LE Audio and the Future of Hearing

Yet another interview with Nick Hunn. Each one fleshes out the possibilities a little bit more. I just wish they’d hurry up and at least release the specs.

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According to Kolderup, “The LC3 codec specification is expected to be finalised, adopted and published within the next few months, at which time additional details will be made publicly available.”

When it comes to product development Kolderup says that of “the SIG members that created LE Audio, many are already well underway in the development of, or planning for, products that will include support for LE Audio.”

https://www.newelectronics.co.uk/electronics-technology/addressing-hearing-loss/227096/

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I am definitely going to show my age when I admit this, but my computer programming experience started in the early 70s (using assembly language). Even C Wasn’t commonly available then. Given the size of hearing aids (with not much real estate available for memory) I have often wondered what language most use for programming them. Even though I am now retired (after 50+ years of microprocessor experience) I wonder if there could be any opportunity to use my experience to do consult, especially since I now use HAs myself.

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So they claim that manufacturers will have the possibility to make older devices (including ASHA, MFI, etc) compatible with Bluetooth® LE Audio if they wish so (at about 10 minutes in the video).

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I took it to mean ‘in theory’. Nick Hunn did say that hardware is more efficient. Based on that, I doubt you’d see anything but a hardware implementation in a hearing aid.

If you’re talking Android phones, my guess is that by the time the OS is upgraded to cater for LE Audio, most phones that qualify for the upgrade will already have compatible hardware. Late model PIxels might be the exception.

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I would tend to agree that any hearing aid implementation would be done as hardware. I have no idea of complexity, but I do remember Oticon implementing Speech Rescue (frequency lowering) in a firmware upgrade, so it might be feasible to implement LE Audio with a firmware upgrade, but I wouldn’t think so. Hopefully LE audio will be implemented in Android 11, or an update and smartphones that come out with 11 as their first Android OS would have LE audio standard. That’s probably a best case scenario. I don’t even have a guess about Apple.

Resound ONE looks to be the first Bluetooth 5.2 certified hearing aids:

https://launchstudio.bluetooth.com/ListingDetails/111580

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This is good news, so I see it says
“Reference design for a hearing instrument. Includes a Bluetooth radio running as a BLE 5.2 Slave device”
So does this mean it’s going to be set up and work the same way as Phonak’s Marvel Platform?

No. The Marvel line uses Bluetooth Classic and this has nothing to do with Bluetooth Classic. What it means is that there’s an outside chance that the Resound ONE can be upgraded to LE Audio. The LE Audio specification would have to be released first and you’d think that there would have to be at least one model of mobile phone in existence that also supports LE audio. Then you have to wonder whether the LC3 codec and whatever bits and pieces comprise LE audio can be implemented efficiently enough in firmware to provide the required performance and efficiency.

It may be that Resound when releasing a new product line just included the latest specification as a matter of course without any plans to make use of the 5.2 features.

Still it’s a milestone.

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Sorry what I meant was the master/slave set up that marvel uses, Bluetooth to one HA (Master) and then that gets streamed to the other HA ( Slave)
or will both Resound HAs get the stream at the same time.

This is how I understood it too.

I think master/slave in Bluetooth LE is about which device initiates the connection… The master/slave you’re talking about with the Marvels becomes unnecessary with BT 5.2/LE Audio. The source just pumps out independent synchronised streams to each aid.

LC3 is here
A key component of LE Audio is now available
LE Audio | Bluetooth® Technology Website

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The LE Audio specification:

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The way I see that page is as a list of specifications that will be added to as each is adopted. I don’t think that what’s been released is the entirety of LE Audio. What do you think?

Good question. I can only speculate because this is not my area of expertise. Maybe things like Broadcast Audio Sharing will come later and will be optional? With the Bluetooth 5.2 Core spec and the LC3 codec spec I believe you at least can develop earbuds and hearing aids with improved streaming quality.

Ok, found this which explicitly says that LC3 is the first installment.

“LC3 is just one of the new technologies coming as part of Bluetooth LE Audio, an umbrella term for a collection of new Bluetooth features that includes support for hearing aids and the ability to broadcast to an “unlimited” number of audio devices.”

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I noted somebody from Apple was on the contributors list so I’m guessing Apple is fully onboard with this. Hearing aid manufacturers Sonova (Phonak) and Demant (Oticon) were notably lacking. I wonder if there’s any significance to this? I did see Starkey, Widex (and thus I assume Signia) and GN so assume they’re fully on board.

I don’t know, but I doubt it. It’s probably more about individuals who have the required skill set, and we’re talking about a skill set at a very high level.

I hope you’re right. Seems likely. Didn’t see anybody from Google either and I’m sure they’re on board.