Apple’s New iPhone 7: What’s the Effect on HA Service and Delivery?
On September 7, Apple introduced the iPhone 7 smartphone, which was largely regarded by tech reporters as a “ho-hum” event, except for the excitement surrounding what was missing: the 3.5-mm phone jack. Although they announced that the “lightning” cable could now carry audio-by-wire, they also announced the AirPod wireless headphones, along with the Bragi Dash, Samsung Gear IconX, and several other devices that have become to be called “hearables” for their ability to stream audio and monitor biometric information. Of significance, of course, is that Apple currently represents the 800-lb gorilla in the consumer electronics (CE) industry, and it signals an important trend towards CE and hearing.
On the positive side, if Apple, Samsung, and the others persuade legions of normal hearing individuals to wear hearable devices on a regular basis, it will continue to blur distinctions between “hearing aids” and “headphones,” potentially reducing the remaining stigma that some hard-of-hearing persons feel when wearing devices. In addition, at prices ranging from $119-$199 for truly wireless headphones equipped with microphones, they could (with a few minor tweaks) provide solutions for the NIDCD/PCAST/IOM/NASEM recommendations to increase accessibility and affordability for persons with minimal hearing loss. Therein lies the “rub”—Apple’s recent launch could also signal an “inflection point” regarding the beginning of the commoditization of the hearing aid market. Because many audiologists have used a “bundled” pricing model for hearing aid distribution, the perceived value of audiology services by the consumer is very low. If consumers make a connection or comparison between these types of devices and professionally-fit hearing aids, it may have a “disruptive” effect on hearing aid service and delivery.
Stay tuned; this is likely to get even more interesting in the weeks and months ahead!