AirPod Pros are functionally pretty close to hearing aids

Apple AirPod Pros “may have the potential to be a hearing assistive device for adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss,” according to a new scientific study. The researchers from Taipei Veterans General Hospital and colleagues compared the electroacoustic features of hearing aids with AirPods and found that in some situations, AirPod Pros matched prescription hearing aids on four out of five industry standard metrics for personal sound amplification products (PSAPs).

“No significant differences were found regarding speech perception between AirPods Pro and hearing aids in quiet but not with the presence of background noises,” the scientists wrote in a technical paper.

From Ars Technica:

In a noisier environment, AirPods Pro’s active noise cancellation brought their performance within range of the OTICON device, but only if the noises came from the sides (as you might expect for earbuds). Neither AirPod performed very well when noise came from the front while trying to listen elsewhere.

Not noted in the report are a couple of distinctions between AirPods and more typical hearing aids. One is battery life, as the Bluetooth-based AirPods use an iPhone connection to hear environmental sounds and prioritize size over longevity. Another is repairability, another low or non-existent priority for the AirPods line.

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