Apple brings AirPod-style streaming, Live Listen accessibility to MFi hearing aids

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in iPhone
Apple has enhanced its iOS accessibility features for users with hearing impairments, adapting its enhanced Bluetooth-based streaming to Made For iPhone hearing aids while introducing Live Listen, a feature that uses an iPhone's mic to focus on conversations in loud environments.




Apple first introduced MFi support for Bluetooth hearing aids in iOS 7 and iPhone 4s. Its latest software expands support for direct streaming of phone calls, FaceTime conversations, movies and other audio to supported hearing aids, without the need for a middleman device known as a "streamer."

Apple has worked with a series of hearing aid manufacturers to enable advanced Bluetooth streaming support, as detailed in a support page.

New iOS 10 hearing aid features integrate device battery life and independent base, treble, right and left volume controls, and supports audiologist-designed presets for handling sound from concerts or restaurants. Using geolocation, devices can even automatically recognize when the user walks into, say, a Starbucks, and their hearing aids can adjust automatically. It also supports a "find my hearing aid" feature.

This enhanced, built in support for hearing aids borrows technology developed for AirPods, the company's new wireless headphones leveraging Apple's proprietary new W1 chip for effortless, flexible device pairing.

Apple's integrated bundling of an audio streamer for users with hearing impairments is similar to its previous introduction of Voice Over, the screen reader technology introduced for iPods, the iOS devices and Macs.

By building such accessibility features into the OS level for free, third party developers can take full advantage of Apple's screen reading and streaming technologies because they know they will be available on every device. Previously, users with disabilities had to buy a bolted on solution that required specialized support from app developers.





In addition to supporting audio originating on the phone, the new Live Listen feature (above) also allows users to relay focused audio picked up by the iPhone's mic, enabling clearer conversations when in a loud environment.

In a report for CNET, Shara Tibken detailed how individuals are taking advantage of Apple's latest accessibility technologies to remain productive and erase barriers.

Tibken noted that Google doesn't offer similar streaming support built into Android. The company is stymied to deploy Apple's level of tight integration across Android devices because it has no control over the hardware features its partners chose to support in their own phones making use of some version of Android software.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    Awesome!
    sockrolidiqatedowatto_cobranolamacguylolliver
  • Reply 2 of 18
    Apple should let hearing aid manufacturers use their W1 chip. It's not really the same as letting a competitor use your technology since this is a specialized field. There wouldn't be a lot of money in it for Apple, but there'd be a lot of "good karma".
    sockrolidrobertwalteriqatedoSolideejayqwatto_cobradigital_guylolliverjony0
  • Reply 3 of 18
    deejayqdeejayq Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Hey ericthehalfbee, that's a great idea! #Apple, would you please consider it?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 18
    These features aren't new with iOS 10. iOS has offered all these features, including Live Listen for a number of years
  • Reply 5 of 18
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 1,276member
    ethereal said:
    These features aren't new with iOS 10. iOS has offered all these features, including Live Listen for a number of years
    "Apple first introduced MFi support for Bluetooth hearing aids in iOS 7 and iPhone 4s. Its latest software expands support for direct streaming of phone calls, FaceTime conversations, movies and other audio to supported hearing aids, without the need for a middleman device known as a "streamer."
    lolliver
  • Reply 6 of 18
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,618member
    I don't understand why you'd need a hearing aid for this.  Why can't you use Live Listen with any EarPods or headphones?  After all, what is a hearing aid?  It's an earphone with a built-in amp, equalization and perhaps level limiting. 
  • Reply 7 of 18
    This is amazing! Why isn't Apple advertising this. This is certainly a leg up. I think they should also be pushing their HealthKit more. 
  • Reply 8 of 18
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,450member
    zoetmb said:
    I don't understand why you'd need a hearing aid for this.  Why can't you use Live Listen with any EarPods or headphones?  After all, what is a hearing aid?  It's an earphone with a built-in amp, equalization and perhaps level limiting. 
    So the manufacturer and middlemen can charge frail and worried old people mega bucks for an earphone with a built in amp. If ever there was a market ripe for severe disruption, it is hearing aids.  Linking to the phone for controls should make it easier to disrupt, although of course nor a lot of old people can afford an iPhone.
    edited November 2016
  • Reply 9 of 18
    As a actual hearing aid user who has been thrilled with Apple's MFi program for the most part, LiveListen isn't as functional as it could be.  It theory it flip an iPhone be an amazing remote mic in a noisy environment that can be positioned next to or held by the speaker. Unfortunately there's enough of a delay so that you hear just enough of an echo of your own voice to make it really annoying.  It's a good backup when you're not talking, just listening.

