More than just a meme

Although Apple intended for AirPods to be used as hearing aids and as technology that is accessible to the impaired, they may not work out as they hoped


Sophomore Vyomika Gandhi listens to music the “elite” way with her AirPods

Stuti Gupta, Staff Writer

Some may know them as another revolutionary Apple product. Others may know them as the best way to experience music. But most know them as a meme. Apple first introduced AirPods in 2016, launching at the price of $159. Making the decision of taking out the headphone jack influenced more to buy these AirPods. In fact, iPhones are no longer sold with a dongle, selling for a seperate price of around $9. They now only come with the new earbuds that connect to the charging port. This move was made to influence people to embrace the use of AirPods.

Since then, these wireless earbuds have become a meme known as ‘AirPod flexing.’ Selling at such a high price, AirPods seem to be a necessary accessory for the elite; therefore, anyone wearing these AirPods are seen as ‘humbly’ showing off their wealth and ‘high status.’ Alexander Peal, a current freshman, even made a FaceBook group of TJ members who have AirPods.

While AirPods are well-known for their high price and use as Bluetooth earbuds, one factor that remains unfamiliar is their use as a cheaper version of hearing aids. With iOS 12, users can utilize the feature “live listen” to hear people more clearly in a noisy environment. This works by holding up the phone to the speaker and amplifying their voice through the earbuds. Although not a substitute for hearing aids, these earbuds are supposed to provide a way to make technology more accessible to those who are hard of hearing. Despite this, students who currently use hearing aids believe that AirPods may not bring the change Apple hoped they would.

“I’ve worn hearing aids since kindergarten. There are many different types of hearing aids and every one is supposed to be matched to the patient’s need,” freshman Elliott Lee said.

“They consist of a microphone that takes the sound in from a little hole in the back, a speaker that amplifies the sound, and a tube that goes through an ear mold to the ear.” freshmen Aiden Zurcher said.

When asked whether they think using AirPods as makeshift hearing aids would be helpful, the replies were unanimous.

“My audiologist recommends that I don’t use headphones or earbuds because they could do further damage to my ears. I have not heard of AirPods being used as impromptu hearing aids, and I doubt that I would be able to use them, but I would have to talk to my audiologist first. Some newer hearing aids can connect to Bluetooth, and do everything that AirPods can, with the additional benefit of being designed to suit the hearing needs of the user. AirPods seem like a cool idea, but it will be nowhere near as effective and patient-centered as real hearing aids,” Zurcher said.

So while Apple may have intended to revolutionize the tech world by making technology more accessible to the deaf, new technology is already being made for this purpose with the addition of making it more personalized to patients without the risk of harming them. For now, AirPods are here to stay as an ‘elite’ way to listen to music, contributing to the meme culture, but not as hearing aids. Who knows, as tech students, this may inspire us to create a new way of making technology more accessible to people with disabilities.