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AirPods Pro are almost as good as expensive hearing aids, study shows

Published Nov 20th, 2022 8:14PM EST
Apple AirPods Pro 2 In Case
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Apple doesn’t market the AirPods Pro as hearing aids, but the premium wireless earphones can help people suffering from hearing loss problems. That’s according to a new study which claims the $249 AirPods Pro are almost as good as premium hearing aids that can cost thousands of dollars.

The current AirPods Pro aren’t actually hearing aids, and Apple can’t market them that way. However, given the promising results of this study, it wouldn’t be surprising to see future earphones double as affordable hearing aids.

The study found that the sound amplification feature in the AirPods Pro helped adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss hear speech nearly as well as prescription hearing aids. Per The Wall Street Journal, the scientists published their results in the journal iScience.

The study compared the AirPods Pro, the $129 AirPods 2, a basic hearing aid, and a $10,000 premium hearing aid. The researchers enrolled 21 adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss who took hearing tests using the four devices.

The volunteers reported the best experience with the premium hearing aid. But the AirPods Pro performed nearly as well. The AirPods 2 performed worse, however.

AirPods case on a MagSafe charger (left), AirPods on top on iPhone (middle), and a keyboard (right).
AirPods case on a MagSafe charger (left), AirPods on top on iPhone (middle), and a keyboard (right). Image source: Иван Шенец/Adobe

The AirPods Pro feature that turns the earphones into ad hoc hearing aids is called Live Listen. The AirPods connect to a different Apple device, like an iPhone or iPad. It’s that device that helps them hear the conversation better and tune out background noise. However, the feature will consume battery life on both the AirPods and the iOS device.

The AirPods “won’t replace hearing aids, but it’s a good way for people to experience what the world would be like if they could get some help, an upgrade for their hearing,” Yen-Fu Cheng told The Journal. Cheng is an ENT specialist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan and a co-author of the study.

Some people might already be using the AirPods Pro as hearing aids, even if they’re not sold for that purpose.

Charles Limb, a professor and chief of otology at the University of California, San Francisco, told The Journal that he had such patients before the study came out. “They already use their AirPods as quick and dirty hearing aids,” he said. “It seems to work really well.” Limb wasn’t involved in the study.

Separately, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in October that certain hearing aids for adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss could be sold without a prescription. This change could help lower the average price of hearing aids in the future.

Whether you want to take advantage of the hearing aid features in the AirPods Pro, now is the time to score great deals on them. Finally, here’s how to enable Live Listen on your AirPods Pro.

More Apple coverage: Check out the best Apple deals online right now.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.