According to some new Android Open Source Project (AOSP) commits sighted by XDA Developers, Google appears to be preparing to add native Bluetooth hearing aid support in Android P at some point. That's great news for those who may have previously felt stuck using iPhone for the accessibility feature. Having said that, there are one or two caveats to how support appears to be added and users of the OS shouldn't expect to see it crop up anytime soon. Android P is still very early in development, with regard to Developer Previews and isn't expected to arrive until sometime in the second half of 2018. This new code also isn't expected to make its way into the released firmware until at least the third preview. Finally, it only appears as though Google will turn this on by default for Pixel-branded devices – and the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, in particular.
With those caveats out of the way, this is still a very good thing for Android fans who have problems with hearing. Since it will be embedded in the OS at the system level, manufacturers on the platform will effectively only need to ensure that their hardware is up to snuff and then enable it. That should be easy enough to accomplish since it appears as a "profile_supported_hearing_aid" boolean in the Bluetooth system app overlay. Since the changes have already been merged there's not much chance this won't eventually make its way to a full release. Once it does, there is arguably not going to be much by way of an excuse for manufacturers who don't enable the feature. Moreover, it could feasibly be activated in older devices via updates, as long as the hardware supports the Bluetooth profile. Taken in combination, all of that could lead to a boom in the number of devices that support Bluetooth hearing aids.
In the meantime, the search giant ordinarily sets aside time to discuss new Accessibility features for its mobile OS when it takes the stage at Google I/O. So this new feature will likely be among the highlights of that for 2018. For those who may not already know, the I/O Developers Conference starts May 8 and runs through May 10.