The Sound Of Hearing Tech

It happens to be Deaf Awareness Month, (or week…) and I stumbled upon a tweet from @Android that made my eyes open wide; then my ears got tickled. Why? Because of the news that Android smartphones now work with hearing devices in a new improved way. And it sounds promising!

Now Hear This

Hear’s Here’s the news: Android partnered with Cochlear and ReSound GN for the use of hearing devices with Android 10. As a result of this “unique collaboration,” for the first time, Android can stream audio directly to hearing devices using Bluetooth Low Energy. For a guy who is into technology and suffers from tinnitus, this is music to my ringing ears.

You can read the announcements in this tweet and in this tweet. It’s also listed on the new Android 10 web page under Accessibility. And there’s a YouTube video announcement as well with a good article on Cochlear’s website. Here’s a few snippets:

“The new technology is based on a recent hearing aid specification, Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) on Bluetooth Low Energy Connection-Oriented Channels, which Google has developed in collaboration with GN Hearing and Cochlear. This new direct streaming technology from compatible* Android devices allows people to use their hearing devices like a headset to enjoy music, take calls and much more, while using a protocol designed to maximise battery life.”

Something to point out is that, as of now, this new feature works in Android 10 only on Google Pixel 3, 3 XL, 3a, and 3a XL phones. But it should be coming to more Android 10 phones in the near future. Also, only certain hearing aids are compatible. While this sounds limited, it’s a good start! The underlying open source specification is key to future development:

“The streaming specification is open source, which allows other manufacturers of hearing aids and Android devices to offer direct audio streaming in the near future.”

This is great news for anyone with hearing loss. In conjunction with my tinnitus, I have a mild to moderate partial loss of hearing. Thankfully, I’m not yet to the point of wanting hearing aids. But it’s something I think about for the future.

Hearing Hope

My present interest is more about how the latest technologies might be able to produce noise-cancellation for the internal sounds of tinnitus. This is similar to how white-noise sound generators mask the tinnitus, rendering it’s steady ringing innocuous – and avoiding induced anxiety. I wrote about this earlier in the year: Tinnitus And Technology. The hope is that I, and many others, can once again hear the relaxing sound of silence.

Amplifying Audio

There’s more good news too! While looking into Android 10’s newest features, I found more progress besides hearing aid support.

Android now has a stand-alone Sound Amplifier App that lets you “see” the sound around you. Listen to how this works: the app enhances sounds you want to hear while filtering out background noise. It uses the microphones in your Android device to “hear” all the ambient noise in your environment and, through regular headphones (not costly hearing aids), amplify the sounds you need.

Even if you don’t suffer from any type of hearing loss, you can appreciate the benefit of the Sound Amplifier app. If you have ever used noise-cancelling headphones to enjoy music without the whine of a jet engine during flight, then you have a good idea of how the Sound Amplifier can help. It sounds awesome!

Future Sounds Good

Given the current state-of-the-art in hearing tech and the ongoing growth in this field, the future looks sounds clear. In time, the tech tools we use everyday could help render hearing loss obsolete.

For more information on ReSound hearing technology for Android devices, click here, here, and here.