Apple’s Made For iPhone Program: Making Handsets More Accessible To The Hearing Impaired
When Apple officially rolled out its iOS 7 mobile operating system about three years ago, it also launched the Made for iPhone hearing aid program, which aimed to make mobile devices more accessible to users with hearing impairments. This is done in various ways, including making full use of Bluetooth technology (to stream audio) and a special protocol technology from Apple in order to better connect hearing aids to iPhones and iPads. This way, compatible hearing devices, such as the Cochlear Baha 5 Sound Processor, can connect to Apple smartphones and tablets and allow the hearing impaired to take phone calls.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 360 million people (around 5 percent of the population of the whole world) have some form of hearing disability. In the United States, about 16 percent of Americans have hearing related problems, but unfortunately, around 80 percent do nothing about it, per Starkey.
But thanks to Apple’s Made for iPhone program, some of the mobile needs of the hearing impaired are addressed. What the hearing aids compatible with the program do basically is eliminate the need for streamers, which are intermediary devices that connect hearing aids to handsets. Furthermore, the program offers hearing devices that are less obvious, making it easier for the hearing impaired to use them, especially those who are conscious of using standard hearing aids.
Made for iPhone hearing aids also allow users to monitor the battery life of their hearing aids. Another useful feature is Live Listen, which lets the iPhone serve as a remote microphone so that those with hearing problems can listen to people from the far side of a crowded room (where the user has placed his iPhone).
Still, a lot of work still needs to be done. To date, audio streaming to hearing aids is only possible with iPhone devices. With Android powered devices, hearing impaired users can receive notifications to their hearing aids or adjust the volume on their handsets, but they still can not directly stream audio to the users’ ears.
Even the Made for iPhone hearing aids come with some limitations. Batteries seem to drain faster on Made for iPhone hearing aids compared to other similar devices. Then the technology itself is sometimes too complicated for a specific segment of hearing impaired people, most notably the elderly who are just not that comfortable with operating an iPhone. But the good news is that with the tech evolving over time, these issues can be taken care of.
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