    However, under iOS 10.1.1 it doesn't work, at least with an iPhone 6s and not with Resound hearing aids.  It basically goes on for about 2 seconds and then turns off again.

    I'd hope that there's something really useful about how the airPod has been developed that can be incorporated into MFi.
  • Reply 10 of 18
    jcs2305 said:
    ethereal said:
    These features aren't new with iOS 10. iOS has offered all these features, including Live Listen for a number of years
    "Apple first introduced MFi support for Bluetooth hearing aids in iOS 7 and iPhone 4s. Its latest software expands support for direct streaming of phone calls, FaceTime conversations, movies and other audio to supported hearing aids, without the need for a middleman device known as a "streamer."
    These features were all available under iOS 9
  • Reply 11 of 18
    Apple says this but the problem is there is no way to determine if Apple is delivering what it claims? See my comments before the FDA: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/MedicalDevices/NewsEvents/WorkshopsConferences/UCM500626.pdf Apple has also made the compatibility proprietary. So, a person with functioning hearing aids needs to purchase new hearing aids to have this small feature. Why not enable older hearing aids to be retrofitted? See: https://janiceslintz.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/16-0226-fccapplecell.pdf Bluetooth also burns through batteries. Cell phones can easily connect via telecoil technology without having to burn through batteries. See the above link. Most insurance plans do not cover hearing aids. Hearing aids should not be the new status symbols for the rich. It is time to open source the technology and bring transparency to the hearing aid market so consumers know what they are actually purchasing. Janice Schacter Lintz, CEO/Founder, Hearing Access & Innovations
    iqatedo
  • Reply 12 of 18
    zoetmb said:
    I don't understand why you'd need a hearing aid for this.  Why can't you use Live Listen with any EarPods or headphones?  After all, what is a hearing aid?  It's an earphone with a built-in amp, equalization and perhaps level limiting. 
    Don't listen to the "Instant Experts" on here - hearing aids are not trivial amplification devices - they are medical devices which are programmed to address the wearers specific hearing problem. This can include selecting for certain frequency bands, cancelling distracting or damaging audio and making on the fly distortions for clarity (*not* like how an EQ works) and of course the hearing aid is cast moulded to the ear since they are designed to be worn full time. Their design is also influenced by their greater power requirements.
    johnny mozzarella
  • Reply 13 of 18
    zoetmb said:
    I don't understand why you'd need a hearing aid for this.  Why can't you use Live Listen with any EarPods or headphones?  After all, what is a hearing aid?  It's an earphone with a built-in amp, equalization and perhaps level limiting. 
    Apple doesn't want to promote the AirPods as hearing aids because although they share many similarities, that is not what they have been designed to be. This would be an unnecessary distraction for a new product. 

