Biden opens the door to Apple hearing aids

From the White House’s Fact Sheet: Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy posted Friday:

Hearing Aids: Hearing aids are so expensive that only 14% of the approximately 48 million Americans with hearing loss use them. On average, they cost more than $5,000 per pair, and those costs are often not covered by health insurance. A major driver of the expense is that consumers must get them from a doctor or a specialist, even though experts agree that medical evaluation is not necessary. Rather, this requirement serves only as red tape and a barrier to more companies selling hearing aids. The four largest hearing aid manufacturers now control 84% of the market.

In 2017, Congress passed a bipartisan proposal to allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter. However, the Trump Administration Food and Drug Administration failed to issue the necessary rules that would actually allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter, leaving millions of Americans without low-cost options.

In the Order, the President:

Directs HHS to consider issuing proposed rules within 120 days for allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter.

My take: This is a market Apple could own within 120 days.

12 Comments

  1. Gregg Thurman said:
    My hearing aid quote was $4800. I said hell no, my hearing wasn’t that bad (only trouble I have is in noisy environments). An Air Pod that DOESN’T FALL OUT would do the trick for me. I look forward to Apple’s entry into this market and the destruction of an unnecessarily protected industry.

    2
    July 9, 2021
    • John Konopka said:
      Try the AirPod Pro with foam tips from Comply. I can’t use earbuds because they fall out but this combination works well for me.

      Obviously, AirPods Pro could be used to simply amplify sounds. The exciting thing is that they may have enough power to provide “computational hearing” that would remove background noise or selectively amplify only certain frequency bands.

      I imagine Apple could make an app that would analyze your hearing to figure out how to adapt the device to your needs.

      1
      July 9, 2021
  2. Fred Stein said:
    I’m thrilled beyond belief. While I just got great new hearing aids which cost the VA about $6K and me $0, they could be so much better.

    Just one example: The charging case is nearly the size on an Apple TV puck, and it needs an extra plug-in device to add a battery which is include in the AirPods.

    Major brands pair with iPhones, but not all pair with Apple Watch.

    0
    July 9, 2021
  3. Fred Stein said:
    The bigger story: Apple can expand up and down the age demographics.

    The reason is that Apple wants to help us, not exploit us. I wish Vestager and Warren understood this.

    2
    July 9, 2021
    • Bart Yee said:
      Vestager and Warren would argue that if Apple entered that market, it as competition would destroy the existing European and American heating aid industries because Apple could create a superior or competitive product at <$1000 or <$500, obviously selling “at a loss” and undercutting the others.

      Of course, then they will go back to saying Apple charges too much for their hardware, software, App Store, etc. while not allowing “competition” or bring too competitive and capable.

      0
      July 9, 2021
  4. Jerry Doyle said:
    Little doubt exists in my mind that Apple will compete in this industrial field, hearing aids. I assume OTC means no need for FDA approval. Apple, though, still will do what Apple does best — take its time getting the product perfected so that when it is released on the market, it is the premium product available. I do not see Apple rushing forth in 120 days selling hearing aids. It would not surprise me if we still wait a couple of years before Apple comes forth with some exceptionally designed & highly functional premium product. It is not as if Apple needs to rush forth to market. This is a competitive product category. Once you enter the market, if your product is superior then most consumers will flow over to the premium hearing aid device on the market. Why? One of God’s greatest gifts: the gift of hearing. Few consumers will desire to settle for a mediocre product when it comes to the gift of hearing; even if it means paying a little more to get the best. So, take your time Apple getting it right. Those potential sales are not going to be lost.

    1
    July 9, 2021
  5. Phil Service said:
    As a long-time wearer of hearing aids, I have often thought that they would be a natural for Apple. Apple is already “in-the-ear” in a major way, it has the technical know-how, and it has a demonstrated commitment to enhancing health and well-being. In addition, only Apple could provide the highest-level integration of hearing aids with iPhones and Apple Watches. Even at 4x the price of AirPods Pro (for a pair), they would be a screaming deal compared to current high-end hearing aids. I would be extremely surprised if Apple has not already devoted a considerable amount of R&D to hearing aids.

    1
    July 9, 2021
  6. Ralph McDarmont said:
    Great news! I’ve wanted Apple hearing aids forever, and it was obvious to me the company already had the capability ala AirPods. This will rake in a ton of cash for shareholders. I’d like to preorder today.

    1
    July 9, 2021
  7. Ralph McDarmont said:
    Apple Ears. Hey Tim, I want payment for the product name.

    2
    July 9, 2021
  8. I’m thrilled about this. Proper appliances to correct my various hearing disabilities have been costly, overly complicated & easily lost. For more than a year I’ve used Apple’s Live Listen feature to hear the birds I watch & photograph. Airpods Pro & the original Airpods can take advantage of this feature now. At the brewery I use Noise Cancellation or Transparency features. At any time I need I can accurately dictate 90% of all communication. No prob with background noises. The feature I need most is the ability to selectively amplify the missing gaps in my hearing. An audiologist did this with the $6k Phonak hearing aids I lost.

    1
    July 9, 2021
  9. Tom Farris said:
    I’m reasonably certain I saw/remember an Apple Hearing Aid related patent filing several years ago. FWIW.

    1
    July 9, 2021
  10. Dan Scropos said:
    Apple has been working on a hearing aid for at least 5 years, and probably more. This was a rumored project prior to the AirPods release and I believe it was an accurate one. AirPods are just the opening act.

    2
    July 9, 2021

Leave a Reply