Despite the fact that millions of Americans could benefit from wearing hearing aids, very few of them do so. This is due to the fact that hearing aids can be pricey, necessitate time-consuming audiologist visits, and are socially stigmatised.

According to recent research published on Tuesday in the journal iScience, some experts now think Apple Airpods and other earphones could help ease some of these problems.
Because of a feature called Live Listen that Apple introduced in 2016, AirPods are widely available and can function as a sound-improving microphone when connected to an iPhone or iPad. Apple does not promote Live Listen as a tool for those who have hearing loss, although the corporation does highlight this capability on its website. “assist you in hearing a conversation in a noisy environment or even someone speaking across the room.”

This functionality allows AirPods to function as personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), which are over-the-counter aids for persons without hearing impairments in environments like noisy restaurants.

The Live Listen feature of AirPods piqued the interest of researchers at the Taipei Veterans Medical Hospital, who questioned how they would compare to conventional hearing aids.

They enlisted 21 people with mild to severe hearing loss to test this hypothesis. The participants were then instructed to repeat a brief passage aloud under a variety of circumstances, including without any earphones in their ears, while wearing the Bernafon MD1 basic hearing aid, the Oticon Opn 1 premium hearing aid, the Apple AirPods 2 standard hearing aid, and the Apple AirPods Pro. Together with the AirPods.

The AirPods let the participants to hear better in various circumstances. The noise-canceling AirPods Pro performed equally well in quiet environments as the standard hearing aids and were only marginally worse than the top-of-the-line hearing aids.

The AirPods Pro worked just as well as expensive hearing aids in a noisy environment, but only when the subject was facing the source of the noise. The Apple gadgets did not help the listener’s hearing when the noise was coming from in front of them. This discovery by itself could “inspire engineers to build hearing aids and personal sound amplification items that are more sensitive in particular directions,” claims research co-author Ying-Hui Lai, a bioengineer at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan.

Also, the AirPods Pro complied with four of the ANSI/CTA-2051 standards’ five electroacoustic requirements for hearing aids.

While the AirPods 2 fared the worst of all the gadgets, they did improve participants’ hearing relative to when they listened without any aid.

Despite several flaws, this research indicates that the AirPods may still be a good choice for those who could benefit from sound enhancement. The AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro both cost far less than hearing aids ($129 and $249, respectively), making earbuds a much more affordable alternative. For superior hearing aids, the price ranges from $10,000 to $1,500.

Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August created a new category for over-the-counter hearing aids that do not require a prescription, as had previously been the case, the price of hearing aids is anticipated to decrease. Yet, as Andrew Liszewski of Gizmodo notes, many of these gadgets would still set you back more than $1,000.

Earbuds are quite popular in addition to being relatively affordable, therefore some users may experience less social stigma when donning them.

As opposed to most PSAPs, which imitate traditional hearing aids, the design of AirPods is even referred to as hip, according to the study’s authors. “Social stigma is a big factor in the low fitting rate of hearing aids; using AirPods may allay these worries and reducing such worries and increasing people’s willingness to wear hearing aids.

According to Kimberly Drake of Healthline, researchers plan to test earphones on individuals with more severe hearing loss in the future. The results of the study might potentially motivate earbud producers, like Apple, to develop goods or functions that improve hearing.

Charles Limb, an otologist and neurotologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not part in the study, tells Dominique Mosbergen of the Wall Street Journal that the technology in hearing aids is not that advanced. “These companies could start focusing on these requirements instead of just creating solutions that can make things sound good for entertainment purposes.”

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