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Apple Plan to Introduce “Hearing Aid Mode” With iOS 18—What Does This Mean for Hearing Aid Technology?

by | May 30, 2024 | Industry News, Technology

Although nothing is official as of yet (watch this space!), rumors suggest that Apple’s next operating system update, iOS 18, will include a new feature called “Hearing Aid Mode.”

Predicted to release in September 2024, Apple’s latest venture into hearing assistive technology will focus on allowing Apple AirPods users to use their earphones as sound amplifiers. This follows the “Live Listen” feature from 2019 and 2021’s “Conversation Boost” feature.

Apple have scheduled a Worldwide Developers Conference for June 10 where details about iOS 18 are expected to be released. Mark Gurman’s Power On newsletter also suggested back in January that this could be the “biggest” software update in iPhone history.

Also, Apple are rumored to be dropping the third generation of AirPods Pro in early 2025, which will have the hardware possible to give users the optimal benefits from “Hearing Aid Mode.”

There’s a lot going on—but what does this mean for the hearing aid industry?

Why Would Apple Release “Hearing Aid Mode”?

It’s predicted that the US will see the number of 65+-year-olds rise from 19 million to approximately 70 million in the next five years as the Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) reach retirement age.

A study in late 2023 learned that 23 percent of Baby Boomers are iPhone users—meaning more than 16,100,000 Americans could benefit from “Hearing Aid Mode,” and the 55 percent who are Android users could be swayed to the Apple side.

It’s clearly a strategic move to dominate the earphone market even further by creating a large point of difference.

What Will “Hearing Aid Mode” Be Like, and What Impact Will This Have on Hearing Care?

While there are several apps on the market that can connect with your AirPods to make them sound amplifiers, “Hearing Aid Mode” will likely be more sophisticated, especially when partnered with the Apple AirPods Pro 3.

Based on speculation, Apple will introduce new features that allow you to assess your hearing at home and utilize those features to help amplify sound in difficult listening environments.

For the hearing aid industry and hearing care, this could mean a lot of different things. It reminds me of when over-the-counter hearing aids were made readily available, and people flocked to buy them without realizing they weren’t prescription hearing aids.

Responses were mixed as a result—and for many people, a negative experience served as a catalyst to make them seek out a full-time hearing solution with a professional.

Apple, however, seem to be taking a different approach with “Hearing Aid Mode,” as it’ll be built into the existing AirPods instead.

​Our Biggest Concern

Advertising messages and media headlines will likely spread the same message as with over-the-counter hearing aids, which will lead people to believe that “Hearing Aid Mode” is as powerful as prescription hearing aid technology. This, unfortunately, isn’t the case.

If you need an occasional amplifier to make things louder in specific environments, ”Hearing Aid Mode” may work well for you. However, if you want a prescription device that you can discreetly wear to help you hear in all environments—loud, soft, noisy, and everything in between—then a prescription hearing aid is the best way to go.

The Many Positives

Despite the concerns about how people will use these devices, I believe that these will have a positive impact on the hearing care world.

With technology giant Apple bringing awareness to hearing loss and the benefits of better hearing, we could see a major shift in how the world views hearing care and hearing aids. This could be the catalyst to change the conversation around hearing loss, normalizing it further so people will feel more comfortable seeking out hearing care.

Any conversation that normalizes hearing loss is a good thing—no one thinks twice about glasses, so why should hearing aids be different?

What Happens Next?

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Marcie Jacobs, M.A., F-AAA

Marcie Jacobs has extensive experience in the field of Audiology. She became an audiologist over 25 years ago and has practiced in Southern Maryland and Prince Georges County. Jacobs Audiology was founded in 2011 with the philosophy of providing superior hearing health care for their patients. Her unique combination of empathy and energy result in excellent patient care. Marcie Jacobs obtained her Master of Science degree in Audiology from the University of Maryland in 1991.

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