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Digital Trends

New research has revealed that AirPods could work as well as hearing aids.

For the study, 21 participants with mild to moderate hearing loss tested a variety of hearing aids. These included premium hearing aids priced at $10,000, basic hearing aids costing $1,500, AirPods Pro earbuds at $249 and AirPods 2 at $129.

The Apple AirPods were linked to a noise-amplifying feature called Live Listen. To use this feature, all Apple users need to do is: Go to settings, control centre, and then scroll down and tap the add button to where it says 'hearing' with a little ear symbol.

Short sentences were read out to the study, who were asked to repeat them back.

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The AirPods 2 performed similarly well to basic hearing aids in quiet environments.

In noisier environments, the AirPods Pro (which have a built-in noise cancelling feature) had comparable performance to the premium hearing aid – specifically when the noises came from the side of the participant.

However, when the noises came from the front of the participants, both AirPods models failed to help participants hear better.

"Two reasons may account for the difference between the two scenarios," says bioengineer Ying-Hui Lai, from the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan. "It may relate to the trajectories soundwaves travel with, as well as the advanced signal processing algorithm by premium hearing aids."

"This finding will hopefully inspire engineers to design hearing aids and personal sound amplification products that are more sensitive in certain directions."

"These wireless earbuds are of course not perfect, but they would be a good starting point for many patients who don't have access to professional hearing aids," says otolaryngologist Yen-Fu Cheng, from the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan.

"They will see an increase in quality of life even with these earbuds."

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