A new study has claimed Apple’s AirPods Pro earphones are as effective as some hearing aids in helping people with hearing loss comprehend speech in quiet environments.
The study published in iScience this week found that the sound amplification feature called Conversation Boost within AirPods, performed as well two prescription hearing aids. The study even claimed that AirPods met four out of five standards to be classed as hearing aids. That’s not a distinction Apple claims.
However, a leading expert in the field has told Trusted Reviews the true wireless earbuds should not be considered a replacement for bespoke medical devices. Andrew Bellavia, founder of hearables and hearing consultancy AuraFuturity, says that while AirPods can be beneficial for those with lower-level or natural hearing loss, those with greater needs should not rely on them.
“I have no doubt that the hearing features within AirPods Pro can improve speech understanding for some people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss, as well as those without measurable hearing loss who have difficulty in noisy situations,” he tells Trusted Reviews.
“When I tried them, the amplification level was too low for my more severe loss but the Conversation Boost feature still offered some improvement in a loud restaurant.”
Seek a hearing care professional
The comments and the study come shortly after over the counter (OTC) hearing aids became available in the United States. Bellavia says both the OTC solutions and AirPods can help people with normal, age related hearing loss. However, people experiencing greater concerns should test their hearing with freely available online tools, and then seek help from medical professionals.
“For anyone considering buying AirPods Pro specifically for its hearing assistance, or for that matter an OTC hearing aid, I recommend they do two things beforehand:
- Take the CEDRA assessment questionnaire offered by Northwestern University. It only takes a couple of minutes and can indicate if your hearing issue warrants medical attention.
- Take an online screener to estimate your hearing loss level. The hearing resource Soundly evaluated numerous screeners and recommends five they believe are the best.
“Know that OTC hearing aids and consumer devices with hearing features generally work best for people with normal, age-related hearing loss at mild-to-moderate level. If you have any doubt, seek out a hearing care professional to perform an assessment and suggest options.”