AirPods Pro make surprisingly cheap headphones, according to a study

It's a feature many owners probably don't know their AirPods are capable of, but a new medical study has found that Apple's wireless earphones may work well as affordable alternatives to hearing aids.

The findings of the new report, published in the journal iScience, focus on the "Live Listen" feature in Apple AirPods and some Beats headphones that allow your iPhone to act as a microphone, which in turn transmits enhanced sound to the headphones on the device. user.

The feature was not originally intended as an aid for people affected by hearing loss, but rather designed to muffle certain sounds in noisy situations for people with normal hearing.

But with the price of hearing aids ranging from €1,000 to €10,000 in the United States, researchers at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei decided to work on a study to see how Apple's relatively inexpensive hearing aids that use this feature would compare to dedicated hearing aids.

Researchers put a pair of second-generation AirPods and AirPods Pro (2019) to the test, pairing them with an iPhone XS Max.

They compared their test results with the €1 OTICON Opn 10,000 premium behind-the-ear hearing aids, as well as the €1 Bernafon MD1,500 hearing aid.

A total of 21 participants with mild to moderate hearing loss took part in the study, with each person asked to repeat short sentences read in different settings using each of the four devices. According to the study, the AirPods Pro, which also rank high on our list of The best headphones, with the same performance as the cheapest hearing aids and almost as good as OTICON's top model when used in a quiet environment.

Somewhat usurpingly, the cheapest second-generation AirPods ranked at the bottom of the four devices tested, but still managed to deliver a noticeable benefit to participants' hearing compared to no device. In noisier test environments, the AirPods Pro managed to come even closer to the OTICONs, a result the researchers attribute to their built-in noise cancellation.

However, these results occurred when the unwanted distracting noises were emitted from the participant's sides. When the participant encountered noise coming from the front while trying to listen to the sample sentences, the two Apple headphones couldn't help improve what was heard.

You can find out how to use Apple's live listening mode here (opens in a new tab).

The first Black Friday AirPods deals have just kicked off as well, if you're looking to shop.

oticon hearing aid

(Image credit: Oticon)

Analysis: AirPods as headphones aren't a gimmick, but they're not a replacement for the real deal, either

In a week when a separate study led the World Health Organization to warn that a billion young people around the world could be at risk of hearing damage from listening with headphones, it's ironic that one of the world's most popular wireless headphones popular in the world can really help those affected by hearing loss.

Apple's introduction of the Live Listen feature to its AirPods line was welcomed by the hearing impaired community when it was introduced in 2016.

Offering a slightly more affordable tool for speech attenuation compared to expensive dedicated devices—especially for those living in the US, where hearing aids aren't typically subsidized—the ability to use Apple's ubiquitous white earphones from this discreet manner also helped reduce stigma. environment using a hearing aid.

However, while this new study shows that the feature isn't just a gimmick or an added feature, it also points out that if you have hearing loss, a pair of AirPods should just be considered a hole in the butt.

As the report notes, the AirPods performed poorly when presented with noise coming from a frontal direction rather than the side, making them less useful for conversational situations or when watching a movie, for example, and also requiring your iPhone to be placed correctly. for the feature to work well.

Dedicated hearing aids can be customized to boost frequencies based on user needs, so if you're concerned about hearing loss, we strongly recommend consulting an audiologist before attempting to use even the best models of AirPods. of this manera.

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