The future of connectivity: embracing Bluetooth Low Energy Audio and Auracast™

GN News

Apr 22, 2024

The hearing industry is constantly challenging themselves to help those with hearing loss stay connected to the world around them. Currently, hearing loops are the universal way of providing wireless connection to any hearing aid with a telecoil.

The search for new technology is on, and all eyes and ears have turned towards Bluetooth. Almost all of us use a Bluetooth enabled device every day. It’s a technology that has revolutionized the way we connect to our world and it’s getting a much-needed upgrade with Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio.

Let’s dive a little deeper into what this technology is and what it can offer…

What is Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio, and how does it differ from classic Bluetooth audio?

Bluetooth LE Audio is the next generation of Bluetooth audio, designed to improve upon the existing classic Bluetooth audio by offering higher audio quality, longer battery life and a more reliable wireless connection. It was first announced in 2020, with the specifications confirmed in July 2022. It is being described as one of the largest development projects in the history of the Bluetooth SIG (the special interest group that governs Bluetooth technology).

What is Auracast™ and how does it work?

Auracast is a groundbreaking feature of Bluetooth LE Audio that allows users to share and broadcast audio to an unlimited number of nearby devices. Imagine entering a public space like an airport, gym, or cinema, and being able to seamlessly tap into the venue's audio system directly through your hearing aids or headphones. Auracast facilitates this by enabling public venues to broadcast audio that can be picked up by any compatible device within range, offering a personalized and inclusive listening experience for everyone.

Auracast is the most inclusive type of technology as it is made for people with any hearing profile using earbuds, headphones, cochlear implants, hearing aids.

How do you connect to a broadcast? Is it possible to join a broadcast through a QR code?

The process of accessing an Auracast broadcast is actually very simple:

  • An Auracast transmitter, such as a TV screen in a gym, starts a broadcast providing information to a compatible Bluetooth device.
  • Then, you can tune into a broadcast using a compatible device, such as your smartphone or tablet, scanning for Auracast broadcasts. A list of the available broadcasts will appear on your smartphone.
  • Finally, you select the broadcast you want to listen to, and you can begin listening to the audio immediately through your Auracast enabled receiver, which could include hearing aids, cochlear implants, or earbuds.

Bluetooth is finalizing the standardization of information that's associated with being able to join a broadcast via a QR code.

What are the benefits of Bluetooth LE Audio and Auracast for individuals with hearing loss?

The introduction of Bluetooth LE Audio and Auracast brings a number of benefits for individuals with hearing loss, including:

  • Improved audio quality: clearer and richer sound offering, enhancing the listening experience for individuals with hearing aids.
  • Longer battery life: the low-power consumption of Bluetooth LE Audio means hearing aids can last longer between charges, reducing anxiety about battery life.
  • Universal connectivity: Auracast enables users to connect their hearing aids to various audio sources in public spaces, making it easier to enjoy movies, announcements and music, thereby improving accessibility and participation in social settings.
  • Simultaneous connections: users can connect their hearing aids to multiple devices at once.

How will Auracast change public spaces for individuals with hearing loss?

Auracast has the potential to transform public spaces into more inclusive environments for people with hearing loss. For example, in venues equipped with Auracast transmitters, individuals with compatible hearing aids or other devices can directly stream audio from live performances, lectures or public announcements. This direct streaming can greatly improve the clarity of sound and speech understanding in noisy environments.

Auracast can also offer stereo and multistream like simultaneous translations, so people will be able to tune into a relevant stream for their preferred language.

Are there any challenges or limitations with Bluetooth LE Audio and Auracast that we should be aware of?

While Bluetooth LE Audio and Auracast offer many benefits, there are a few considerations:

  • Adoption rate: the widespread adoption of Auracast in public and private spaces will take time. The full benefits of these technologies will be realized as more venues and devices become equipped with Auracast capabilities.
  • Learning curve: some users may require assistance and education to understand how to connect to and navigate between different audio streams effectively.

What is next for Bluetooth LE Audio and Auracast?

Bluetooth LE Audio and Auracast are poised to revolutionize the hearing care industry, ushering in a new era of connectivity and inclusion. As we look to the future, the potential of Bluetooth LE Audio and Auracast in transforming the lives of people with hearing loss is truly exciting.

While it’s still early days, Auracast is expected to connect 3 billion devices and 2.5 million places by 2030, according to Bluetooth SIG. Hearing aids are a multi-year investment so it’s important that those buying hearing aids now are ready to connect in the future.