Taiwanese researchers discovered that a set of Apple Airpods can help some people hear almost as well as hearing aids.
The authors of a study published Tuesday in the journal iScience discovered that a sound-amplification function on the AirPods Pro helped adults with mild to moderate hearing loss hear speech nearly as well as two hearing aids.
The study compared the AirPods Pro and AirPods 2 to two other companies’ hearing aids — “premium” and “basic” — examining electroacoustic features and comparing performance when aided with each hearing-assistive device.
The AirPods Pro in conjunction with a smartphone managed to meet the majority of personal sound-amplification product (PSAP) standards — PSAPs are wearable electronic devices designed for people with normal hearing.
In comparison, the AirPods 2 only met two of the five criteria.
According to the study, there were no significant differences in speech perception between AirPods Pro and hearing aids in peaceful settings, but not in the presence of background noises.
While the AirPods Pro did not meet FDA standards for hearing aids, they did amplify sound alongside less advanced devices.
They speculated that AirPods Pro could be a hearing-assistive device for adults with mild to moderate hearing impairment.
Nonetheless, the authors stated that more research is needed to evaluate the safety and feasibility of using earphones merged with other smartphones as PSAPs, noting that previous studies yielded similar results.
The study’s limitations include its small sample size, the exclusion of individuals with serious sensorineural hearing loss and other types, the lack of additional information about the subjects, the possibility of observer bias, the use of the first-fit setting instead of real-ear measurement, and the fact that the PSAPs studied were produced by the same producer and may not apply to other products.
PSAPs are less costlier over-the-counter products that users can install.
Single hearing aid costs more than $2,000 out of pocket in the United States, whereas a set of AirPods Pro costs around $249.
Hearing loss affects millions of Americans and is the third-most common acute health condition. Hearing loss is anticipated to double in the United States by 2060. “Many patients are hesitant to wear them since they don’t want to appear old,” explains an otolaryngologist.