Supportive listening tomorrow
Industry experts expect Auracast™ broadcast audio to become the next generation assistive listening system. There’s a good chance this will eventually come to fruition, but full market saturation could take years, maybe even decades, to materialise. In the meantime, the ability to work with existing assistive listening technologies will improve accessibility for a wider range of people with hearing loss.
The low installation cost of Auracast™ broadcast audio will be a major benefit. Legislation in many regions has encouraged the use of an assistive listening system. If systems can be deployed at a lower cost, the benefits they provide to visitors in public areas will encourage venues to install them.
Thomas Olsgaard, VP of hardware platforms for GN ReSound, points out that teleloop systems require a wire that runs through the walls, floor or ceiling, meaning someone has to install and maintain it. With Auracast™ broadcast audio, there’s the option to hang a transmitter on the wall, plug it in, and it works – increasing ease of use.
Auracast™ broadcast audio will be highly reliable and relatively inexpensive to implement, especially when compared to the cost associated with a retrofit of an earloop. “The exciting thing about LE Audio,” says Einhorn, “is that it addresses almost all, if not all, of the limitations of current technologies. If you have a location that supports Auracast™ broadcast audio, Auracast™-enabled hearing aids may can be designed so that a consumer just needs to flip a switch on their hearing aids, just like they used to do with loops, and they’ll be connected to stream everything.
Until the technology becomes widely available and accessible, the coexistence of Auracast™ broadcast audio and existing assistive listening systems is critical for hearing aid users. The International Federation of Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH) recommends that manufacturers of hearing aids and cochlear implants continue to integrate telecoils into their products.
Recently, the IFHOH released a statement stating, “It is important to have both telecoil and Auracast™ technologies in hearing aids and cochlear implants until most users feel they can rely on Auracast™ broadcast audio.” IFHOH recognized that one of the most important and impactful promises of Auracast™ broadcast audio is to help the hearing impaired hear better in locations where hearing aids and cochlear implants are inadequate. The IFHOH said it “envisions a world where FM, infrared and teleloop systems (including those in taxis, ticket counters, airports, theaters, etc.) will function alongside Auracast™ systems for the foreseeable future.”
Going beyond supportive listening
Overcoming the challenges of traditional assistive listening technologies by leveraging a well-known, proven technology that is ubiquitous in most consumer audio devices offers the added benefits of wider adoption and availability of assistive listening for people with hearing loss. It will also expand the applicability of this type of audio access to consumers with all levels of hearing health.
Bose Chief Engineer Rasmus Abildgren explains that with Auracast™ broadcasting there is an opportunity to create an assistive listening system that not only benefits people with hearing loss, but also those who cannot hear what is being presented. Auracast™ broadcast audio benefits not only people who use hearing aids, but also the general public.
Public venues – including conference centers, movie theaters, transportation centers, places of worship and more – will use Auracast™ broadcast audio to promote a better life through better hearing for everyone. Linda Kozma-Spytek, technology consultant and professional consultant with the Hearing Loss Association of America, notes that the concept of providing an interoperable, universal, and widespread service is something the hearing loss community has not really had access to with other assistive listening aids. systems. “The existing solutions also represent connectivity silos because they are separate from and incompatible with the wireless connectivity used with general consumer audio electronics. By removing those connectivity silos, we are moving towards more inclusive communication access for people with hearing loss,” said Kozma-Spytek. “Delivering ubiquitous, universal audio connectivity for people who use both hearing aids and mainstream audio products is now within reach.”