It’s a feature many owners probably don’t realize their AirPods are capable of, but a new medical study finds that Apple’s wireless earbuds can work just as well as affordable hearing aid alternatives.
Findings from the new report published in iScience Magazinecentered around the Live Listen function on Apple’s AirPods and some Beats earphones that enables your iPhone to act as a microphone, which in turn transmits enhanced audio to the user’s earbuds.
This feature was not originally intended to be an aid to those affected by hearing loss, but is instead designed to mitigate certain sounds in noisy situations for those with normal hearing.
But with hearing aids priced between $1,000 and $10,000 in the United States, Researchers at Taipei Veterans Hospital I decided to do a study to see how the relatively cheap Apple earbuds that use the feature compare to dedicated hearing aids.
They compared their test results with the best $10,000 OTICON Opn 1 behind-the-ear hearing aids as well as Bernafon’s $1,500 MD1 hearing aid.
A total of 21 participants with mild to moderate hearing loss took part in the study, in which each person was asked to repeat short sentences read to them in different settings using each of the four devices. According to the AirPods Pro studyAnd the Which also ranks high on our list The best earbudsThey have been found to perform as well as the cheapest hearing aids and OTICON’s top-level model quality when used in a quiet environment.
Somewhat strangely, the cheaper AirPods 2nd generation came in at the bottom of all four devices tested, but still managed to provide a noticeable benefit to participants’ ability to hear compared to not using any device. In noisy test environments, the AirPods Pro managed to perform close to OTICON, a result the researchers attribute to the built-in noise cancellation.
However, these results came about when unwanted distracting sounds were sent from both sides of the participant. When the participant was met with noises coming from the front while trying to listen to the sample sentences, both ears of Apple’s ear couldn’t help improving what was being heard.
You can learn how to take advantage of Apple’s Live Listen mode is here (Opens in a new tab).
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Analysis: AirPods as hearing aids aren’t a gimmick — but they’re also no substitute for the real deal
In a week saw a separate study prompted the World Health Organization to warn That a billion young people around the world may be at risk of hearing damage from listening to headphones, and ironically, one of the world’s most popular wireless earbuds can actually offer help to those affected by hearing loss.
Apple’s introduction of Live Listen to its line of AirPods was received quite right by the hearing loss community when it was introduced back in 2016.
Offering a fairly affordable tool to ease speech when compared to expensive dedicated devices — especially for those living in the US where hearing aids aren’t typically supported — the ability to use Apple’s ubiquitous white earbuds in this discreet manner also helped reduce the stigma Shame surrounding wearing a hearing device.
However, while this new study shows that the feature isn’t just a gimmick or an extra, it also confirms that if you’re hearing impaired, a pair of AirPods should only be considered a stop-gap.
As the report explains, the AirPods performed poorly when viewing noises coming from the front, rather than from the side in a direction, making them less useful for conversational situations or when watching a movie for example. You also need to position your iPhone appropriately for the feature to work properly. Good.
Hearing aids customized to increase frequencies can be customized according to user needs, so if you are concerned about hearing loss, we strongly recommend that you consult an audiologist before even considering using The best AirPods models in this way.