With Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference less than month away, speculations about what will be unveiled are starting to emerge. Citing unnamed inside sources, Bloomberg has reported a list of features the company is planning to roll out, and health will continue to be a focal point.
Hearing accessibility and wellbeing appear to be at the center of these health-related rumors. The tech giant is reportedly planning to include hearing aid support and expanding its accessibility settings on the iOS 13. The latest smartwatch is also going to have a function that displays the battery life of hearing aids, as well as external noise and rain data, the report said.
Additionally, according to Bloomberg’s source, the Health app will include a new section for hearing health, which will inform users about music and environmental volume.
The Apple Watch will also have a new app, named Cycles, that will help women track their periods, and another, called Dose for pill reminders, according to the report.
WHY IT MATTERS
With the Silver Tsunami well upon us, hearing aids and services have becoming increasingly hot topics. Hearing loss is particularly prevalent in older adults impacting around one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 and close to half of adults over 75, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Dr. Charlotte Yeh, chief medical officer at AARP, named hearing loss as one of the top health issues that technology could address.
“Technology for hearing devices has improved a lot but it still remains inaccessible to the vast majority of [older] adults for two reasons,” Yeah said to MobiHealthnews. “One is the cost. The current model for hearing aides is thousands of dollars per hearing aid per year. It is not covered by Medicare because Medicare calls hearing loss a normal part of aging, so why should we fix it?”
As for the rumored Cycles app, this isn't unprecedented territory for Apple: Apple added reproductive health tracking features to Apple Health in 2015, after facing heavy criticism for omitting it from the original rollout of the app. Medication adherence has so far been the province of third party apps, but Apple did choose Medisafe as the first test case of its Health Records API.
Recently Google has demonstrated an active interested in tackling accessibility issues for people living with hearing loss. In February the Mountain View-based company launched a platform focused on quickly translating everyday speech into text and a second focused on amplifying sounds for the user.
The government has also been increasingly focusing on the hearing accessibility space. In 2017 President Donald Trump signed into law an act allowing individuals to side step a provider visit and buy hearing aids over the counter, which could pave the way for Apple to play a role in this space.
Apple has increasingly been placing bets on the healthcare industry. Notably at the company’s special event in Cupertino in September, it announced that it landed FDA clearance for both an atrial fibrillation-detecting algorithm and an ECG that will be built into the company’s series 4 Apple Watch.