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Google adds support for hearing aids to Android with open specification

Smartphone manufacturers have been pretty active when it comes to dealing with visual impairment, with Android and iOS device manufacturers coming with a number of options to make them more accessible to more people.

But loss of hearing – something that affects 466 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation claims – is less catered for by smartphone makers. Google is looking to change that, and has today released an open specification, allowing audio to stream directly from phones to hearing aids.

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With the specification, which Google says has been made in conjunction with GN Hearing, “users with hearing loss will be able to connect, pair, and monitor their hearing aids so they can hear their phones loudly and clearly.”

Called ASHA (Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids), the technology uses the Bluetooth low-energy specification to deliver high-quality, low-latency audio with a minimal impact on battery life, Google says. Once implemented, users will be able to keep an eye on their hearing aids via the phone, as well as make calls and stream audio.

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With the open specification, the onus is now on individual hearing air manufacturers to get their devices working natively with Android. But with an install base of two billion people worldwide, there’s a very real incentive to do so quickly.

As GN Hearing was the company Google partnered with to make it work, it’s no surprise to see that their hearing aids are first in the queue for compatibility. As such, the ReSound LiNX Quattro and Beltone Amaze hearing aids will be supported as soon as the feature arrives in a future Android update.

Do you use a hearing aid? Could this development change how you use Android? Let us know on Twitter @TrustedReviews.

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