(ORDO NEWS) — According to a new study that compared Apple headphones to traditional hearing aids
Higher-end AirPods can perform as hearing aids for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss in a series of tests.
These findings could be life-changing for the millions of people who don’t currently have the hearing aids they need, either because of the high cost or the social stigma that comes with them, two issues that don’t apply as much to consumer headphones.
“These wireless headphones are certainly not perfect, but they would be a good start for many patients who don’t have access to professional hearing aids ,” says otolaryngologist Yen-Fu Cheng from the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan.
“They will see a quality of life improvement even with these headphones.”
For the purposes of the study, 21 participants with mild to moderate hearing loss were tested with first-class hearing. hearing aids (worth US$10,000 in Taiwanese market), basic hearing aids.
($1,500), AirPods Pro ($249), and AirPods 2 ($129). The AirPods were connected to Apple iPhones that had the Live Listen app installed for the environmental noise booster.
Short sentences were read to volunteers who were then asked to repeat them.
In noisy environments, if the noise is not coming from the listener, the performance of AirPods Pro is comparable to premium hearing aids . In quiet environments, AirPods Pro performed slightly worse than premium hearing aids , and about the same as basic hearing aids.
The basic AirPods 2 weren’t as good as hearing aids in quiet or noisy environments, but it was better than nothing at all. In noisy environments where the source of the noise was in front of the volunteers, none of the AirPods helped the participants hear better.
While both AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro feature Live Listen technology that amplifies sounds, only the Pro model has Active Noise Cancellation that detects and blocks some external sounds. This may help explain the discrepancy between the two sets of wireless earbuds.
“The difference between the two scenarios can be explained by two reasons,” says bioengineer Ying-Hui Lai of the National Yang Ming Jiao Tung Institute. University in Taiwan. “This may be due to the paths that sound waves take, as well as the advanced signal processing algorithm of premium hearing aids .”
“We hope this discovery will inspire engineers to develop hearing aids and personal amplification devices that are more sensitive in certain directions.”
Aside from the high price of professional hearing aids , wearers may worry that they are making them seem old. They also require multiple visits by healthcare professionals for fitting and adjustment. As a result, 75% of people with hearing loss in the US do not use these aids .
Wireless headphones are a more affordable alternative, and the number is on the rise, with everyone from Google to Samsung to Sony producing a pair of wireless headphones with additional features added with each product update.
The researchers believe their work may actually encourage manufacturers to include features to help people with hearing loss, as well as features to improve the sound of music and podcasts.
However, it would be important to introduce some kind of regulatory procedure for labeling those headphones that will help and those that will not.
“All over the world, the wireless headphone market is growing rapidly,” Lai says. “Some companies are interested in developing headphones with sound amplification features. Our study proves that this idea is plausible.”
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