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iOS 18 to bring hearing aid mode to AirPods Pro – here’s why that’s exciting

Published Mar 11th, 2024 6:50AM EDT
AirPods Pro 2 Adaptative Audio on iPhone 14 Pro Max running iOS 17
Image: José Adorno for BGR

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Looking at rumors about Apple’s upcoming AirPods models, I told you a few months ago that I’m most interested in health features rather than even better noise cancellation. Specifically, I was excited to hear Apple was looking to give the AirPods hearing aid capabilities. That wasn’t surprising, considering Apple has already developed AirPods features that can help people hear better. 

If this new AirPods Pro rumor is accurate, Apple might bring a hearing aid mode to the earphones via the iOS 18 update this year. Therefore, the feature will not require the purchase of a next-gen model.

I don’t have a hearing problem, officially. But I’m probably one quick trip to a doctor’s office away from getting a diagnosis. That’s why I’m already thinking about the tech of the future that will help me improve my hearing. Since I wear AirPods regularly, I’d be thrilled if they would work as hearing aids. 

I’m not talking about the Conversation Boost and Live Listen features already available from AirPods Pro. But an actual, better hearing aid mode. After all, studies already show that AirPods work as improvised hearing aids. Apple could just improve its capabilities in the years to come. 

According to Mark Gurman, that’s what’s happening. A hearing aid mode is coming to the AirPods Pro via the iOS 18 update this year. Gurman said as much in his comments following this week’s Power On newsletter on Bloomberg (via 9to5Mac).

AirPods Pro 2 USB-C
AirPods Pro (2nd generation) should work as hearing aids if this rumor is correct. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Gurman said the AirPods Pro will not get any hardware changes this year. The “big news will be a major new hearing aid mode, coming alongside iOS 18.” Gurman didn’t offer additional details about the hearing aid mode. Still, turning the current AirPods Pro earphones into hearing aids with the help of software would be a huge upgrade. 

I would assume you’d need AirPods Pro 2 to get the feature. But you won’t have to upgrade if you already own the earphones. Also, remember that great AirPods models routinely go on sale from Amazon and other retailers. You’ll be able to score better deals than the official $249 price. 

Gurman’s new claims are in line with his previous remarks. Last July, he said Apple was developing a new hearing test for the AirPods. Such a feature would likely work in tandem with the hearing aid mode. You might have to go through a hearing test so iOS 18 algorithms can fine-tune the hearing aid mode. I’m just speculating here based on the assumption these rumors are accurate. 

As for new AirPods hardware, the same Gurman said last October that 2024 might only bring us new versions of the non-Pro AirPods models. We’ll have to wait until next year for new AirPods Pro versions.

The good news in all of this is that WWDC 2024 is about three months away. If a hearing aid mode is on the cards for the AirPods Pro this year, Apple will likely detail it on stage as it addresses health-related novelties it’s building into its products.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.