The Next Generation of Hearing Aids and Assistance

Enabling a global supportive listening ecosystem

Auracast™ broadcast audio has significant potential to become the next generation assistive listening technology. However, it will have to overcome a number of hurdles to achieve success.

Auracast™ broadcast audio has significant potential to become the next generation assistive listening technology.

First, the use of hearing aids themselves is still limited; reasons include high cost, stigma around hearing aid use, lack of perceived need, and educational barriers. Therefore, another driver of Auracast™ adoption over the longer term will be to increase the use and acceptance of assistive listening devices more broadly. This requires more choice and flexibility in assistive listening solutions, smoother purchase cycles, higher quality devices, more affordable products, the elimination of stigma, increased awareness of hearing loss and education about adoption benefits. Greater availability of OTC solutions across regions will also accelerate adoption, but this will likely depend on regional constraints and availability.

From a regulatory perspective, significant work also needs to be done to drive Auracast™ broadcast audio as standard as the primary assistive listening technology in various public venues or new buildings. Despite being around for decades, the market for assistive listening in public spaces themselves – be they induction loops, FM systems, IR, radio-based solutions or other technologies – remains relatively limited in terms of their installed base.

Related to this is the need to educate all aspects of the industry about what Auracast™ broadcast audio can do, where it is deployed and how it can be used. One of the biggest problems with assistive listening devices today is the lack of awareness of whether a solution is available and how to use it, both among staff and hearing aid users.

An ecosystem of system integrators and installers will also need to be formed to aid the rollout of Auracast™ broadcast audio solutions in a wider range of public locations. The technology must meet specific standards beyond what is available today and ensure that all user experiences are high quality, intuitive and standardized wherever it is deployed. This is where the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) will play an important role through implementation guidelines, branding and licensing requirements to ensure a consistent Auracast™ audio experience across all locations.

It will also be critical to ensure that adoption of Auracast™ does not adversely affect current assistive device users, and may require a lengthy managed transition. There will likely be a significant period of time where existing hearing loop technology will co-exist with a growing number of Auracast™ solutions.

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