Accessibility features are a crucial yet often neglected part of developing effective user interfaces for all. Apple has arguably been the most prominent of all manufacturers on this front, having included special interface tweaks back in the early years of iOS.
Not only that, but Apple also developed technology in 2013 to let iPhone users pair third-party hearing aids via Bluetooth, which means users with hearing impairments have been able to use their iPhones without hassle for half a decade now.
Android Accessibility Features
The same thing can’t be said for Android, on the other hand. The Verge notes that fragmentation — the fact that not all users are running the latest version of Google’s operating system — has made it difficult for hearing aid manufacturers to provide support outside of iPhones.
That changes now. Google has announced that it’s working to bring native hearing aid support on Android, and is trying to make it easier for manufacturers to bring their hearing aid devices work seamlessly on the platform.
Google Announces ASHA Protocol For Hearing Aid Support On Android
The Mountain View company is working with Danish hearing aid company GN Hearing to develop a new hearing aid protocol for Android phones called Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids, or ASHA. The protocol aims to provide high-quality audio streaming with low latency, but also be battery-efficient at the same time.
“ASHA is designed to have a minimal impact on battery life with low-latency while maintaining a high quality audio experience for users who rely on hearing aids,” said Google. “We look forward to continually evolving the spec to even better meet the needs of our users.”
With ASHA, deaf users will be able to pair their hearing aids with Android without using a middleman device. Think of it as Bluetooth but for hearing aids, and connecting these devices to one’s phone will be as easy as connecting Bluetooth headphones.
Google has provided details of the ASHA protocol online for any developer’s perusal. ReSound LiNX Quattro and Beltone Amaze will be the first hearing aid devices to come with native Android support, GN Hearing has confirmed, to be enabled via an upcoming software update.
Google notes that nearly 500 million in the world currently have disabling hearing loss, citing data from the World Health Organization. This number is expected to balloon to 900 million by 2050. As such, it’s crucial that the most used operating system in the world offers an easy way to support hearing aids.