Google is developing native hearing aid support for Android

Google

For the most part, Bluetooth hearing aids have been easily compatible with iPhones, but Android fragmentation has made it difficult for hearing aid manufacturers to provide support to Android devices. Now Google is working to bring native hearing aid support for streaming on Android.

Google announced today that it’s working with Danish hearing aid manufacturer GN Hearing to create a new hearing aid spec for Android smartphones called ASHA, or Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids. It’s designed to be battery-efficient, while providing high quality audio with low latency. Hearing aids utilizing this spec will be able to connect to and stream from Android devices without having to use another intermediate device. ASHA will enable Bluetooth hearing aids to be utilized the same way as headphones, used to call friends or listen to music.

Google has published the new protocol specifications online for any hearing aid manufacturer to build native hearing aid support for Android. GN Hearing has announced that the ReSound LiNX Quattro and Beltone Amaze will be the first hearing aids to receive direct streaming support in a future update.

Comments

MFi, ASHA, W1, Bluetooth – where is the standardization? I would kill for an elegant, mandated next gen spec. Why can’t these companies come together and define a standard protocol? We’ve done it with WiFi, we’ve done it with Bluetooth, USB and other manual intefaces.

HAs are thousands of dollars out of pocket, and typically have fragmented, dated implementation of communications standards. Think "open and close the battery door 6 times to pair to pair to a different device," "have your audiologist use proprietary software to rename your hearing aid if it stops pairing with your device." And these standards, are always changing. My hearing aid has features that just don’t work because of firmware errors with a specific Bluetooth chipset.

These devices take YEARS to come to market due to regulatory burden, and the ecosystem is a fragmented mess. It’s nice to see Apple adding features to support accessibility tools, and Google working on a new spec, but we will be in the same quagmire of an ecosystem until a unified spec is defined.

This effort would benefit from more commitment from the tech industry, not just the segment concerned with assistive devices. But I guess getting people to care enough about supporting people with disabilities is hard enough…

The new Amplifon/Miracle ear ecosystem should be helpful in this, they basically want to remove the fragmentation and provide their customers with a unified ecosystem for all manufacturers/standards. Just launched in Italy with a first feature set, but the beginnings look promising.

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