Various wireless technologies for hearing instruments have been available for many years. But with the latest generation of Bluetooth Audio, LE Audio, the range of possibilities for wireless interface with hearing instruments will be expanded considerably.
Bluetooth® is a worldwide digital standard for the electronics industry for wirelessly interconnecting devices. Innovations in Bluetooth come in quick succession. This is done in the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group), where the most important technology companies in the world drive new developments.
In recent years, EHIMA (European Hearing Industry Manufacturers Association) has collaborated closely with Bluetooth SIG to develop a Bluetooth standard for hearing instruments such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. The collaboration aims at realising a universal solution that allows hearing instrument users to receive high-quality speech and music wirelessly.
Low Energy Audio
At the end of 2019, Bluetooth SIG announced Low Energy Audio or LE Audio for short.
LE Audio provides improved audio performance and hearing instrument support is explicitly mentioned. Important features of LE Audio are multi-stream, audio sharing and broadcasting. Sound from a single source can be streamed to an unlimited number of receivers. Hearing instruments equipped with a suitable Bluetooth receiver will then be able to connect, similar to turning on the T-coil mode to connect to a hearing loop system.
EHIMA has launched the concept of a “Wireless Interface for Hearing Instruments”, abbreviated as Wi-Hi™, with LE Audio as its technology base.
The first Wi-Hi specification is currently under development and will address different scenarios, but in the beginning it is focused on public broadcasting where Wi-Hi can be regarded as a digital variant of a hearing loop. In later versions, solutions will also be developed for situations with e.g. one-to-one private connections.
With this technology, hearing instruments users will in the future be able to listen to high quality, stereo music in theatres, concerts and places of worship as well as to voice messages from public information infrastructures. Used in public transportation, the technology will allow hearing instrument users to be up to date on information pertaining to their journey.
Read more about LE Audio, Wi-Hi™ and wireless interface for hearing instruments in this document from EHIMA.