Some commercial earbuds can perform as well as hearing aids. The result, presented in the journal iScience, could help a large proportion of people with hearing loss access more affordable sound amplification devices.
Researchers and scientists have been studying hearing loss and potential ways to make impactful changes. One concern though is that common professional hearing aids are expensive and require multiple, different visits to otolaryngologists and audiologists for tuning. Researchers have estimated that nearly 75% of people in the United States with hearing loss do not use hearing aids.
Yen-fu Cheng, the study’s corresponding author and an otolaryngologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital spoke on why hearing aids are becoming a declining trend:
“There’s a social stigma associated with 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.”
Apple created a feature called “Live Listen” that allows people to use wireless headphones and AirPods for sound amplification. The feature makes AirPods functionally similar to personal sound amplification products.
Cheng and his team decided to research and even experiment whether AirPods, which are widely available devices, can serve as alternative hearing aids. The team compared AirPods with a type of premium hearing aids and a basic pair of hearing aids. Notably, AirPods Pro met four out of five technology standards for hearing aids. The work is also supported by Veterans General Hospitals and University System of Taiwan Joint Research Program, and the Ministry of Science and Technology.
With the wireless earphone market growing rapidly, some companies are interested in exploring the possibility of designing earbuds with sound amplification features. Even though it seems promising, there is still a vast amount of work to be done to officially be considered an option for those suffering from hearing loss.
A common misconception is that hearing loss makes you completely deaf, which is not true. There are plenty of notable African Americans with hearing loss, such as Whoopi Goldberg, Tamika Catchings, Halle Berry, and Will.i.am.
More research is being done everyday, so if you know someone who is suffering from hearing loss, contact a local doctor.