Auracast, What's so Special?

By Colin Forrest on 14th February 2024

Nexia Hearing Aids, The First With Auracast, But What Does That Mean?

Auracast System

Huge step forward for hearing aid wearers!

I have mentioned Auracast several times in the recent past, making it probably more than clear I was a little excited about it. But what is so special about it and what it will offer to hearing aid wearers?
Initially, the full benefits will be slightly limited, but you can expect rapid expansion of the opportunities to hear crystal clear audio in the most unexpected places as the technology explodes across the world. It will revolutionize audio streaming in public places for hearing aid users.
It will also make audio streaming connectivity simple and easy across a full array of devices with little fuss or fanfare. 

Hearing in the wild

When out and about in the world, hearing well can be challenging for everyone, but especially for those with hearing loss. Unless you are in a purposely designed space, such as a concert hall, you will have to deal with ambient noise and poor acoustics. Auracast can deliver audio streaming directly to your ears via equipped hearing devices such as Nexia hearing aids. Streaming audio will help to reduce all that background noise from your surroundings.

Completely accessible

The real beauty of Auracast is that it will be completely accessible, indeed universally so. The system will become commonplace across the world. It will make accessing streamed audio simple in so many physical places that it will change how we interact with audio. I mean that in the fullest sense, while Auracast will be a huge boon for hearing aid users, it will also offer big benefits for others as well.

The beauty of this system is that it will be built into pretty much everything with audio output. In the future, there will be no need to buy an add-on or one of the hearing aid manufacturer’s audio streamers. You will be able to simply be able to connect your hearing aids to the TV audio. With Auracast, you will be able to access streaming, crisp and clear TV audio directly to your hearing device. While all this sounds great, what does it mean? Let’s look at some of the use cases to get an idea.

Changing Concerts and Lectures Forever

Auracast will be both attractive and easy for organisers to include in their audio presentations. While you may not think about a rock concert as an audio presentation, at its core, that’s really what it is. While you may have come for the show, the music is really what you want to hear. The Auracast system will stream any audio source to compatible receivers. The system can easily be integrated into something as small as a standalone microphone to something as large as a professional sound set-up.

That means that organisers can easily stream the audio directly to hearing aids, or simple Bluetooth earbuds. The days of struggling to hear at concerts, lectures, and presentations will be over. It could mean following a tour guide around in a more relaxed way, always able to hear what they are saying about the sights or places of interest.

Making Transportation Easier

We all know that public service announcements at Airports, bus stations and train stations can be unclear at the best of times. That is true for people with normal hearing, let alone people with hearing loss. Trying to decipher what is being said about the 9:45 to wherever, or the flight to Malaga that you really want to be on, while standing in a sea of background noise, can be infuriating at best.

Auracast will change that, the system will allow you to hear those announcements clearly, streamed directly to your hearing aids. More than that though, if the organisers set the system up in the right way, you will be able to choose to access the announcements for your gate, train, or perhaps even flight. Less panicking and frantically asking what they said while staring at the notice board, more relaxing and having the announcements tailored to your needs.

Foreign Language Intervention

Auracast streams could mean that watching a foreign movie while trying to read subtitles could be a thing of the past. A cinema could offer an English, Chinese or any language audio stream to tune into. The same could be said for conferences or large presentations which could offer translation services streamed directly to hearing aids or Bluetooth earbuds. So, you can see, Auracast offers real opportunities to change the lives of people with hearing loss, making their day-to-day communications simpler and easier. But how does it work, if you don’t want to hear the technical bit, you can leave now.

Simple Bluetooth Vs Auracast

Traditional Bluetooth pairing involves direct connections between two devices such as a phone and a hearing aid. Auracast is different, it is a broadcast-style model, almost like a radio station that you can tune into if you wish. The system allows someone to broadcast a Bluetooth audio signal that an unlimited number of people can tune in to using their compatible Bluetooth audio devices. That will include hearables, earbuds, headphones, hearing aids, or cochlear implants.

No need to pair

There will be no need to pair devices, so no faffing around in your Bluetooth settings. The audio is transmitted directly to your audio device so you hear it in real-time, with a very low time delay. Not just that, because of the wonders of Bluetooth LE Audio, it will be high quality and solidly reliable. What is Bluetooth LE audio? Glad you asked me that.

Bluetooth LE Audio

Auracast is just one part of the new Bluetooth 5.2 standard, which is generally referred to as Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio. The new standard offers the highest-class audio quality while optimizing energy efficiency. In other words, it raises the sound quality while reducing the power drain. That’s world-class sound quality and great battery life.

It also allows Auracast to simultaneously broadcast multiple streams of audio over one connection, allowing many people to listen at the same time without any drop in sound quality. The system was announced in 2020, but it has taken until 2024 to begin to see it arriving. The ReSound Nexia platform is the first hearing aid platform enabled to take advantage of, but it won’t be the last.

How does Auracast Audio work?

Auracast system

As you can see from the image, to access the Auracast audio stream you want, you will need to use an Auracast Assistant. It will be a simple app on your phone, tablet or computer that will allow you to scan for Auracast broadcasts. Think of it like the station display on a digital radio. You look at the available broadcasts and select the broadcast you want to listen to. You can then listen to the audio immediately through your Auracast-enabled device (hearing aids, earbuds etc).

Alternatively, if the broadcaster hands you a QR code, you can simply scan it to join the broadcast. It all sounds great, but what are the limitations to Auracast if any?

Not a huge penetration yet

So initially, there isn’t a huge amount of audio devices available with the new system on board. However, I don’t think that will be a problem for long. Some major electronics and computing companies have already begun to integrate the system into their offerings. Samsung has begun to offer TVs, Phones and computing equipment with the system supported. Microsoft has announced the availability of the system in Windows 11. I think there will be an explosion of compatible devices over the next year.

Nobody knows about it

The other thing is that at this stage, not many people are aware of it and the possible benefits. That includes the owners or operations managers of large and small public venues. The tour guide I was talking about earlier doesn’t yet know the wonders of Auracast, and neither do the pub owner or the people who run the Airports.

Again though, I think that will change quickly as more and more people become interested in the system and consumers ask about it. While the promised land may not quite be here yet, I really don’t think we will have to wait very long.

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