Innovation

Native Android hearing aid support could help hearing-impaired pros get more work done

Hearing aid audio support is being added to Android devices using Bluetooth LE, according to Google.

Google is in the process of developing an open specification that enables Android devices to natively support hearing aids, according to an Android blog post updated Thursday. The company aims to guide manufacturers toward native support for Android devices by using its Bluetooth low energy spec, also known as Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (Asha), according to the post.

Around 466 million people have disabling hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a number expected to reach 900 million by 2050. With an issue so prominent, many people could benefit from Android's update; however, the addition of hearing aid support is long overdue.

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Almost all iPhones are compatible with hearing aids under the FCC requirements for hearing-aid compatibility, and have been for a while. Androids are just now developing hearing aid accessibility through the new open specification. Until now the iPhone was possibly a better option, or they had limited options for phones with native support

Google partnered with GN Hearing to create Asha, which will be able to provide low latency, high-quality audio with little impact on battery life, according to a blog post from Android vice president of engineering Seang Chau.

The feature will be available on future versions of Android, said Chau, and users will be able to connect, pair, and monitor hearing aids with their phones. "Any hearing aid manufacturer can now build native hearing aid support for Android," Chau explained in the post.

Android's addition of hearing aid accessibility gives those users options for what device to purchase. Business pros with hearing disabilities can benefit greatly from the update, especially if they prefer the user experience of Android over iPhone. The ability to monitor the hearing aid directly on the device not only makes functionality great for everyday life, but also for business travel.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Google is bringing hearing aid support to future versions of Android, which is long overdue, as Apple's iPhones have hearing aid capabilities on almost all devices.
  • Google developed Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (Asha) with GN Hearing, which is said to provide low-latency, high-quality audio with little effect on battery life.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/humonia

About Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.

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