Apple could add hearing health features to its AirPods, according to a new report.
The company has been rumoured to be working on using its earphones as health sensors since even before they were released – and now the company might be looking to make them into more of a “health tool”, according to a report from Bloomberg.
That could include getting hearing data and sending it back to the iPhone, for instance, he reported.
Apple’s patent filings have long suggested that it is looking at using the AirPods as an extra health sensor, presumably to complement the ones in the Watch. They have included tools that would allow it to measure a wearer’s temperature and sweat levels, for instance.
Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of technology who looks after the Watch, has talked in interviews about the concept of “sensor fusion”, where its devices work together to understand things about the world and their wearer. At the moment that is done by combining information from the Watch and the iPhone, for instance, and he has suggested there is the “potential” for the AirPods to be involved too.
Apple already offers an array of hearing and health focused features in its AirPods and other products. Some of those have arrived through software updates rather than new hardware.
Two features – Live Listen and Conversation Boost – allow the earphones to work like hearing aids, taking sound from their microphones or those in the iPhone and amplifying it into people’s ears.
The AirPods also send information about listening volumes to the iPhone, which can warn users when they have listened with the volume too high for too long. The Apple Watch can also use its microphones to monitor the ambient sound, and warn if it is too loud.
None of those features are currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, Bloomberg noted, and Apple tends to treat them as accessibility aids rather than official healthcare offerings.