Could your Apple AirPods work as hearing aids? AirPods can work just as well as $10,000 hearing aids

Some Apple headphones can work just as well as hearing aids and could help a lot of people with hearing loss find more affordable devices.

According to the National Institutes of Health, one in eight people in the United States age 12 or older has hearing loss in both ears. However, professional hearing aids are quite expensive and require multiple visits to audiologists for fitting.

A group of scientists wanted to find out if AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro, which are widely available and cost $129 or $249 respectively, can work just as well as hearing aids. The high-end hearing aid used in the study costs $10,000 and the basic type costs $1,500.

AirPods Pro have built-in noise cancellation — and scientists note that AirPods Pro met four out of five hearing aid technology standards. Users simply press and hold the force sensor on either AirPod to switch between Active Noise Cancellation Mode and Transparency Mode (the latter allows outside sound to enter ).

Some Apple headphones can work just as well as hearing aids and could help a lot of people with hearing loss find more affordable devices

Some Apple headphones can work just as well as hearing aids and could help a lot of people with hearing loss find more affordable devices

According to the National Institutes of Health, one in eight people in the United States age 12 or older has hearing loss in both ears.  However, professional hearing aids are expensive and require multiple visits to audiologists for fitting.  Above: A doctor fits a hearing aid to a patient

According to the National Institutes of Health, one in eight people in the United States age 12 or older has hearing loss in both ears. However, professional hearing aids are expensive and require multiple visits to audiologists for fitting. Above: A doctor fits a hearing aid to a patient

In 2016, Apple launched a feature called Live Listen which allows users to use its wireless headphones and iPhone for sound amplification.

This feature allows the AirPods to function similarly to a personal sound amplification product, designed for people with regular hearing for things like birdwatching.

AirPods Pro, first introduced in 2019, could work just as well as expensive hearing aids in some cases.  Above: Tim Cook, Apple CEO

AirPods Pro, first introduced in 2019, could work just as well as expensive hearing aids in some cases. Above: Tim Cook, Apple CEO

To use the Live Listen feature, you need to connect your AirPods to your iPhone. go to settings, control center, then scroll down and tap the add button where it says “hear” with a little ear symbol.

The researchers tested the four devices with 21 participants with mild to moderate hearing loss.

They read a short phrase, such as “electricity bills have gone up recently,” to participants, who were asked to repeat their words while wearing the devices.

The AirPods Pro also performed well against basic hearing aids in a quiet environment and were only slightly lower than the premium hearing aids.

They found the AirPods 2, while having the lowest performance of the four, helped participants hear more clearly compared to wearing hearing aids.

In a noisier environment, the AirPods Pro showed comparable performance to high-end hearing aids when noises came from the side or side of the participant.

However, when noises came from in front of participants, both models of AirPods failed to help participants hear better.

“Two reasons can explain the difference between the two scenarios,” says Ying-Hui Lai, the study co-author and bioengineer at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taipei, in a statement.

“It can relate to the trajectories with which sound waves travel, as well as the advanced signal processing algorithm by high-end hearing aids. This discovery will hopefully inspire engineers to design hearing aids and personal sound amplification products that are more sensitive in certain directions.

The AirPods Pro also performed well against basic hearing aids in a quiet environment and were only slightly lower than the premium hearing aids.  They found the AirPods 2, while having the lowest performance of the four, helped participants hear more clearly compared to wearing hearing aids.

The AirPods Pro also performed well against basic hearing aids in a quiet environment and were only slightly lower than the premium hearing aids. They found the AirPods 2, while having the lowest performance of the four, helped participants hear more clearly compared to wearing hearing aids.

He also adds that the AirPods Pro seem to perform better than the AirPods 2, likely due to their noise canceling feature.

“Globally, the market for wireless headphones is growing rapidly. Some companies want to explore the possibility of designing headphones with sound-amplifying features. Our study proves that the idea is plausible,” says Lai.

Cheng says it can be difficult to persuade patients to use hearing aids.

“These wireless headphones are of course not perfect, but they would be a good starting point for many patients who do not have access to professional hearing aids. They will see an improvement in their quality of life even with these headphones” , says Cheng.

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