Researchers in Taiwan have found that a pair of Apple headphones may help some people hear almost as well as hearing aids.
In a study published Tuesday in the journal iScience, the authors found that the sound amplification feature on the AirPods Pro helped adults with mild to moderate hearing loss speak nearly as well as two hearing aids.
The study compared the AirPods Pro and AirPods 2 with two hearing aids — “premium” and “basic” — from other companies, looking at electro-acoustic features and comparing performance when assisted with each hearing aid.
AirPods Pro with a smartphone meet most Personal Audio Amplification Products (PSAP) standards – PSAPs are wearable electronic devices intended for individuals with normal hearing.
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In comparison, the AirPods 2 only meet two criteria out of five.
The study said that no significant differences were identified in terms of speech perception between AirPods Pro and hearing aids in quiet environments, but not with background noise.
Although the AirPods Pro do not meet FDA standards for hearing aids, they amplify sound as well as less advanced devices.
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They write that the AirPods Pro can be a great hearing aid for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.
However, the authors stress that more research is necessary to investigate the safety and feasibility of using earbuds bundled with other smartphones such as PSAP devices, noting that previous investigations have led to similar conclusions.
Limitations of the study include the small sample size, the exclusion of subjects with severe sensorineural hearing loss and other types, the failure to collect additional information regarding the subjects, the potential for observer bias, and the use of an appropriate setting instead. from real ear measurement, and that the PSAPs studied were created by the same manufacturer and may not apply to other products.
PSAPs are less expensive than the over-the-counter products that users can supplement with.
In the US, the average out-of-pocket cost for a single audio device is over $2,000, while a pair of AirPods Pro is about $249.
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“There is also a social stigma attached to hearing aids,” said Yin Fu-ching, corresponding author of the study and an otolaryngologist at Taipei General Veterans Hospital, in a statement. “Many patients are reluctant to wear them because they don’t want to look old. So, we started to explore if there were more accessible alternatives.”
Millions of Americans suffer from hearing loss, which is the third most common chronic health condition. The prevalence of hearing loss in America is expected to double by 2060.