This could potentially be the biggest software update in iPhone’s history. What will it mean for us in the hearing care industry?

Apple Plans to Introduce ‘Hearing Aid Mode’ in Latest iOS 18 Update – What Will This Mean for Hearing Care?

05/30/2024 | Industry News, Patient Resources

Here’s what we know up to now: According to speculation from various news outlets, Apple plans to enter the hearing care market with a new feature in iOS 18 called “Hearing Aid Mode.”

Set for a predicted release in September 2024, this new update could focus on enabling Apple AirPods users to use their earphones as amplifiers for support in challenging listening environments. Hearing Aid Mode would sit alongside previously launched hearing assistive features Live Listen (2019) and Conversation Boost (2021).

While as of now, nothing is confirmed, Apple has scheduled a Worldwide Developers Conference for June 10, where details are set to release about iOS 18 as well as the rumored AirPods Pro 3, set to release in early 2025.

This could potentially be the biggest software update in iPhone’s history. What will it mean for us in the hearing care industry?

Why Would Apple Introduce This Feature?

Over the next five years, the US will see the population of 65+ year olds rise from an estimated 19 million to an unprecedented 70 million as the baby boomers, people born between 1946-1964, reach retirement age.

A study in late 2023 suggested that 23% of baby boomers are iPhone users.

This appears to be a strategic move from Apple to capture more customers from the 55% of Android users in the baby boomer generation and to create a point of difference in the earphone market they dominate.

What Will Hearing Aid Mode Be Like?

There are a number of ways that you can use apps to use your AirPods as sound amplifiers, but it looks like Hearing Aid Mode will be more sophisticated, especially when matched with the Apple AirPods Pro 3.

Based on speculation, Apple may introduce features to allow you to self-assess your hearing and then utilize new tools to help boost your hearing in busy listening environments.

It’s still speculation as of now, but with the conference upcoming, we’ll be keeping a close eye on what happens.

How Will This Impact Hearing Care?

This immediately reminded me of when the FDA finalized regulations for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids in 2022. There were a lot of questions about what this would mean for the hearing care industry, but when OTC hearing aids were released, the response was mixed at best.

Once the media picked up the story and declared that “affordable hearing aids had arrived,” many people purchased them thinking they were of the same quality as prescription hearing aid technology. What followed was many people realizing the devices didn’t meet their expectations, and they sought out a full-time prescription solution as a result.

Apple is taking a different approach by building Hearing Aid Mode into their already best-selling AirPods instead of launching a sole purpose-focused product.

Our Biggest Concern

As we saw when OTC hearing aids were released, confusion is on the horizon for what this new feature will provide.

Between advertising messages and media headlines, many people could believe that Hearing Aid Mode is just as powerful as prescription hearing aid technology. This could likely result in people purchasing the new AirPods Pro 3, not having the experience they hoped for, and potentially concluding that addressing their hearing challenges isn’t the right solution.

The Many Positives

This could be one of the biggest steps we’ve seen to addressing the stigmas around hearing loss. Having the largest technology brand in the world promoting the benefits of better hearing and allowing what could be seen as an entryway into addressing their hearing challenges could be a huge move forward toward normalizing hearing care.

Even if Hearing Aid Mode isn’t as powerful as prescription hearing aid technology, it could still serve as a catalyst for many seeking a long-term prescription solution.

What’s Next?

We’re keeping a close eye on the news as it releases, so any new updates will be added to this blog as we see them.

Alternatively, if you have any questions about hearing care or would like to discuss your own hearing concerns, please request a callback or contact us at your closest location.

Concerned about Your Hearing

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Nancy Duncan, Au.D.

Dr. Nancy Duncan graduated from Somerset High, Somerset, MA in 1991 and received her B.S. in communication disorders and psychology from Worcester State College. Her master of science in audiology was awarded at the University of Arkansas in 1997, after which she worked for several private audiology practices in Arkansas, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Returning to the area in 2003, Dr. Duncan founded Duncan Hearing Healthcare, allowing her to apply her passion to her community through rehabilitative audiology and individual patient care. She earned her clinical doctorate in audiology degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (now Salus University) in 2005. Her passion for her family and community is an integral part of what drives her to provide trustworthy, professional hearing healthcare to her patients.

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