Apple Plans to Introduce ‘Hearing Aid Mode’ in Their iOS 18 Update | What Does This Mean for the Hearing Care Industry?

by | Jun 23, 2024 | Industry News

Although nothing is official at the point of publishing this article, speculation from a number of reputable forums and news outlets suggests that technology giant Apple is planning to enter the hearing care market in late 2024/early 2025. 

Here’s what we know so far. 

What We Know about Apple’s “Hearing Aid Mode” 

Rumors suggest that iOS 18 will include a new feature called “Hearing Aid Mode.” Set to be released as part of the next iOS update, predicted for September 2024, this new feature will enable Apple AirPods users to use their earphones as amplifiers, better supporting them in challenging listening situations. 

This will sit alongside previously launched features such as Live Listen (2019) and Conversation Boost (2021). 

To accompany this, Apple is also rumored to be releasing their 3rd generation AirPods Pro in early 2025, believed to be the hardware that will allow users to gain optimal benefits from the Hearing Aid Mode feature. 

Why Would Apple Introduce This Feature? 

In the next five years, the US will see the number of people ages 65 and older triple from an estimated 19 million to an unprecedented 70 million due to the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) reaching retirement age. 

A study in late 2023 suggested that 23 percent of baby boomers are iPhone users, meaning 16,100,000 Americans could benefit from this feature. This appears to be a strategic move to capture more customers and create a point of difference in the earphone market, which Apple already dominates. 

What Will Hearing Aid Mode Be Like? 

There are already several ways to use apps to turn AirPods into sound amplifiers, often taking the sounds from your environment and amplifying them into your ears. Hearing Aid Mode matched with the new Apple AirPods Pro 3 will likely be more sophisticated. 

Based on speculation, Apple may introduce features to allow users to self-assess their hearing and utilize functions to help in difficult listening environments, although it’s purely speculation at this stage. 

What Impact Will This Have on Hearing Care? 

Before we look forward, let’s look backward. When the FDA finalized regulations for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids in August 2022, there were many questions about what this would mean for the hearing care industry and the hearing health of individuals. 

Leading tech brands such as Jabra and Sony quickly launched their OTC devices into the market in October 2022, and the response was mixed.  

The media picked up the story and caused confusion by declaring that “affordable hearing aids had arrived.” Many individuals purchased them, soon realizing that these devices did not deliver on their needs/expectations. In many cases, they served as a catalyst for seeking a full-time prescription solution. 

Unlike previously launched OTC devices, Apple seems to be taking a different approach by building Hearing Aid Mode functionality into their already best-selling AirPods rather than launching a new sole-purpose product. 

The One Big Concern 

As was experienced when over-the-counter hearing aids first reached the market in 2022, the downside is that it causes a lot of confusion. Advertising messages and media headlines could lead people to believe that Apple AirPods with Hearing Aid Mode will be just as powerful as standard prescription hearing technology. 

This could result in people purchasing the new AirPods, not having the experience they hoped for, and concluding that addressing their hearing challenges professionally is not the right solution for them. 

While both AirPods and hearing aids have adjustment options, hearing aids come with more features, like noise reduction, directional mics, and feedback cancellation. Traditional hearing aids can be custom fitted, unlike AirPods. Additionally, hearing aids are regulated medical devices and are generally more discreet. 

The Many Positives 

This could be one of the biggest steps we’ve ever experienced in addressing the outdated stigma and normalizing the conversation around hearing loss. The largest—and in some people’s eyes, the coolest—technology brand in the world will be promoting the benefits of better hearing and allowing users to experience what improved hearing could sound like. 

It could be the catalyst to changing the conversation around hearing loss and making treatment of hearing challenges far more common, and it could serve as the initial step for many people in seeking a long-term prescription and professional solution. 

If hearing devices can be associated with trendy “high-tech” electronics, they will appeal to a broader audience. This shift could significantly alter public perception and encourage more people to address their hearing loss. 

What’s Next? 

We’re closely monitoring this news, continuing to stay at the forefront of the latest announcements, and will keep you updated and informed through this blog. 

Alternatively, if you have any questions, need any assistance, or would like to discuss your hearing challenges, you can contact us or request a callback by clicking here. 

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Mark Rahman, BC-HIS

Mark Rahman has had a long and impressive 23 year background specializing in adult hearing loss. He received his Board Certification in 2006 from the National Board for Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences (BC-HIS) Mark Rahman is also a long-standing member of the Florida Society of Hearing Healthcare Professionals (FSHHP) and the International Hearing Society (IHS)

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