While nothing is set in stone right now, rumors speculate that Apple’s next iOS update will include a new feature for AirPods called “Hearing Aid Mode.” 

Predicted to be released in September 2024, the new update will focus on allowing AirPods users to use their earphones as personal sound amplifiers, supporting them in difficult listening environments. This isn’t Apple’s first move into hearing care-adjacent features: they’ve also released similar features with “Live Listen” (2019) and “Conversation Boost” (2021).  

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is scheduled for June 10, where details about iOS 18 and “Hearing Aid Mode” are expected to be revealed—along with information about the 3rd generation of AirPods Pro, believed to be the hardware that will provide users with the best benefits from “Hearing Aid Mode.” 

Even if it’s still just speculation, January’s edition of Power On newsletter by Mark Gurman suggests that this could be the biggest software update in iPhone history.  

Why Would Apple Introduce “Hearing Aid Mode”? 

Within the next five years, the number of people aged 65-plus will see exponential growth, from an estimated 19 million to 70 million, as the Baby Boomers (people born between 1946-1964) reach retirement age. 

According to a study done in late 2023, 23 percent of Baby Boomers use iPhones.

This appears to be a strategic move of Apple: capture more customers from the 55 percent who are Android users by creating a point of difference in the earphone market they’ve already got control of. 


Baby Boomers who use iPhones

What Will “Hearing Aid Mode” Be Like, and How Will It Impact Hearing Care? 

There are multiple apps that can turn your smartphone and earphones into something akin to a personal sound amplifier product (PSAP), but it’s looking like “Hearing Aid Mode” will be more sophisticated, especially when paired with the AirPods Pro 3. 

“Hearing Aid Mode,” according to speculation, will introduce self-assessment features to test your hearing, and then utilize the earphones’ microphone to help in difficult listening environments.  

This immediately made us remember when over-the-counter hearing aid regulations were finalized by the FDA back in 2022; media jumped on the story, people bought them expecting more than they got, and the response was mixed. 

While Apple is taking a different approach by building “Hearing Aid Mode” into their already existing hardware, we’re predicting something similar, especially given Apple’s status as a major technology mogul. 

Pros and Cons 

With rumors already selling the world on this new feature, we’re guessing that the response will be similar, especially with how the media will lead people to believe that “Hearing Aid Mode” is just as powerful as prescription hearing aids. 

We’re predicting that “Hearing Aid Mode” will elicit a similar response to over-the-counter hearing aids: believing that this new feature will be just as powerful as prescription hearing aid technology, people will flock to buy the new AirPods Pro 3, not have the experience they hoped for, and seek out a professional hearing care solution instead. 

However, we’re also seeing a lot of positives. 

The largest, and for some people the coolest, technology brand in the world is advocating for better hearing, and providing some level of hearing care in their stylish earphones—this could be a major step forward in addressing the outdated stigmas that many people associate with hearing care and hearing aids. 

Many people still shy away from addressing their hearing loss out of a fear of looking old. With Apple promoting hearing care, and allowing users to experience what improved hearing could sound like, this could serve as the initial step for many people in seeking a long-term hearing solution. 

What’s Next? 

We’re monitoring this news closely as it develops, and any new information will be added to this blog as we find it. 

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Lance Nelson, AuD, CCC-A

Dr. Lance Nelson graduated with his AuD from Purdue University in 2010. He worked at Spokane ENT Associates, Lafayette ENT Associates, and at the Lafayette Otolaryngology Associates. Dr. Nelson is experienced in working with infants, children, and adults is Board Certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and is a Fellow of the California Academy of Audiology. His research on Digital Noise Reduction was published in 2009. He is fluent in Spanish. His hobbies are ocean sports, running, and music.