Apple May Be Working On New Hearing Health Features For AirPods

Apple is increasingly turning its attention to more health-centric hardware integrations after tasting unprecedented success with the Apple Watch and the fitness ecosystem built around it. The next target for a wellness-focused overhaul is the AirPods, which might soon get the ability to measure body temperature and detect hearing issues using a customized test. 

That's according to the latest edition of Mark Gurman's PowerOn newsletter, which claims that Apple engineers are testing a sensor that can assess body temperature from within the ear canal. That wouldn't be unusual, as thermometers designed to measure body temperature using an infrared sensor and the ear canal are common and reliable. However, it's unclear whether the temperature sensor in the AirPods will provide on-demand temperature readings or if it will only be used for sensing abnormalities like fever. 

Apple has already added temperature monitoring to the Apple Watch, but instead of offering on-demand temperature readings, it passively monitors the user's body temperature while they sleep. There's a dedicated app called Cycle Tracking that provides insights about ovulation and fertility windows based on that data. It's unclear whether Apple will build other similar health products that take advantage of temperature sensors in the AirPods — assuming the rumor proves to be accurate, of course.

Future AirPods may include hearing aid functionality

Another notable upgrade reportedly destined for the AirPods is a built-in hearing test that will help determine a person's hearing capability and assess if they have any difficulties. Apple already offers a few accessibility features to help folks with hearing challenges, such as boosting the audio output from the onboard speakers, and AirPods can already be used in conjunction with an app called Mimi to assess one's hearing capacity. This feature — if it does indeed arrive with future AirPods — would eliminate the need to use Mimi.

Gurman also goes on to claim that Apple is looking into ways its AirPods (some future models, at least) could effectively function as over-the-counter hearing aids, which have proven increasingly popular — in fact, the first pair of OTC hearing aids featuring the Sennheiser brand were recently announced. However, consumers may find a dual-purpose device like AirPods with hearing aid functionality more appealing than dedicated hearing aids, as they would not only pack more capabilities but also shed the stigma that some may experience with the latter product. Apple reportedly has tapped some experts from the hearing aids industry to explore this possibility, but there's no word yet on when such functionality may arrive, if ever.