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AirPods Pro iOS 18 update could make up for no new 2024 hardware

Apple is planning on giving its AirPods Pro range a major accessibility boost with a new ‘hearing aid’ mode in iOS 18 later this year.

That’s according to the well-connected reporter Mark Gurman who reckons the feature might make up for the absence of new hardware in 2024.

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While Apple isn’t planning on offering a third-generation AirPods 2 model this year, according to Gurman, the update will represent a software-based leap for existing owners.

In Gurman’s weekly Power On newsletter (via 9to5Mac), the reporter says the “big news will be a major new hearing aid mode, coming alongside iOS 18.”

The feature itself almost exists already, from a functionality perspective, but Apple doesn’t advertise it as being a true hearing aid – probably due to certification reasons.

However, the current Live Listen feature that is available within all AirPods and some Beats products “can help you hear a conversation in a noisy area or even hear someone speaking across the room.”

The feature uses powerful directional microphones to hone in on a sound from its source, to help you discern what’s being said.

Anecdotally, the feature is known to help those who require a little assistance in isolating and boosting the volume of spoken words – definitely in noisy environments.

If Apple is indeed planning on a more official ‘hearing aid’ mode, there are a couple of possibilities here. Firstly, Apple has received FDA approval for the device to be classified as a medical device – as was necessary for the Apple Watch’s ECG feature, for example.

Secondly, Apple may have supercharged the feature so it’s now much more powerful and actually rivals/surpasses the capabilities of hearing aid solutions already on the market. If this feature is coming only to AirPods Pro, it may be both the latter and the former.

It’s possible we may hear about this feature when Apple debuts the fledgling version of iOS 18, which is highly likely to take place at the WWDC developer conference held each June.

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