Would you get your hearing devices from Apple?

As a technology hobbyist and Apple fan I am inclined to stand firm on what I believe in. However, I can say that Apple will no longer be the company to invent the next best gadget, in my opinion their “One more thing” has truly disappeared into the big multi billion company they are today.

That being said they ARE the go to company for accessibility and reaching the masses.

If you already have hearing aids you are probably well aware that most hearing aids with Bluetooth connectivity are made purely to have a direct connection with iPhone, to either Stream your calls, music, videos and to simply control your hearing aids. However, you can still accomplish these features with a Streamer accessory. 

  • Direct streaming to the iPhone can be used with hearing devices from Starkey and Resound.
  • Streaming with an accessory can be used for hearing devices from Phonak, Unitron and Siemens, to either an iPhone or Android mobile device.

But the purpose of this little blog post is to ask you this, “Would you get hearing aids from Apple?”

In 2016 alongside the announcement of the ‘iPhone 7’ Apple introduced their first branded wireless earphones better known as ‘AirPods’. These were the same design as the wired headphones given to you with your shiny new iPhone but the difference was it connected to the iPhone by Bluetooth.

It is now 2 years ahead and they are planning to bring out the yearly iPhone update ‘IOS 12’. In this software update they have allowed AirPods to have access to ‘Live Listen’ which is a function only hearing aid users can use at the moment. ‘Live Listen’ has the ability to turn your iPhone into a microphone to stream to your hearing aids, soon to be AirPods.
Now don’t be fooled, AirPods won’t play ball with all hearing losses as there is no way to turn the AirPods up in volume more than you can when listening to music. But this means that anyone who is struggling with ‘noise’ in busy environments can simply wear a pair of AirPods and use the iPhone as the microphone. A very successful trial for a user in America can be read here: https://9to5mac.com/2018/07/07/live-listen-airpods-hands-on/

This feature is currently on a beta trial and I am lucky enough to try it out myself. I have a hearing loss and I found that there is a big potential for Apple in this department but I would recommend they steered with caution. Many hearing aid manufacturers have been doing research into this for years and Apple may well fail if they were to go at this on their own. If they were to have a shot at getting into hearing aid development I would want to see them working with ReSound who are already the leading manufacturer for hearing aid to iPhone connectivity, allowing hearing aid wearers to stream calls, music and so much more.

However, regarding AirPods, it would be great for the second generation to have a microphone, as you then have the ability to stream your voice to other AirPods without having to talk directly into the iPhone.

“Where AirPods may be able to make a significant contribution is in the area of the mild hearing loss and improving the social acceptability of being seen to use hearing technology to augment someone’s good hearing. For mild hearing loss I am thinking of those people that only struggle in background noise. So: 4 people go out for dinner and all the diners are wearing AirPods. If the AirPods in the next generation also included a microphone so the wearer’s voice could be detected and then streamed to the other diner’s phone and onto the AirPods, that whole table has significantly improved the Speech to Noise Ratio (SNR). When this ratio improves and the speech is louder than the noise, you get significantly better speech intelligibility. This is an area where hearing aids are very poor as they generally pick up a great deal of noise as well as the voice they are supposed to be amplifying. This is why remote mics are awesome but socially unacceptable. If you had Apple branded tech that could do the same job for the masses, then suddenly you have a massive market which accepts hearing tech.” – Duncan Collet-Fenson 

In addiction research is being undertaken within the COCOHA Project which is to address the following need: ‘to allow a hearing aid user to control the sophisticated processing offered by state-of-the art and future technology. In particular we investigate how this control might be implemented on the basis of signals measured from the brain.’ You can read more about this research here: https://cocoha.org/the-cocoha-project/

It’s amazing to see what kind of research is happening without anyone knowing and also what scientists and hearing aid professionals are trying to accomplish with technology and our brains. I hope to be able to use something extraordinary very soon.

About the Author:

Michael joined Aston Hearing in February 2017, starting out on reception and then progressing onto the marketing team. As well as working on the marketing team, Michael works with our partners to make sure the right artwork is given to them for publications and festivals. In 2018 Michael has attained a new job role which involves keeping an eye on the repairs which go out of house, keeping tabs on where they are and making sure that clients are kept up-to-date, offering additional support where needed. As well as working on in-house repairs, Michael has become well known for his technological knowledge which allows him to support clients with any connectivity issues they may experience with their hearing aids. Outside of work Michael is passionate about wildlife photography and music.

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