Big news today. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that, in 60 days (mid-October) it will be legal for the first time for hearing aids to be sold over the counter and online, without requiring a prescription or an audiologist visit. This fulfills the promise of legislation championed by Elizabeth Warren two years ago.
Tens of millions of Americans need hearing aids but don’t use them because the products have been overpriced, with the product line dominated by a handful of oligopoly manufacturers. Enter Apple to disrupt the oligopoly!
It’s obvious that much of Apple’s technology that drives AirPods and connects the iPhone’s audio system to Airpods is tech that’s aching to be re-applied to hearing aids, in furtherance of Apple’s embrace of the mission of improving its users’ health.
Imagine placing your iPhone in the middle of the restaurant table and suddenly clearly hearing your dinner friends’ conversation.
What do you think? Are hearing aids likely to become Apple’s next big thing?
-Barry Peters (old enough to need hearing aids, and unwilling to buy them til Apple gets into the game)
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
It would be nice, but I doubt they would create a dedicated “HearPods” hearing aid product. Perhaps, though, they’ll partner with hearing aid companies (or buy one, like they did with Beats) to create products that integrate well with the ecosystem.
I’m no doctor, but I have heard (pun unintended) that hearing aids are one of the best things you can do to protect against dementia… if you need hearing aids, you should get some!
I think you could be on to something. I feel like it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. Especially with Apple’s focus on health via Apple Watch. Perhaps “hearing aid functionality” will be one more reason to buy Airpods sometime in the near future.
As much as I have loved my AirPods and now AirPods Pro, their sound quality and integration with surrounding/environmental sound just don’t hold up against good hearing aids. So there may be a decent product opportunity here, but I’m not convinced by what I’ve seen so far that consumer electronics companies are going to be a category killer in the immediate future. (Of course, I said that about cameras 20 years ago… but it did take more than a decade.)
I’ve also been impressed by the number of affordable hearing aid options that have sprung up in just the last few years, fwiw. The big companies are pricey, but Costco HAs are quite good and more affordable, and there seem to be other affordable options as well – far more than just a few years ago.
(Edit: One tip I’ve heard from audiologists and speech/hearing researchers I know, for those who may need hearing aids: try going to a university hearing clinic rather than a hearing aid dispenser. The former tend to have experience with a wider range of manufacturers than the latter, because students need that for the post-graduation job market.)
It would be a good beginning with, if you could use two sets of Headphones with different setting regarding the volume on an AppleTV, or the other devices. Or to use a Headphone, and the normal speaker of the TV, at the same time with different settings.
While I had, due to my job, startet to be a little hard on some sounds, my wife hears almost perfect.
So while we are watching TV in the Evening, (Volume on 9 of 100), I have sometimes a hard time, to follow the dialogue, while my wife is complaining about the noisy TV…
There is a company here in Australia (Perth, where I live) that produces hearing aid like earphones. I haven’t made a purchase yet but reviews are good and they are hearing aids first, earphones second as I understand it. Though not prescription hearing aids, to be clear. Maybe the next Beats?
Note the USA site does mention FDA approval pending
(and not to name drop but the CFO and I were on the same hockey committee! Not close enough to get a discount though! )
I wouldn’t say I’m in the market for hearing aids, and I have no experience with them other than an ear filter for auditory processing disorder many years ago. Airpods Pro’s hearing amplification have impressed me, though. I can turn it on quickly to hear what’s happening on the other side of the house, and then disable it again. Feels like a tiny superpower.
Which, following the three themes hearing aids, extra light, and reading glasses, is simply going to the point that we folks at the tail of the baby boomer peak are still driving technological innovation.
The millennials and GenXYZ’s may still need us around, even as they may not wish to acknowledge it.
Here is a good YouTube channel for all things hearing.
Dr Cliff - Actually talks about this topic in this link.
I called Phonak and asked them their Bluetooth hearing aids. I explained that I use a lot of Apple gear and he actually recommended that I wait to do anything until the new AirPod Pro 2 comes out as they will probably never have good switching between devices.
AirPods have never stayed in my ear.
I would go and get an ear mold made that would take the Air Pod but then it becomes a pain to charge them.
Wish you could just put them on top of a Qi charger.
My Kingdom for a Bluetooth headset that works well and stays in my ear!