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Home » How Google’s custom Bluetooth for hearing aids paved the way for improved audio quality and battery life in headphones

How Google’s custom Bluetooth for hearing aids paved the way for improved audio quality and battery life in headphones

When Android 10 was released two years ago, an announcement of all sorts of shiny new features probably went unnoticed. Google has introduced support for: Direct Bluetooth LE Audio Streaming Hearing Aid or ASHA for short. This protocol does not trade off audio quality and focuses more on energy efficiency than regular audio Bluetooth, which is important for in-ear devices that are used for up to 18 hours a day (sometimes more). This technique is also Bluetooth LE Audio, a new global standard just being introduced to the best wireless earphones and telephones.

To learn more about the state of Bluetooth, we caught up with representatives from three manufacturers who are driving hearing aid innovation: GN Hearing, Widex and Whisper. You may not have heard of GN Hearing before, but it’s part of a company like Jabra. At Jabra, you can see consumer products such as truly wireless earbuds incorporating advanced hearing aid technology. Whisper, on the other hand, is an AI-powered startup that wants to revolutionize hearing aids using machine learning. Whisper still supports standard Bluetooth, but GN Hearing and Widex already have full Bluetooth Low Energy streaming in their hearing aids. In fact, GN Hearing teamed up with Google to develop a custom Bluetooth protocol.

GN Chief Hearing Officer Laurel Christensen explains that ASHA was created out of the great challenge presented by standard Bluetooth. Hearing aids require a lot of throughput and battery power to enable the features that hearing-impaired people expect, such as noise and feedback reduction and familiarization systems that help users find sounds. Help, all of these consume a lot of energy. . “You have to think about power consumption from that perspective. We really want to use as little power as possible to play music and make phone calls. So you need the ASHA protocol based on Bluetooth Low Energy. ASHA saves a lot of energy compared to standard Bluetooth, which is typically used for audio, so if you introduce streaming into all your other audio processing, all-day battery life is possible.

Laurel Christensen sees Bluetooth Low Energy streaming as the future, although not all Android phones currently support the technology. Limited compatibility has been and still is an issue, but in the future it will be compatible with almost all, if not all, Android phones. The company worked with manufacturers to fix the issue so higher-end models could gain compatibility first. “You have a top runner like the Samsung Galaxy S series. And that’s the approach we’ve taken working with other phone manufacturers, trying to be out there with the best runner for most people. After all, flagship phones are usually the best-selling phones despite their high price.

A major problem with ASHA is that it does not support audio resending. From decided to stick with simple Bluetooth audio, says John Linden, engineering director…

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