Apple to Introduce “Hearing Aid Mode” in Their iOS 18 Update | What Does This Mean?

Though not official at the time of publication for this article, various reputable forums and news outlets speculate that Apple has their sights set on entering the hearing care market in late 2024/early 2025.

Here’s what we know up to this point. Rumors suggest that the September 2024 (predicted) release of iOS 18 will include a new feature called “Hearing Aid Mode.”

This update will be focused on enabling Apple AirPods users to use their earphones as sound amplifiers to better support them in challenging listening situations, alongside the previously launched “Live Listen” (2019) and “Conversation Boost” (2021) features.

Nothing can be confirmed yet, but Apple has scheduled a Worldwide Developers Conference on June 10, at which time they are expected to release details of their iOS 18 software.

Additionally, the January edition of Mark Gurman’s Power On newsletter suggests this could be the “biggest” software update in iPhone’s history.

Along with their iOS 18 update, Apple is rumored to be releasing their 3rd generation AirPods Pro in early 2025. It is believed that this will provide the necessary hardware for users to gain optimal benefits from the “Hearing Aid Mode” feature.

Why Would Apple Introduce This Feature?

Within the next five years, the US will see the number of 65+-year-olds climb from an estimated 19 million people to an unprecedented 70 million people as Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) reach retirement age.

Studies in late 2023 found that 23 percent of Baby Boomers are iPhone users, meaning that 16,100,000 Americans could benefit from this feature. This could also allow Apple to recover a market share from Android, which has a 55 percent hold on this demographic.

The move appears to be a strategic one designed to capture more customers and create a point of difference in the earbuds market already dominated by Apple.

What Will “Hearing Aid Mode” Be Like?

There are already several ways you can utilize apps to convert your AirPods into sound amplifiers that take the sounds picked up by the AirPods microphones and amplify them into your ears.

The “Hearing Aid Mode” matched with the new Apple AirPods Pro 3 will likely be more sophisticated.

Speculators predict that Apple may introduce features to allow you to self-assess your hearing, as well as features like noise reduction to enhance your hearing in difficult listening environments.

We’ll be watching Apple’s June 10 conference to learn more in order to keep you up to date.

What Impact Could This Have on Hearing Care?

Keep in mind that the FDA finalized regulations for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids in August 2022, leaving plenty of question marks for what this would mean for the hearing care industry and the hearing health of individuals.

Jabra and Sony quickly launched their OTC devices into the market in October 2022, taking advantage of the new regulations and receiving a mixed response from the industry.

When the story was picked up by media outlets, there was a lot of confusion when they declared that “affordable hearing aids had arrived.” Many individuals, believing they were getting the help they needed for self-diagnosed hearing challenges, purchased these new OTC hearing devices.

These devices did not deliver on their needs/expectations and, in many cases, they served as a catalyst to seeking a full-time prescription solution.

Unlike the previously launched OTC devices, Apple seems to be taking a different approach by offering “Hearing Aid Mode” functionality in their already best-selling AirPods instead of launching a new sole-purpose-focused product.

The Biggest Concern

Similar to what was experienced when over-the-counter hearing aids first reached the market in 2022, the downside is the confusion caused by hyping these new devices.

Advertising and media headlines could lead people to believe that Apple AirPods and “Hearing Aid Mode” will be just as powerful as standard prescription hearing technology.

Many who are apt to purchase the new AirPods with the expectation that they will provide the answer to their hearing challenges will not have the experience that they hope for and may conclude that addressing their hearing challenges professionally will not work for them.

Considering the Positives

This could be a giant step in addressing the outdated stigma attached to hearing aids, leading to the normalization of conversations about hearing loss.

The largest—and to many the coolest—technology brand in the world will be promoting the benefits of better hearing, allowing users to experience what improved hearing could sound like.

Another positive is it could be the catalyst to changing how we see hearing loss, while making hearing assessments and treatment of hearing challenges far more common, which in turn could lead to long-term prescription and professional solutions.

What’s Next?

We will continue to closely monitor the news as we keep ourselves up to date on the latest announcements and pass them on to you via this blog.

Don’t miss out on any breaking news and updates by subscribing to the ENT Consultants of East Tennessee email newsletter using this link.

If you have any questions, need assistance, or would like to discuss your hearing challenges, then you can request a callback by clicking here or call us at (865) 693-6065.

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Jameson K. Mattingly, M.D.

Jameson K. Mattingly, MD is a board-certified physician specializing in Otology, Neurotology, & Skull Base Surgery. After graduating at the top of his medical school class at the University of Louisville, Dr. Mattingly did a 5 year Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery residency at the University of Colorado and a 2 year fellowship in Otology, Neurotology, & Cranial Base Surgery at The Ohio State University. Dr. Mattingly’s clinical focus involves all aspects of the ear, including diseases of hearing, balance, infections, and the skull base. He has published several articles and book chapters pertaining to these areas, and is active in various societies across the country. He is very passionate about his area of expertise as hearing and balance are an integral part of a person’s well-being. He truly enjoys talking and getting to know his patients, and wants them to know he respects their time and makes decisions about their care as if they were part of his family. Outside of taking care of patients, Dr. Mattingly enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and dog, and staying active by hiking, playing golf, and being out on the lake. Specialties: cochlear implant, bone conduction implant, cholesteatoma, hearing loss, otology, neurotology.

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