Apple’s AirPods Pro earbuds can potentially act as hearing aids for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss, according to a new study published in the journal iScience. The study was conducted by researchers at Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan. Experts examined 21 participants with mild to moderate hearing loss and tested a variety of hearing aids. These included Premium and Basic hearing aids, as well as AirPods Pro earbuds and Airpods 2.
For the study, the AirPods were paired with an iPhone running the ambient noise amplifier app called Live Listen. Participants were asked to wear the devices and listen to short sentences read by researchers. Then they had to repeat the statement verbatim.
The researchers found that the AirPods 2 performed similarly well to basic hearing aids in quiet environments. In noisier environments, the AirPods Pro – which have a built-in noise-cancellation feature – had comparable performance to the premium hearing aid – especially when the noise came from the participant’s side. However, when the sounds came from the front of the participants, both AirPod models didn’t help the participants hear better.
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“Of course, these wireless earbuds aren’t perfect, but they would be a good starting point for many patients who don’t have access to professional hearing aids. You will see an increase in the quality of life even with these earphones,” said Yen-fu Cheng, the corresponding author of the study, gem science alert.
In addition, Mr. Cheng also stressed that many people would be more comfortable wearing Apple’s AirPods all the time than wearing hearing aids due to the social stigma around them. He even noted that people with hearing loss often need to see healthcare professionals for fitting and fine-tuning, which is a hassle for many.
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Therefore, according to the Taiwanese researchers, Apple AirPods Pro could potentially provide a more accessible alternative for patients.
“Globally, the wireless headphone market is growing rapidly. Some companies are interested in exploring the possibility of developing earphones with sound amplification capabilities. Our study proves that the idea is plausible,” the researchers explained science alert.
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