With over a billion users of Android devices around the world, the operating system needs to accommodate users with a wide variety of needs. Smartphone accessibility is a major concern for millions of users worldwide, but it’s not something many of us really think about unless you or someone you know lives with a disability. One issue on Android that users with hearing deficits have complained about for years is the lack for native support for Bluetooth hearing aids. Apple has pioneered support for directly streaming audio to Bluetooth hearing aids, but Google has lagged behind. That may change in the near future, however, as Google is now working to bring this feature to all Android devices.
A hearing aid with Bluetooth connectivity support allows users with hearing deficits to stream audio to and from their smartphone without needing to remove their hearing aid. On Apple devices, this lets users listen to music, make and receive phone calls, receive alerts/messages, start voice calls, and more. This integration is convenient for users with Bluetooth-compatible hearing aids given how important smartphones have become in our daily lives.
Several new commits have shown up in AOSP that hint at this functionality. The first one we discovered states that Android will support the G.722 codec for hearing aid support. G.722 is a wideband audio codec usually used for high quality digital voice communication, so it makes sense to see support being added for it especially in relation to hearing aids. The G.722 commit is the only hearing aid-related commit that was merged, but a new hearing-aid-profile topic has shown up with several of them mentioning that the feature is a work in progress.
Thus, support for Bluetooth hearing aids will likely arrive in the next major version of Android which is Android P given that the second Developer Preview of Android 8.1 has already dropped with near-final APIs. If you or a loved one uses a Bluetooth hearing aid, then you’ll be happy to know that Android will finally support these devices in the near future.