Auracast used as an Assistive Listening System

Auracast broadcast audio as an assistive listening system is a FUTURE technology that may take 10-20 years to become fully available.

Can Auracast broadcast be used as an assistive listening system?

Auracast is an expanded Bluetooth technology that has broadcast audio capability.

Auracast broadcast can be used in two ways:

  • Auracast for Audio Sharing (no live sound). Sports bars TV, sharing audio with friends and family. 
  • Auracast as an Assistive Listening System (live sound). Auracast broadcast audio has the potential to be used as an assistive listening system, but it is unknown if and when various products will be ADA-compliant.

Auracast as an Assistive Listening System isn’t available. Auracast as an Assistive Listening System is expected that it will take a decade for a worldwide ecosystem to be developed:

  • Specifications, International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 60118-17 is scheduled to be released in 2027. 
  • Critical Direct Hearing Instrument Connection for ease-of-use. At this time, there is no known capability. ​Current designs for Auracast as an Assistive Listening System require intermediary devices, such as smartphones, smartwatches, or hearing aid remotes. Intermediary devices add complexity for individuals with limited dexterity, limited cognitive abilities, or who may not be technologically savvy. In addition, the connection between the smartphone and the hearing instruments uses Bluetooth, which adds latency.
  • New Auracast ALS products and new hearing instrument products are in very early development by manufacturers.
  • User hearing instrument life cycle is 5 to 7+ years.
  • Proof of concept, the technology needs to work well for people with hearing loss and their hearing instruments. 
  • Another assistive listening system. Eventually Auracast as an Assistive Listening System will be another option. Each system has its pros and cons.
  • No owner/operator will be required to change systems. All assistive listening systems will coexist for years.
  • Buyer beware​. New products will need to meet all ADA 2010 Standards, 706 Assistive Listening Systems​. See Americans with Disabilities Act for assistive listening systems (this website).

Tools

Download Assistive Listening Systems Quick Guide (PDF) (one-page). Compares 5 systems.

What do I need so I can use assistive listening systems today and in the future?

Bluetooth and telecoils.

Consumers need telecoils in their hearing instruments to connect to current assistive listening systems TODAY. These systems—hearing loops, FM, or infrared—are mandated by federal and state civil rights laws. Better yet, these systems are now available worldwide. Telecoils are the only hardware component that connects directly to these systems and they are far from obsolete.

Years in the future, when Auracast used as an Assistive Listening begins to enter the market, telecoils and Auracast used as Assistive Listening will co-exist for many years. When consumers have both telecoil and Bluetooth technologies, they can go anywhere and use existing and any optional new systems. See article How ‘Public Access Ready’ Hearing Aids Could Offer a Competitive Edge (article, webpage, 3/21/24)

square sign that reads "We need Bluetooth + Telecoils, do you know why?". Also there are two images: the blue sign for hearing loops and the HLAA Get In the Hearing Loop logo

HLAA Get in the Hearing Loop, informational backdrop
American Academy of Audiology Annual Conference, AAA 2023 + HearTech Expo

Resources



  • The International Federation of the Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH)  represents the interests of more than 466 million hard of hearing people worldwide. At the 2022 IFHOH World Congress in Budapest they released the Budapest Declaration (1 page, pdf) regarding telecoils and Auracast:

“As a new technology, Auracast will take time to become stable, reliable, and easy enough to use for potential users. Therefore, it is important to have both telecoil and Auracast technologies in hearing aids and cochlear implants

The telecoil is the key element that enables all types of systems to work for Hard of Hearing persons. IFHOH recommends that manufacturers of hearing aids and cochlear implants continue to integrate telecoils in their products. Telecoils need to come with clear user instructions, and with clear information and training to the hearing health professionals.”


Read what professionals are saying:

Having an Auracast assistive listening system compatible hearing aid today – is comparable to having an electric vehicle but not having any charging points anywhere in your state, except for the charger that came with your car. It will take a decade – if not longer – before the adoption of Auracast Assistive Listening transmitters will become commonplace. Users will not only need new hearing aids and cochlear implant processors but require a complete Auracast ‘ecosystem.’ 

Dr. Juliëtte Sterkens, AuD. professional advisor for hearing loop (and other assistive listening) technology with HLAA. Read Juliëtte’s full comments in Response To Consumer, Regarding Regret Not Having Auracast in Hearing Aids (PDF) (1.5 pages)

 

Auracast Assistive Listening Systems are not going to be available for quite some time (The IEC 60118-17 standard for it is scheduled for 2027). Loops and Tcoils will be needed for at least 10 years – assuming Auracast Assistive Listening Systems actually delivers what the Hard of Hearing (HOH) and hearing aid/cochlear implant user need – which is too early to say at this stage. But potentially we have an interesting future technology on the horizon.“

Dr. Peter Mapp, Assistive Listening Design Consultant

Induction loops and telecoils are here to stay

Loop systems are used worldwide because not all people (for example) can afford high-end or have access to hearing aids and hearing technology. Loop systems may also be used by millions of people with, for example a mild to moderate hearing loss, who do not use hearing aids; loop receivers with headphones may give access in a universal way to provide information in certain situations.(for example: the elderly, emergency situations and more)

We believe that there is room for multiple devices and that installing a telecoil/induction loop system is highly worthwhile because of the benefits, available at relatively low cost.

National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities, South Africa

Auracast Assistive Listening Systems is being promoted as the next–generation assistive listening system, but the when, where, and how have yet to be determined. Broad adoption will require both venues and hearing aid users to upgrade equipment. Market saturation could take years, maybe even decades, to realize.

Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Get in the Hearing Loop

 

This means that virtually NOBODY has the correct Bluetooth protocol in their receiving device and will require the purchase of a new device (whether that is a smartphone, hearing aid, or CI) to take advantage of the technology. And only then, once manufacturers release transmitters into the market. And that is another big question – when will the first transmitters be available for sale? The other big question for the assistive listening industry is — when will hearing aids and cochlear implants be available with Bluetooth 5.2? Estimates range from 2023 – 2030, depending on the brand.

James Rowe, Chief Executive, OTOjOY Reflections on the future of Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) (PDF) “Auracast” as a possible future assistive listening technology November 2022. (3.5 pages)

 

Where practical to install a loop system that should still be considered as a primary choice for accessibility now, little has changed since hearing loops and telecoils were the preferred technology of choice by 86% of hearing aid users (reference on website).

Part of this is also ease of access, in many cases accessing a loop is as simple as seeing the recognised signage and pressing a button or switch on the hearing aid. There is only one channel of audio available, and there’s no doubt that the audio you’re connecting to is trustworthy.

For all these reasons it’s imperative that these technologies co-exist for many years to come.

Ampetronic

Ampetronic, hearing loop manufacturer, 12/21/23

 

“Because the fact that Auracast is rolling out I would not hesitate to say that you’re still going to be supporting t-coils for a long, long time. It’s going to take a long time before Auracast overtakes loops. I’m guessing it’s going to be like 10 years.”

On November 3, 2023, at the national convention of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology in Florida, Andrew Bellavia spoke. (Video length 48:22)