast audio, according to ABI Research, this new Bluetooth® capability is projected to provide significant benefits to those with hearing loss. Industry experts anticipate Auracast™ broadcast audio will become the next-generation assistive listening system (ALS), and its ability to function in tandem with existing ALS solutions will enhance accessibility for a wider range of people with hearing loss.

“IFHOH praises the Bluetooth SIG for its work with EHIMA toward creating a wireless universal technology, known as Auracast, that promises to assist hard of hearing individuals to hear better in venues where hearing aids and cochlear implants are insufficient to function.” 
– Budapest Declaration, IFHOH World Congress 2022

Assistive Listening Today

For decades, assistive listening systems (ALS), such as hearing loops, FM, and IR , have provided great benefits to people with hearing loss. Telecoils built into hearing devices allow users to access audio within a hearing loop without the need for a separate receiver. This longstanding technology enables hearing aid users to access assistive audio in public locations, such as theaters, train stations, places of worship, and countertop conversations. However, these technologies are not without their challenges, and deployment is primarily driven by regulatory requirements.  

Auracast™ broadcast audio has the potential to solve many of these challenges, being highly reliable and flexible while being relatively inexpensive to deploy. A low-impact alternative that benefits a wider range of visitors in public spaces will incentivize venues to install it, bringing greater accessibility to more hearing aid users.

Does that mean Auracast™ broadcast audio will become the new ALS standard?

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Is Bluetooth Technology the New Standard for ALS?

Many experts throughout the industry see the potential for Auracast™ broadcast audio to be the next-generation ALS. There’s a good probability that this will eventually come to fruition. However, complete market saturation could take years, maybe even decades, to realize.

In the interim, the coexistence of Auracast™ broadcast audio and existing ALS solutions is critical for hearing aid users, and the IFHOH recommends that manufacturers of hearing aids and cochlear implants continue to integrate telecoils in their products. As the IFHOH’s Budapest Declaration states, “it is important to have both telecoil and Auracast™ technologies in hearing aids and cochlear implants until most hard of hearing users will feel they can rely on the new Auracast™ technology.”

“IFHOH foresees a world where FM, IR, and hearing loop systems (including those found in taxis, ticket counters, airports, theatres, etc.) will function for the foreseeable future alongside Auracast™ systems. Therefore, all assistive listening systems, hearing aids, and cochlear implants need to be Auracast™ broadcast audio + telecoil compatible.” 
– Budapest Declaration, IFHOH World Congress 2022

Industry Support for Auracast™ Broadcast Audio + Telecoil

For the foreseeable future, the IFHOH expects to see current ALS technologies functioning alongside systems that include Auracast™ broadcast audio.

The declaration published by the IFHOH summarizes this very message – acknowledging the potential of Auracast™ broadcast audio while advocating for the continued inclusion of telecoil in future hearing aids. As noted in the IFHOH’s Budapest Declaration, “IFHOH foresees a world where FM, IR, and hearing loop systems (including those found in taxis, ticket counters, airports, theatres, etc.) will function for the foreseeable future alongside Auracast™ systems. Therefore, all assistive listening systems, hearing aids, and cochlear implants need to be Auracast™ broadcast audio + telecoil compatible.”

The Future of Assistive Listening

The future of assistive listening will include Auracast™ broadcast audio. There is no doubt of that. The Budapest Declaration from the IFHOH acknowledges as much. But complete market saturation for universal audio accessibility in public spaces will take some time. The Bluetooth SIG agrees with the IFHOH – the coexistence of Auracast™ broadcast audio with existing technology will be essential to enhancing audio experiences for hearing aid users while offering them greater accessibility in public locations.

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