Auracast™ broadcast audio

Audiologist, Adam Bostock, explains Auracast™, a new Bluetooth technology with the potential to enhance assistive listening experiences.

What is Auracast™ broadcast audio?

Introduced in 2022, Auracast™ broadcast audio is a revolutionary Bluetooth technology that breaks free from the one-to-one pairing seen in conventional Bluetooth connections. Auracast™ facilitates a one-to-many connection, where a single audio source can transmit to an unlimited number of listeners simultaneously.

This feature unfolds a realm of possibilities for shared audio experiences in public venues like bars, airports, and gyms, making the audio environment interactive and inclusive. Plus, with a simple and intuitive connection process, akin to choosing and connecting to a Wi-Fi network, individuals can effortlessly tune into the live broadcasts of their choice.

In this review, I’ll explore Auracast™’s potential to enhance assistive listening, it’s relevance to those who experience hearing loss, and the common queries surrounding its mainstream adoption and compatibility.

Auracast™ benefits & mainstream adoption

Auracast™ has the potential to improve audio experiences for people using service businesses, such as gyms or restaurants, airports or train stations, and educational institutions.

People listening to audio announcements at the airport

Imagine finding yourself in a bustling airport terminal, amidst a cacophony of announcements, conversations, and the distant hum of aircraft engines. You spot a TV screen displaying a live football match but the audio is lost in the surrounding noise. This is where Auracast™ comes into play, allowing people to choose, and tune into, specific audio broadcasts, such as music, TV channels, instructions, or announcements.

To use Auracast™, both the users headphones or earbuds and the technology streaming audio will need to support the Auracast™ audio broadcast technology. The journey of Auracast™ towards mainstream adoption has already commenced, with tech giants like Samsung spearheading its integration into their 2023 Neo QLED 8K and 2023 Micro LED TVs​1​.

Future adoption looks promising with a significant shift anticipated towards Auracast™ technology by 2027, and an expected proliferation of up to 3 billion Auracast™-enabled devices by 2030​1.

The enabling technology behind Auracast™ is the Bluetooth LE Audio specification. Devices that come with Bluetooth 5.2 are, therefore, theoretically positioned to support Auracast™, paving the way for a broad spectrum of modern audio devices and gadgets to adopt this innovative feature​2.

From a service business perspective, Auracast™ presents a cost-effective avenue for integrating advanced audio broadcast technology. The deployment cost is significantly lower compared to traditional systems, making it an attractive proposition for a myriad of audio devices and public venues​3​.

How can Auracast™ benefit hearing aid users?

For individuals who experience hearing loss, Auracast™ has the potential to offer hearing aid users numerous benefits.

Auracast™ facilitates the possibility of seamless connections between Auracast™-enabled Bluetooth hearing aids and various Auracast™-enabled audio sources, thus improving audio accessibility across different settings. Whether attending a classroom lecture, enjoying a film, or partaking in a family gathering, Auracast™ has the potential to enhance the audio clarity and interaction, bridging the auditory gap that often exists for hearing aid users in such scenarios.

Benefits for assistive listening:

  • Seamless connectivity: Easily connects Bluetooth hearing aids to a choice of audio sources.
  • Enhanced audio accessibility: Provides clearer, more accessible audio interactions across diverse settings.
  • Bridging auditory gaps: Helps individuals with hearing challenges to better engage with their audio environment.

Auracast™ vs hearing loop systems

Currently, the most common option for hearing aid users to access audio in public spaces, such as theatres, places of education or worship, and post offices or banks, is the hearing loop system.

A hearing loop system (also known as an audio induction loop, or hearing loop) is a well-established technology used to improve sound clarity for individuals with hearing aids or cochlear implants in public venues.

The system consists of a loop of wire that encircles an area and is connected to a sound system. The loop generates a magnetic field that can be picked up directly by the telecoil in a hearing aid or cochlear implant, transforming the magnetic field back into sound.

While effective, hearing loop systems are vulnerable to issues such as signal drop-off and interference, reducing audio clarity. The telecoil in a hearing aid is also quite large which means hearing aids containing a loop system tend to be a bigger size.

However, the versatility of Auracast™ makes it an ideal fit for a variety of public venues and may offer some advantages over traditional hearing aid loop systems:

  • Audio quality: Auracast™ utilises Bluetooth LE Audio specification, which allows for high-definition sound transmission and offers far superior audio quality compared to traditional hearing loops. Additionally, Auracast™ eliminates many of the issues associated with hearing loops, such as electromagnetic interference and signal degradation over distance. This is particularly beneficial in environments where high-quality sound is crucial.
  • Ease of deployment: Auracast™ is easier to deploy compared to traditional hearing loop systems, requiring less infrastructure and setup. This may make more venues and services accessible to hearing aid users.
  • Cost-effectiveness: The lower deployment costs for service business and venues (should) make Auracast™ a more economical choice for both venues and individuals, again promoting accessibility as a reasonable adjustment for even small service businesses.

Hearing aid compatibility: Are they ready for Auracast™?

The compatibility of hearing aids with Auracast™ hinges largely on the technological advancements within the audiology sector. As Auracast™ gains traction, it’s anticipated that more hearing aid manufacturers will incorporate this technology to enhance functionality and user experience for hearing aid wearers.

Hearing aid manufacturer, ReSound, is leading the charge with their ReSound Nexia, the first Auracast™-enabled hearing aid. The Nexia’s TV Streamer+ accessory also comes Auracast™-enabled, showcasing the potential for Auracast™’s integration into assistive listening devices.

With a UK release date set for March 2024, and already available in the USA, ReSound Nexia not only exemplifies the integration of Auracast™ in assistive listening devices but also opens the door for other manufacturers in the audiology arena to follow suit.

As mainstream adoption of Auracast™ progresses, it would be well-worth keeping yourself updated with announcements from hearing aid manufacturers regarding Auracast™ integration, or to seek advice from your audiologist on how to optimise your hearing aids for Auracast™ technology.

When checking the technical specifications of your hearing aids for compatibility with Auracast™, there are several terms you should look out for:

  • Auracast™-enabled: The most direct indication that the device will work with Auracast™ technology.
  • Bluetooth LE Audio specification: The enabling technology behind Auracast™; indicates likely compatibility.
  • Bluetooth 5.2 or higher: Devices with Bluetooth 5.2 are theoretically positioned to support Auracast™, but further confirmation may be required.

Learn more about ReSound’s integration of Auracast™ technology with our review of their ReSound Nexia hearing aids.

References

Article by Adam Bostock

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