Bluetooth 5.2 to Revolutionize Hearing Tech and Drive Further Market Growth

We interviewed Nick Hunn about his new hearables report. Here’s Dave’s write up.

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An excellent and insightful article from an insightful writer.

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The article seems to indicate that the “hearables” industry will drive the hearing aid industry to a certain extent. Trader Gary often points out that we need no further advances, that Classic Bluetooth already works pretty well (with Marvel hearing aids). With better latency and lower energy cost (and two-way audio?), the relative desirability of going with BLE could increase a lot vs. Classic Bluetooth. And as the years roll by, if you’ve been wearing a certain brand hearable all your life, you might just want to switch to hearing aids from the same OEM as hearing loss comes along in your old age (or from blasting your ears with too much sound from those earbuds!). Apple hearing aids, anyone? :smile:

The best explanation that I’ve read so far of what Bluetooth Audio 5.2 offers:

Basically, it’s going to make Classic Bluetooth obsolete.

I liked this one Bluetooth SIG Unveils LE Audio, the Next Generation of Bluetooth Audio | audioXpress

Especially this section:

Other exciting possibilities for LE Audio are Broadcast Audio, which opens significant new opportunities for innovation, including the enablement of a new Bluetooth use case, Audio Sharing. This enables an audio source device to broadcast one or more audio streams to an unlimited number of audio sink devices. This paves the way for assistive listening applications in classes and auditoriums, multi-language distribution during live shows, silent-discos, or simply being able to tune into a specific TV channel while running at the gym, or tune into the TV audio on the sports game at the bar.

Bluetooth Audio Sharing can be personal or location-based. With personal Audio Sharing, people will be able to share their Bluetooth audio experience with others around them; for example, sharing music from a smartphone with family and friends. With location-based Audio Sharing, public venues such as airports, bars, gyms, cinemas, and conference centers can now share Bluetooth audio that augments the visitor experience.

“Location-based Audio Sharing holds the potential to change the way we experience the world around us,” says Peter Liu of Bose Corporation and member of the Bluetooth SIG Board of Directors. “For example, people will be able to select the audio being broadcast by silent TVs in public venues, and places like theatres and lecture halls will be able to share audio to assist visitors with hearing loss as well as provide audio in multiple languages.”

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Jim, I don’t recall ever stating that “we need no further advances”. I’m certainly open to anything that works better than what I have. Bluetooth Classic is definitely not perfect in frequency range or latency.

The reason I chose Marvels as my first HA a year ago was that they were the only HA that connected directly to my Android Pixel 3 XL phone and my Microsoft Windows 10 computers without requiring that I wear an intermediate device around my neck. When/if something better comes along, I’ll make a change in a heartbeat.

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I’ve read about 50 of them. Some are just embarrassing. I’ve read only one by someone who was actually there and experienced some of the demos. If I come across it again I’ll post the link. Not too many people have mentioned latency I’ve noticed, and no-one’s been able to put a number to the latency. It’s kind of important.

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Ok. This one. The author was there and participated in the listening tests. Some robust discussion in the comments section.

https://www.anandtech.com/show/15349/bluetooth-sig-announces-le-audio-standard-new-baseline-for-next-decade

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Or one can get info straight from the horse’s mouth:

Interesting in the links at the bottom of the page that they cite web articles that have appeared yesterday in Wired, VentureBeat, etc. (the links on LE Audio features) - approved reading?

What’s even more interesting is if you go to the Resources page and search on LE Audio and latency, you get no results! However, the article that I cited in my previous post above just says in passing that latency will be reduced by eliminating earpiece to earpiece communication and another article says that latency will be “ultralow.”

https://www.bluetooth.com/bluetooth-resources/?tags=le-audio&keyword=latency

Another interesting thought (haven’t checked all the other threads here on this) but the LE Audio sharing has the potential to do away with telecoil and FM transmission, at least to a large extent. Although I imagine given the installed infrastructure, perhaps only newer installations will go for BT 5.2 and its successors and there will be a legacy need for telecoil and FM due to upgrade costs, etc. Thought inspired by watching the first video on the Bluetooth.com page cited above, which features a LOT of headphone listeners, dozens, apparently all listening to the same Bluetooth broadcast (something we’re supposed to take for granted from the context of the video)(see about 40 sec into video - also funny from watching video one might get the idea that it’s mostly the girls that go for BT audio - there are very few guys shown in the video, relatively speaking!).

@d_Wooluf Sorry I missed your same link to the bluetooth.com site in another thread!

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It’s one of the main use cases that they’ve been promoting. Cinemas and lecture halls. Even without permanent infrastructure, if you put a Bluetooth LE Audio-equipped microphone around some’s neck and switched it into broadcast mode, wouldn’t everyone within range hear that person’s speech through their hearing aids or buds? I might be missing or misunderstanding something here. Anyway, I don’t think retro-fitting a cinema would be that big a deal. A bunch of repeaters spaced around the room maybe.

Hey, np. I’ve been going crazy with the linking. I might need to take a deep breath and a cup of tea…

From the Bluetooth.com LE Audio web page (emphasis mine):

LE Audio will also add Broadcast Audio, enabling an audio source device to broadcast one or more audio streams to an unlimited number of audio sink devices.

I guess the multi-channel feature also gives BT 5.2 another leg up on telecoil and perhaps FM transmission. One of the quotes on the bluetooth.com web page mentions multilingual broadcasts, so if AI autotranslate apps ever achieve perfection an audiotorium server could do the heavy lifting of providing a simulaneous broadcast on a separate BT channel of the audio in whatever (well, almost) language a listener requested - I’m thinking English and Spanish in U.S., French and English in Canada, etc.

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Yep. To get to that point, though, you have to get to a critical mass of users. It might take years. How about silent dances? People grooving away on the dance floor with their hearing devices on and the room is totally silent. That’s unsettling.

OTH, it might save at least a few eardrums! If everyone could turn the music volume to their own liking, you wouldn’t have to get blasted with the volume that rockers and symphony orchestras, etc., put out to make sure everyone in the venue gets an appreciable dose of sound - including those up in the nosebleed section of the balcony. I guess I’m mixing metaphors here or some bad thing - “live” music would have to go electronic directly without any appreciable audio amplication from “live” speakers - but since most rock bands are electronic, they could spare listeners direct huge ear-crunching decibels by simulcasting their output via BT and the latest almost-occlusive hearables might offer some protection from direct sound assault if it was too loud. But that would kill all the good reverberations plus audience sound interactions that you typically get in a live concert all/night club venue, etc. Maybe the “I’d rather wear my headphones” could still be an option at venues for those who want to spare their eardrums?

Apologies, Gary. I guess I overintrepreted your many expressions of satisfaction with Marvel BT technology and pointing out the MFI and ASHA were “proprietary” solutions, in your view, along with not much expression of desire for anything better led me to misconclude you were very well-satisfied and content to rest with the status quo.

I guess the great thing about BT 5.2 is that it allows for the operability of both Classic BT and BLE, i.e., it’s fully backwards-compatible, so given the excellence of Phonak technology, it will be very interesting to see how Phonak runs with that. It would be great to have an HA that could easily switch between using the most energy-efficient version of Classic BT to connect directly to old devices yet still connect directly to newer peripheral devices via BT 5.2 low-energy to maximize battery life and migrate as effortlessly as possible into the future.

With BT 5.2 and 5G not fully maturing to around 2022 or beyond, that’s a great excuse to hold off on new HA’s and a new smartphone 'til around then as probably the latest and the greatest for these “new” technologies is going to cost several arms and legs …

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