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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

New Tech Tuesdays: A Wireless Revolution in Hearing Aid Technology Rudy Ramos

New Tech Tuesdays

Join Rudy Ramos for a weekly look at all things interesting, new, and noteworthy for design engineers.

Recently, the hearing aid market has undergone a significant transformation with the introduction of

Bluetooth® LE Audio—a subset of Bluetooth® Low Energy technology—and the recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruling regarding access to over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids.

LE Audio is commonly referred to as part of the Bluetooth® 5.2 release by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), and is designed to improve the audio capabilities of Bluetooth Low Energy devices. LE Audio includes a new codec called the Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3), which provides high-quality audio with low power consumption. The codec also features multi-stream audio, which allows for the simultaneous transmission of multiple audio streams to different devices, and broadcast audio, which enables the transmission of audio to an unlimited number of devices. LE Audio is fully backward compatible with previous versions of Bluetooth Low Energy.

The FDA has played a critical role in the transformation of the hearing aid market by implementing regulatory changes that have opened the market to new players and innovations. In a historic ruling on August 17, 2022, the FDA approved access to over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids that will facilitate millions of consumers with mild to moderate hearing loss improved access to a new generation of more affordable hearing aids.

Traditionally, a few big players, such as Phonak, Oticon, and Widex, have dominated the hearing aid market. These companies dominated the market with their proprietary technology and closed systems, which limited the ability of consumers to choose the best hearing aids for their needs.

However, with the advent of LE Audio, new players like Lyric and Nura have emerged in the hearing aid market. These companies are challenging the traditional players with their innovative products, which offer improved sound quality, enhanced connectivity, and a more personalized user experience, all with the help of LE Audio.

Even traditional consumer audio companies like Sony are entering the OTC hearing aid market, partnering with firms such as WS Audiology, a result of the merger between two hearing aid companies—Sivantos Group and Denmark-based Widex's Lynge. With so many companies competing for a slice of this new market, keeping up with all the changes is hard.

LE Audio has revolutionized the hearing aid market in several ways. Firstly, it has made it possible for hearing aids to connect to smartphones, tablets, and other devices, which has improved the user experience significantly. Secondly, LE Audio has enabled hearing aids to be integrated with other health monitoring devices, such as fitness trackers and heart rate monitors, which can provide a more comprehensive view of a person's health and well-being.

From an engineering perspective, Bluetooth Low Energy technology has introduced new challenges, such as the need to optimize power consumption and improve audio quality. However, it has also opened new opportunities for innovation, such as the development of new algorithms for noise reduction and speech enhancement.

In today’s New Tech Tuesday, we will look at an innovative product from Nordic Semiconductor that fully supports LE Audio.

Nordic Semiconductor nRF5340 Audio Development Kit

Nordic Semiconductor nRF5340 Audio Development Kit (DK) is a platform designed for Bluetooth LE Audio, and includes everything needed to start developing LE Audio products and prototypes. The DK is based on the nRF5340 SoC and consists of the nPM1100 PMIC and Cirrus Logic’s CS47L63 Audio DSP. The CS47L63’s high-performance DAC and differential output driver are optimized for direct connection to an external headphone load. The new Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3) is also available for this DK. Nordic Semiconductor is the market leader in Bluetooth Low Energy and a frontrunner when it comes to developing LE Audio solutions.

Tuesday Takeaway

The advent of LE Audio technology has transformed the hearing aid market and created new opportunities for engineers to innovate and improve the user experience. With its ability to connect OTC hearing aids to other devices, Bluetooth Low Energy technology has opened new possibilities for engineers to design products that can provide a more comprehensive view of a person's hearing, health, and well-being.

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Rudy RamosRudy is a member of the Technical Content Marketing team at Mouser Electronics, bringing 35+ years of expertise in advanced electromechanical systems, robotics, pneumatics, vacuum systems, high voltage, semiconductor manufacturing, military hardware, and project management. As a technology subject matter expert, Rudy supports global marketing efforts through his extensive product knowledge and by creating and editing technical content for Mouser's website. Rudy has authored technical articles appearing in engineering websites and holds a BS in Technical Management and an MBA with a concentration in Project Management. Prior to Mouser, Rudy worked for National Semiconductor and Texas Instruments.

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