The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announces LE Audio as the next generation of Bluetooth audio. With LE Audio, hearing aid users “will benefit from high-quality sound from many types of media directly in their hearing instruments,” according to the announcement.

Since 2013, the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA) has been collaborating with Bluetooth SIG to develop a new suite of standards which bring improved features and performance, specifically for hearing aid users. In 2014, SIG and EHIMA announced a memo of understanding (MOU) that, among other things, would create new features for hearing aids such as stereo audio from a mobile device and media gateway with Bluetooth wireless technology. According to the 2014 announcement, EHIMA states that existing telecoil technology can be “difficult to incorporate into smartphones” and is that installed loop systems that transmit audio to hearing aids with telecoils can “vary greatly from country to country.” The organization supports utilizing the existing Bluetooth standard supported in many existing tablets, smartphones, and PCs to give hearing impaired users more customized options.

LE Audio introduces broadcasting of signals to any user in the range of the transmitter that has a hearing aid. This means that the user can connect to the transmission with a simple action in their hearing instrument. This new technology is said to be “more cost effective and simpler to install” compared to the induction-based system used hitherto. 

“With direct streaming of audio signals in noisy situations, Bluetooth LE Audio helps us to provide better service for users of hearing instruments, such as hearing aids and implants. We expect the simplicity and affordability of this solution to lead to higher popularity and coverage compared to previous systems,” said EHIMA Secretary-General Stefan Zimmer. 

Users will be able to listen to high-quality, stereo music in theaters, concerts, and churches as well as to voice messages from public information infrastructure. Used in public transportation, LE transmitters will allow hearing aid users to be up-to-date on information pertaining to their journey. 

Both public and private venues will find installation of these systems “much more economical, resulting in a step change in accessibility for anyone with hearing loss.”

EHIMA will continue to work with hearing instrument user groups as well as with Bluetooth SIG to maximize the benefits of this technology. 

Source: SIG, EHIMA