Could Apple AirPods become hearing aids?

Published on 13 Oct 2021

Apple is reportedly testing new features for its AirPods which could transform them into hearing aids, allow them to measure a person's core body temperature, and even improve posture.

According to documents reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Apple is looking to turn the AirPods into more than just a way to listen to music. The AirPods already have the technology built in to support some of these new features Apple is considering. Which raises the question, why now?

See also: Apple Indirectly Confirms its Self Driving Car Project

Why is Apple testing new features to compensate for hearing loss?

Until recently, devices that are marketed as hearing aids could only be sold by licensed specialists who would adjust them for each user. However, in July of this year, President Biden has signed an executive order, directing the Department of Health and Human Services to all hearing aids to be sold over the counter without the need for specialists.  And to make it possible for users to adjust them on their own. According to the National Institute for deafness, approximately 29 million Americans suffer from hearing loss that is severe enough that they can benefit from the use of hearing aids. However, stigma against the devices, cost, and difficulty with adjusting the sensitivity, are some of the most common reasons cited for why people do not get them. The order signed by the US President will help make hearing aids more accessible to everyday Americans at significantly lower costs.

How the AirPods can function as hearing aids

The AirPods already have a feature called live listen that can be used in conjunction with an iPhone to reduce background noise and improve sound quality. They also have a feature called conversation boost that isolates the voice of the person in front of you. These are features that lend themselves to the idea that the AirPods could be adapted to work as hearing aids.

Along with improving sound quality, Apple is also considering new features for its earbuds. The company is looking into adding a temperature sensor to the AirPods so that they can measure core body temperature from inside a person's ear. The company is also investigating if the existing motion sensors that are present in the buds could alert a user if they are slouching, thus over time they would help users improve their posture.

When can we expect these features?

Apple is expected to announce the AirPods 3 later this month but it is unlikely that these features would be included in the devices. There are a lot of changes Apple needs to make to their buds for them to work effectively as hearing aids. A primary challenge they need to overcome is battery life. Hearing aids need to have a significantly longer battery life than the AirPods are currently capable of.

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