Apple AirPods Show Promise as Hearing Aid Alternative

Despite a flourishing and fairly crowded OTC market for hearing aids thanks to a variety of FDA approvals catering to the estimated 30 million U.S. adults in need of the devices, the most effective device for those suffering from hearing loss may already be in their possession. Indeed, new research published in the journal iScience found that Apple’s seemingly ubiquitous AirPods meet a majority of the benchmarks laid out by the Consumer Technology Association for personal sound amplification products. The main obstacle for this discovery to date, it turns out, has been Apple’s oversight in not including a classification as hearing aid alternatives for these earbuds.

The recent study, which included both the second generation version of the original AirPods as well as the newest AirPods Pro, put Apple’s devices up against basic and premium iterations of hearing aids currently on the markets. Roughly 25 adults who hadn’t previously used hearing aids wore the devices during a gamut of experiments designed to test for the CTA five core standards, and while the AirPods 2 met just two of the standards, the Pro edition achieved a score of 80%. The missing ingredient for the Pro was the measure of equivalent internal noise (EIN) natively generated.

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Based on these findings, the authors of the study concluded that the AirPods Pro “may have the potential to serve as an adequate hearing assistive device,” particularly for those with hearing impairment that can be classified as mild-to-moderate.