Will Apple make a hearing aid?


(gastropod) #1

I’ve been contemplating getting some airpods (though I have a lot of reservations about them) because of the Live Listening feature. And just now while scanning my rss feeds, I came across “FDA allows marketing of first self-fitting hearing aid controlled by the user”

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm622692.htm

FDA has already loosened things up somewhat–it’s officially banned to sell hearing aids except through health providers, but enforcement officially stopped for that (for over 18 years old) a year or two ago. (Some states have stricter laws.) But it’s been underground, since makers couldn’t advertise it.

Apple probably has the expertise for it already. There’s certainly a good market for it because a huge number of people need them, current hearing aids are outlandishly expensive because ‘medical device’, and even if you have insurance, it usually only pays a pittance for the devices.

Any bets on when it’s likely to happen?


(John Burt) #2

No bets but on a Naked Scientist podcast I listened to this summer, the scientist said there were smart phone controlled hearing aids in the works. That would be nice!


(James R Cutler) #3

I use Oticon miniRITE units that are controllable by the assistive code native to iOS and also by a dedicated app. Choose between up to for programs and adjust gain together or for individual ears. The app comes with the full user manual in it.

It is nice.!


(Tommy Weir) #4

I can see third party apps written for particular devices, would be good if there was an API which could open up options for users to select which app to use. It would propel development.


(Alan Forkosh) #5

Last Sunday, the CBS Sunday Morning news show featured a video reportby David Pogue on hearing aid developments which brought up some of these developments at the end. Here is the link: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hearing-aids-you-aint-heard-nothing-yet/


(John Burt) #6

That’s a good article. Thanks.


#8

Apple has been working with hearing aid manufacturers for a while, and there are models that can be controlled and monitored via their Live Listen app with iPhone and iPad:

https://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/hearing/

In iOS 12, Live Listen will work with Air Pods, and it sounds simple to set up:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2018/06/26/apple-airpods-can-sub-hearing-aid-if-youre-running-ios-12/735686002/

The article makes it clear that it’s not a replacement for professionally dispensed hearing aids. But I’m willing to bet Apple is working to upgrade this feature and will develop Air Pods that can also function as hearing aids, and it could be a more cost effective solution for people with hearing loss. It would fit in to their health and wellness strategy. And after all, blasting music on iPods and iPhones has probably contributed to hearing loss in many millions, if not billions of people worldwide, including me.


(Fritz Mills) #9

One thing about a modern professional hearing aid is that it is tuned to the specific hearing loss of the ear it is intended for. Hearing loss is not linear; that is, some frequencies decline more rapidly than others. In effect, they are very precise graphic equalizers that are set according to the results of multiple detailed hearing tests, and are adjusted over time as hearing capabilities change. So for AirPods to replace real hearing aids, there would have to be some way for them to measure the frequency response sensitivity of the ear and adjust the equalization appropriately. It’s more complicated than just making everything louder.


(gastropod) #10

Fritz Mills wrote: "they are very precise graphic equalizers that are set

according to the results of multiple detailed hearing tests, and are
adjusted over time as hearing capabilities change."

Yes, and until now (soon) that was required to be done by health services. But there’s no reason why users couldn’t do it themselves, at least for mild to moderate hearing loss. I already do it to some extent within the limits of equalization that’s been around for years for music. I’ve always been skeptical that adjustments made in a health care center’s abnormal soundscape would ever be better than I could do myself in various real life circumstances.

Therefore, my favorite sentence in the FDA announcement about the Bose Hearing Aid:

“In addition, when participants self-fit the Bose Hearing Aid, they generally preferred those hearing aid settings over the professionally-selected settings.”