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Are Apple AirPods a cheaper alternative to hearing aids?

A pair of Apple headphones may help some people hear almost as well as hearing aids, researchers in Taiwan have found.

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 almost as well as two hearing aids.

The study compared AirPods Pro and AirPods 2 with two hearing aids (“advanced” and “basic”) from other companies, studied the electro-acoustic characteristics and compared the performance of each hearing aid when assisted.

AirPods Pro with smartphones meet most standards for Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs) — wearable electronic devices designed for hearing people.

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In contrast, the AirPods 2 met only two of the five criteria.

A pair of Apple AirPods Pro wireless earphones
(Phil Barker/Getty Images for future publication)

In quiet environments, there was no significant difference in speech perception between the AirPods Pro and the hearing aids, but not in the presence of background noise, the study said.

Although AirPods Pro did not meet Food and Drug Administration Hearing Aid StandardsThey amplify the sound as well as less advanced equipment.

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A pair of Apple headphones may help some people hear almost as well as hearing aids, researchers in Taiwan have found.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

AirPods Pro have the potential to be a hearing aid for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss, they wrote.

Nonetheless, the authors assert that more research is warranted to investigate the safety and feasibility of using headsets bundled with other smartphones as PSAPs, noting that previous investigations have reached similar conclusions.

Limitations of the study include small sample size, exclusion of persons with severe sensorineural hearing loss and other types, failure to collect additional information related to the subjects, possible observer bias, use of a first-fit setting In lieu of real ear measurements, the PSAPs studied were created by the same manufacturer and may not be applicable to other products.

Apple AirPods Pro
(Nic Coury/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

PSAPs are less expensive over-the-counter products that can be installed by the user.

In the US, the average out-of-pocket cost for a single hearing aid is more than $2,000, and a pair of AirPods Pro is about $249.

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“There is also a social stigma associated with hearing aids,” Zheng Yanfu, an otolaryngologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital and corresponding author of the study, said in a press release. “Many patients are reluctant to wear them because they don’t want to look old. Therefore, we Start exploring if there are more readily available alternatives.”

Millions of Americans live with hearing loss, the third most common chronic health condition. By 2060, the prevalence of hearing loss in the United States is projected to double.

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