The affordable alternative to hearing aids

Nov 17, 2022
Scientists have discovered a cheaper alternative to hearing aids. Source: Getty

Hearing loss can have significant impacts on a person’s quality of life, often leading to feelings of depression and a sense of isolation from the world around us.

According to Hearing Care Industry Association, one in six Australians experience hearing loss, with the majority of cases being age or genetic-related, however, only one in five Australians who need a hearing aid actually use them.

There is a range of factors preventing people from using hearing aids, one such reason is the cost associated with the device and the effort involved in the numerous visits to an audiologist for fittings and tunings.

Now, scientists have discovered commercial earbuds could be used as an “inexpensive” and easy alternative to hearing aids.

Published to the journal iScienceresearchers compared the use of Apple’s AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro as hearing aids, with the brand’s “Live Listen” update acting as a sound enhancer along with the noise canceling function, with a type of premium hearing aids and a basic pair of hearing aids.

Surprisingly, AirPods Pro met four out of five of the criteria for technology standards of hearing aids.

With both the basic and premium hearing aids priced in the thousands, the Airpods were a significantly cheaper option, priced at $299 for the Airpods Pro and $399 for the Airpods Pro 2.

The study, conducted on 21 participants with mild to moderate hearing loss who were asked to repeat short phrases, found the performance of AirPods Pro was akin to that of basic hearing aids in a quiet environment and was only somewhat inferior to premium hearing aids.

AirPods Pro 2 ranked the lowest for impact, only making a slight difference in improvement for participants’ hearing, compared to wearing none at all.

However, in loud spaces where the noise was coming from all directions, AirPods Pro performed on par with the premium hearing aids, with the exception of when the noise was coming from in front of the participant, where both versions of the earbuds failed to help the participant hear better.

Science Daily reported Ying-Hui Lai, the study’s co-author, and a bioengineer said the study was not only conducted to help bridge the gap in hearing treatment affordability but also to help remove the stigma around wearing hearing aids.

“Many patients are reluctant to wear them because they don’t want to appear old. So, we started exploring if there are more accessible alternatives, Lai said.

“Globally, the wireless earphone market is growing rapidly. Some companies are interested in exploring the possibility of designing earbuds with sound amplification features. Our study proves that the idea is plausible.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Leave your comment

Please sign in to post a comment.
Retrieving conversation…
Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up