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

05/22/2024 | Hearing Aids, Industry News, Patient Resources

This could be Apple’s biggest software update in recent history. What will it mean for the hearing aid industry?

Here’s what we know up to now: rumors suggest that iOS 18 will include a new feature called “Hearing Aid Mode.”

Predicted to be released in September 2024, this new feature would allow Apple AirPods users to use their earphones as sound amplifiers, helping them hear better in loud listening environments. This will come after 2019’s Live Listen and 2021’s Conversation Boost features.

For now, nothing is confirmed, but Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is scheduled for June 10, where details about iOS 18 are expected to be released. Alongside the new operating system update, the third generation of Apple AirPods Pro is expected to be released in early 2025.

This could be Apple’s biggest software update in recent history. What will it mean for the hearing aid industry?

Why Would Apple Introduce Hearing Aid Mode?

According to a study done in late 2023, 23% of baby boomers (people born between 1946-1964) use iPhone and Apple products. Within the next five years, the amount of people ages 60 plus is expected to go through a dramatic increase from approximately 19 million people to almost 70 million as the generation reaches retirement age.

This appears to be a strategic move: capture more customers, create a point of difference in the market they dominate, and try to convert the 55% of Android users to Apple products.

What Impact Will This Bring to the Hearing Care Industry?

Hearing Aid Mode looks to work as an amplifier of sorts: after a self-assessment of your hearing with the new features, you’ll be able to use your Apple AirPods to help in difficult listening environments.

The excitement around this new feature reminds me of when regulations for over-the-counter hearing aids were finalized back in 2022. People bought them thinking they were on the same level as prescription hearing aids, didn’t have the experience they hoped for, and sought out professional hearing care as a result.

Apple is a pioneer in technology. That said, I do not expect this will impact much of the hearing world. Consumers already could upload their hearing test and customize the sound quality with over-the-counter hearing aids and online solutions.

While this will further help the consumer, they will still be left with many of the same complaints that revolve around the lifespan of the battery as well as the feeling of being plugged up.

Our Biggest Concerns

While self-fitting hearing aids are a great tool for helping you hear better, the limitations come into play when you are unable to truly customize the device for the size and shape of your ear canal.

Much like over-the-counter hearing aids, AirPods are equipped with generic earpieces that fit well, but not great, as they’re meant as a one-size-fits-all solution. This is where an audiologist can help by using live speech mapping and probe-mic measures – we can ensure you are hitting your hearing prescription and not doing any extra damage to your ears by wearing something uncomfortable in your ears.

Of course, with Apple being so popular, it’s entirely possible that people will purchase the new AirPods Pro 3 – the tech most likely to house the hardware for Hearing Aid Mode – not have the experience they wanted and decide that addressing their hearing challenges professionally isn’t right for them.

The Many Positives

A perk to Apple’s popularity is that more people will be talking about Hearing Aid Mode, meaning a big step toward addressing the outdated negative connotations associated with hearing loss.

This could be the catalyst for changing the conversation around hearing loss – Apple’s Hearing Aid Mode could help normalize hearing treatment and talking about hearing loss challenges and serve as the first step for many people seeking a long-term prescription for their hearing challenges.

What’s Next?

We’re keeping a close eye on this news and will continue to update this blog as we get more information regarding Hearing Aid Mode and what it will bring in iOS 18.

For questions about hearing care, or concerns about your own hearing challenges, please feel free to request a callback or call us at (812) 532-3011.

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Dr. Person Au.D, CCC-A

Dr. Person has been a private practice owner since 2005. She currently specializes in hearing aids, tinnitus management and vestibular diagnostics, while operating in an unbundled service delivery model. Dr. Person is the host of The Unbundled Audiologist podcast. She serves as the incoming VP of Audiology for ISHA for a three year term. Her greatest accomplishment is creating a life where she can serve others while still spending quality time with her husband and two small children.