There's one area where Apple has always led the way when it comes to the never-ending conflict between its and Google's mobile operating systems: accessibility. While the Cupertino company already has been supporting direct Bluetooth streaming to hearing devices from many different manufacturers for a long time, Google is only now introducing a similar feature with Android 10. In cooperation with GN Hearing and Cochlear, the company has just announced the first hearing devices to support low-energy Bluetooth streaming on the new OS.

First announcing the partnership last year, Google and its partners have developed their open-source Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) protocol. It will allow the hard-of-hearing to use their hearing devices as you would use regular Bluetooth headphones: They will be able to make calls, listen to music, watch movies, and more. Because the standard is based on Bluetooth Low Energy, it should preserve the hearing devices' battery life, which would suffer pretty severely using regular Bluetooth.

There are only two hearing aids to receive support for now: ReSound LiNX Quattro and Beltone Amaze. To take advantage of Bluetooth streaming, you'll also need a Google Pixel 3/3XL or a Pixel 3a/3aXL running Android 10. While this might seem pretty limited, it's a great first step that might make many people's lives easier — especially considering that the specification is open source, so other hearing devices and Android manufacturers can take advantage of it, too.

Cochlear confirmed to us that its Nucleus 7 Sound Processor is also capable of using Android 10's direct streaming protocol, allowing people with implants to enjoy the features, too.

Press Release

GN Hearing Becomes World’s First to Support Direct Android Streaming to Hearing Devices Using Bluetooth Low Energy
Collaboration with Google on hearing aid specification now officially brings direct streaming of music, phone calls and other sound to people with hearing loss. For the first time, people can stream sound from their compatible Android devices to their ReSound hearing aids using Bluetooth Low Energy.

BALLERUP, Denmark--(BUSINESS WIRE)--GN Hearing, the global leader in hearing aid connectivity, and Cochlear, the global leader in implantable hearing solutions, together with Google, today announce world-first support for direct streaming from Android™ devices to hearing devices for the first time using Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE).

The new technology is based on a recent hearing aid specification, Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) on Bluetooth Low Energy Connection-Oriented Channels, which Google has developed in collaboration with GN Hearing and Cochlear. This new direct streaming technology from compatible* Android devices allows people to use their hearing devices like a headset to enjoy music, take calls and much more, while using a protocol designed to maximise battery life.1-2 With BLE, people can use technology designed for streaming all day while preserving the battery life of their hearing devices, which is a challenge for the traditional Classic Bluetooth streaming currently available.

“We’ve partnered up with some of the leading technology companies in the world to deliver innovation with the user at heart. Now people with hearing loss can enjoy effortless streaming all day long and easily connect with people,” says Jakob Gudbrand, CEO and President of GN Hearing.

Around 466 million people worldwide live with disabling hearing loss**, and the number is increasing by millions every year, according to the World Health Organization.With the official release of Android 10, Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, and Pixel 3a XL* will be the first Android phones to support direct streaming to ReSound LiNX Quattro™ and Beltone Amaze™ hearing aids . The new streaming technology will be available by way of an update to Android 10, plus a software update on the hearing devices. The streaming specification is open source, which allows other manufacturers of hearing aids and Android devices to offer direct audio streaming in the near future.