AirPods Pro could double as hearing aids after this rumored iOS 18 update

The AirPods Pro being held in hand
The AirPods Pro being held in hand (Image credit: Future)

Apple's AirPods Pro might soon gain a "major new hearing aid mode," according to a recent subscriber-only Power On newsletter from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman (via MacRumors). Gurman claims that this new accessibility feature would launch alongside iOS 18, which is thought to be announced at WWDC 2024 and release this fall.

Rumors of a hearing aid feature for the AirPods Pro aren't new. In 2021, the Wall Street Journal speculated that the next-gen AirPods Pro would have a hearing aid feature, but the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) released in September 2022 with no such feature. This new hearing aid mode reported on by Gurman could be the same feature reported on in 2021 by the WSJ, with three years worth of improvements.

Will AirPods Pro be official hearing aids?

AirPods Pro currently have a few audio-boosting features, like Live Listen and Conversation Boost, but these features aren't FDA-approved and they're not supposed to help replace official hearing aids.

Currently, the FDA defines a hearing aid as “any wearable device designed for, offered for the purpose of, or represented as aiding persons with or compensating for, impaired hearing," which includes "both air-conduction and bone-conduction devices."

best headphones and earbuds for voice and video calls: Apple AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Tom's Guide)

In 2022, the FDA approved a new category of hearing aids called Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs) that could be purchased over the counter. PSAPs are "not intended to aid persons with or compensate for impaired hearing" and don't require FDA approval to hit the shelves. 

Right now, we're not sure how Apple intends to market this feature. The only bit of information we have to go off of is Gurman calling the feature a "hearing aid mode." If Apple plans to market these as hearing aids for users with hearing-related medical conditions, they'd need FDA approval. But if the company plans to market them as simply an audio amplification feature, AirPods Pro might only gain the PSAP label.

We'll likely hear more about this feature when WWDC 2024 happens in June. Until then, we'll keep thinking about these five features Apple should have introduced on the AirPods Pro 2.