This could be a huge step in the right direction for addressing the negative stigmas associated with hearing care – who better to promote better hearing than one of the biggest technology brands in the world?

Apple’s ‘Hearing Aid Mode’ in iOS 18 – What Does This Mean for Hearing Care?

by | Jun 28, 2024 | Hearing Aids, Industry News

Based on speculation from a number of reputable forums and news outlets, Apple is planning to release a new feature called “Hearing Aid Mode” with the latest iOS update.

Predicted to be released in September 2024, this new update focuses on allowing Apple AirPods users to use their earbuds as amplifiers so they’ll be better supported in challenging listening environments.

This isn’t Apple’s first foray into hearing care features: Hearing Aid Mode could sit alongside Live Listen from 2019 and Conversation Boost from 2021.

As of right now, nothing is confirmed, but Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference started on June 10, where details surrounding iOS 18 are expected to be released. Apple is also rumored to be releasing the third generation of AirPods Pro in early 2025 – the hardware that will undoubtedly pair best with Hearing Aid Mode.

Why Would Apple Introduce This Feature?

In the next five years, the US will see the number of 65+ year olds rise from an estimated 19 million people to 70 million as the baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) reach retirement age.

A study done in late 2023 found that 23% of baby boomers use iPhones – meaning that over 16 million Americans could benefit from Hearing Aid Mode.

This seems to be a strategic move to capture more customers, especially from the 55% of Android fans in the baby boomer generation and create a point of difference in the market they already dominate.

What Will Hearing Aid Mode Be Like?

While there are several apps that allow you to use your AirPods as sound amplifiers, it appears that Hearing Aid Mode will be more sophisticated, especially when partnered with the Apple AirPods Pro 3.

Based on speculation, Hearing Aid Mode will introduce features to allow you to self-assess your hearing and utilize tools to help you hear better in difficult listening environments, like busy restaurants or office spaces.

What Impact Will This Have on Hearing Care?

This reminded me of when the FDA finalized regulations for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids in 2022; there was quite a bit of confusion about what that meant for hearing care and hearing health, especially when the OTC devices launched, and the response was mixed at best.

The media picked up the story and announced that “affordable hearing aids have arrived” but failed to tell people that OTC hearing aids and prescription technology hearing aids were not one and the same. What followed was people realizing the OTC devices did not deliver on what they needed out of hearing care technology, and for many people, this served as a catalyst to seeking professional hearing care instead.

Apple is taking a different approach by building their hearing care features into previously existing—and best-selling—earphones, so we’re intrigued to see how they fare in comparison.

Our Biggest Concern

As we saw when OTC hearing aids hit the market, we’re expecting a fair amount of confusion; many people might be led to believe that Apple’s Hearing Aid Mode will be just as powerful as prescription hearing aid technology.

This will more than likely result in people purchasing the new AirPods Pro 3, not having the experience they hoped for, and deciding against treating hearing challenges overall.

The Silver Lining

On the other hand, this could be a huge step in the right direction for addressing the negative stigmas associated with hearing care – who better to promote better hearing than one of the biggest technology brands in the world?

“Hearing Aid Mode” could be the start of something new for changing the conversation around hearing loss by normalizing the treatment of hearing challenges, erasing the stigmas associated with hearing aids, and serving as the first step for people seeking out hearing care.

What Happens Next?

We’re keeping a close eye on this news – any updates will be added to this blog as we see them.

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Nathan Griffin, Au.D

Au.D. - Doctor of Audiology Dr. Nathan K. Griffin is a clinical audiologist from Southeast Texas who completed both his Bachelors in Speech and Hearing Sciences and his Doctorate of Audiology at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Dr. Griffin completed his fourth-year residency in East Tennessee at an ENT office where he was able to become proficient in his clinical skills. He joined the Hearing and Balance clinic in 2021 and serves the patients in Watkinsville, Lavonia, and Loganville. Dr. Griffin is a licensed Audiologist in the state of Georgia. He hold membership in the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) and the Georgia Academy of Audiology (GAA). He is certified as a Center of Specialty Care with American Institute of Balance (AIB) and received certifications from the International Auditory Processing Disorder Institute. His experience in the field ranges from medical settings to private practices. Dr. Griffin has experience working with patients of all ages. He is proficient in comprehensive audiometric evaluations for both adult and pediatric patients, auditory processing disorder evaluations and therapy, vestibular diagnostics, hearing aid evaluations, hearing aid fittings, and hearing aid follow-up care utilizing best practices.

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