The latest Bluetooth specification, LE Audio, announced earlier this year, has revolutionised Bluetooth Audio. While LE Audio will enhance many Bluetooth applications, for those who suffer from hearing loss, LE Audio-enabled hearing aids will deliver inclusiveness that has not been seen before.
Across the globe, hearing loss severely impacts an estimated 466 million people, and this number is expected to increase to 900 million by 2050. The changing listening practices of young people, who use earbuds and headphones for longer and louder than any generation before puts them at greater risk of hearing loss as early as the age of 35.
Hearing is one of our key sensory processors for connecting to the surrounding world. Those who suffer from loss of hearing may struggle to form the same connections throughout life. Fewer than one in ten people who need a hearing aid around the world have one, and in developing countries that drops to one in 40. Availability of hearing aids globally, and the stigma around them, are both key barriers to adoption.
Bluetooth has had the potential to revolutionise hearing aids for several years. Power efficiency is a priority for hearing aid users, and despite Bluetooth being one of the lowest power wireless standards, Bluetooth Classic was too power-draining for hearing aid use cases. Prior to LE Audio, Bluetooth Low Energy was only capable of transferring data. Apple and the Android equivalent saw an opportunity to develop a proprietary layer to the Bluetooth Low Energy to support audio in hearing aids. However, these methods did not offer interoperability with other devices and were still restricted by high battery-power consumption.
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