If you’re someone who wears AirPods Pro frequently, there’s now a new reason for leaving them on when you’re not listening to music. A recent scientific study found that the AirPods Pro can be just as effective as some prescription hearing aids in helping those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
In a study published by iScience and reported by The Wall Street Journal, researchers found that while the 21 adults who participated in the study had a preference for a $10,000 hearing aid, the AirPods Pro used with Live Listen turned on performed well against the other prescription hearing aids tested. Live Listen is a feature that uses the microphones on the iPhone to feed audio to the AirPods Pro. The study also involved sound and clarity tests and the AirPods Pro met established standards per the ANSI/CTA-2051 criteria for personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) in four of the five tests.
However, these results only apply to the AirPods Pro–the same study included the more affordable 2nd-generation AirPods, and the researchers found that the “outcome aided with AirPods 2 was poorer than hearing aids,” and that the AirPods met only two of the five ANSI/CTA-2051 criteria for PSAPs. (The 3rd-generation AirPods were released a year ago and were not used in the study. It’s likely that they were not available at the time.)
The researchers admit that the study is limited by its small sample size, but they do believe that the results show “statistical power [that] was satisfactory.” The study also mentions how prescription hearing aids are expensive, making them out of reach for a lot of people. AirPods Pro could be used as a “highly feasible and more affordable option.”
As someone who’s had some hearing loss, which started after attending an Anthrax/Public Enemy concert in 1991 and worsened over the years, I’ve actually used my AirPods Pro and Live Listen in a couple of situations and can personally attest to their ability to improve hearing in a conversation. I don’t use them as often as I could because, as the study points out, the person I’m talking to may think it’s rude that I’m still wearing my AirPods Pro. But now that this study proves their value, it’ll make me feel more comfortable leaving them on.
The study points out that there are limitations to using the AirPods Pro as a hearing aid, including battery life and stronger microphones to pick up environmental sounds. However, as Yen-Fu Cheng at Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan, who co-wrote the study, says, the AirPods Pro are “a good way for people to experience what the world would be like if they could get some help, an upgrade for their hearing.”