In partnership with Danish firm GN Hearing, Google is currently developing a protocol to enable native hearing aid support in Android. The open specification will allow users with hearing impairments to connect their aids to their phone for a better user experience.
With 466 million affected by hearing loss globally, it could even be said that this is overdue. The open specification is called 'Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) on Bluetooth Low Energy Connection-Oriented Channels' and is designed to offer low-latency performance with the lowest possible impact on battery life of both the phone and the aid.
Google has published the specification on its Source site so that manufacturers can begin to build hearing aid products compatible with Android. It outlines the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) requirements, network topology, and so on, but Google says the protocol will evolve over time. Some of Android's accessibility functions were also overhauled in Android 9 Pie, which, along with this latest news, shows that Google is committed to improving the experience for disabled users.