    Perhaps Apple will enable the option quietly in the future once the AirPods have become established for their intended purpose.  AirPods could one day become the training wheels to medical-grade hearing aides. 
  • Reply 14 of 18
    With this update, AirPods kill most of MFi hearing aids ;)
  • Reply 15 of 18
    entropys said:
    zoetmb said:
    I don't understand why you'd need a hearing aid for this.  Why can't you use Live Listen with any EarPods or headphones?  After all, what is a hearing aid?  It's an earphone with a built-in amp, equalization and perhaps level limiting. 
    So the manufacturer and middlemen can charge frail and worried old people mega bucks for an earphone with a built in amp. If ever there was a market ripe for severe disruption, it is hearing aids.  Linking to the phone for controls should make it easier to disrupt, although of course nor a lot of old people can afford an iPhone.
    zoetmb said:
    I don't understand why you'd need a hearing aid for this.  Why can't you use Live Listen with any EarPods or headphones?  After all, what is a hearing aid?  It's an earphone with a built-in amp, equalization and perhaps level limiting. 
    Apple doesn't want to promote the AirPods as hearing aids because although they share many similarities, that is not what they have been designed to be. This would be an unnecessary distraction for a new product. 

    Perhaps Apple will enable the option quietly in the future once the AirPods have become established for their intended purpose.  AirPods could one day become the training wheels to medical-grade hearing aides. 
    3 Words:  Medical Device Validation

    Apple is avoiding needing to submit an iPhone in for FDA regulatory review, and the equivalent in 150+ countries.

    2 words: seamless integration - I want to be able to answer a phone, or listen to a pod cast without pulling my hearing aids out of my ears.   Anyone who had held a phone up to a high gain mic will know that it sucks in the resultant sound quality.   I don't want to put my ear buds in and take my ($1000 each) hearing aid buds out... and put them where... then put them back in when the call is done, because, well, wearing a phone on my chest is so cool. (My 5th grade teacher had to do that in the 70's with his hearing aid).

    2 more words... Battery Life.  Can't leave my phone charging in one room and use bluetooth headphones to roam around my home/office when the battery gets low.

  • Reply 16 of 18
    This.
    Don't listen to the "Instant Experts" on here - hearing aids are not trivial amplification devices - they are medical devices which are programmed to address the wearers specific hearing problem. This can include selecting for certain frequency bands, cancelling distracting or damaging audio and making on the fly distortions for clarity (*not* like how an EQ works) and of course the hearing aid is cast moulded to the ear since they are designed to be worn full time. Their design is also influenced by their greater power requirements.

  • Reply 17 of 18
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,618member
    zoetmb said:
    I don't understand why you'd need a hearing aid for this.  Why can't you use Live Listen with any EarPods or headphones?  After all, what is a hearing aid?  It's an earphone with a built-in amp, equalization and perhaps level limiting. 
    Don't listen to the "Instant Experts" on here - hearing aids are not trivial amplification devices - they are medical devices which are programmed to address the wearers specific hearing problem. This can include selecting for certain frequency bands, cancelling distracting or damaging audio and making on the fly distortions for clarity (*not* like how an EQ works) and of course the hearing aid is cast moulded to the ear since they are designed to be worn full time. Their design is also influenced by their greater power requirements.
    I won't pretend to be an expert on hearing aids, but I'm an ex-recording engineer and know something about audio.   And from the little I do know, I would say most hearing aids are exactly what I originally said and are incredibly unsophisticated.  For the most part, they simply amplify mid-range speech frequencies with a wide band at around 2KHz.    The industry would like you to think they're doing something special so they can still command high prices.    I'm not aware of any hearing aids that have cancellation properties because the purpose of the hearing aid is to do just the opposite.   There's no way a pair of small microphones wired out-of-phase with each other is going to be able to distinguish between background noise (say, in a restaurant) and a person sitting a few chairs away from you so one could better hear a conversation.  That would only work if the other person is right on top of you.   The exception would be if a hearing aid that sits around the back of the ear incorporated highly directional microphones, it could theoretically cancel sounds coming from behind you to better enable you to hear the sounds in front of you, but it would only work if they picked up nothing from the front or sides.    And it still wouldn't work well in a noisy restaurant.   


  • Reply 18 of 18
    The sample videos are just wonderful. Certainly doesn't feel like an Apple commercial -- I don't think it is. 

    Apple is not even mentioned. 
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