Apple adapted Bluetooth LE for ultra-low power hearing aids
Last month, Apple and Cochlear teamed up to showcase the latter’s new made-for-iPhone implant for folks with hearing loss. Now, Wired has revealed that the pair had to stretch the boundaries of possibility to make one of its signature functions work. After all, pushing audio from a phone to any sort of earpiece will rinse its battery, which ain’t great for hearing aids that are in constant use. That’s why Apple cooked up a way to push audio to devices using a tweaked version of the Bluetooth Low Energy protocol.
Bluetooth Low Energy Audio (BLEA) is, as the name implies, a way for devices to push sound around without guzzling power. It’s been in the works at Apple for some time, and the company even described how it wanted it to work in a patent filing from 2014. With it, users of the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor implant can push audio from their iPhones — including live speech picked up by its microphone — without troubling the battery.
The fact that Apple is now comfortable enough talking about it means that BLEA may now make its way into other devices. We’ve known for a while that the Bluetooth SIG has been pushing for its own way of reducing power consumption for its audio products. With the drive towards wireless headphones and the death of the 3.5mm audio jack, ensuring that gear won’t crap out on us on long trips gets ever more important.