AirPods Pro could act as hearing aids for those with minimal hearing loss, study claims

Posted:
in General Discussion
Rather than using a hearing aid and potentially be subjected to some social stigma, those with some moderate hearing loss could rely upon the hearing amplification features of AirPods according to a study.

AirPods Pro could work as alternative to hearing aids for those with minimal hearing loss
AirPods Pro could work as alternative to hearing aids for those with minimal hearing loss


Apple doesn't promote the AirPods lineup as a health product, but when paired with Apple Health a user can create a hearing profile for auditory amplification. Essentially, AirPods Pro can act as a cheap first step to accepting the need for a hearing aid.

Research firm Auditory Insight studied Apple's hearing health study data to provide some context. According to Auditory Insight, users can rely upon the amplification feature in AirPods Pro, coupled with active noise cancellation (ANC) and Transparency mode, to improve hearing and health throughout the day.

The AirPods Pro cannot replace traditional hearing aids, especially for those with severe hearing loss, but they can provide a half-step to hearing loss awareness. If a user with mild hearing loss realizes the AirPods Pro can amplify their hearing and protect them to some extent with ANC, then they may be more accepting of a hearing aid in the future.

The Apple Research study had thousands of participants from March 2020 to March 2021 record data about their hearing and answer some questions. Data from the study showed that 25 percent of participants experience a daily average of environmental sound exposure that is higher than the limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

Apple Research hearing study
Apple Research hearing study


Apple Watch wearers provided even more data thanks to it monitoring environmental noise and notifying users of extreme noise. This data and headphone volume data is stored in Apple Health and can give the user insight to how their hearing health is changing over time.

Transparency mode allows the user to pair the AirPods Pro with an audiogram to create a unique auditory profile. This profile enables the AirPods Pro to amplify certain noise that would otherwise be inaudible to someone with hearing loss.

Auditory Insights says that AirPods Pro are not a perfect replacement for hearing aids, however. The audiogram must be completed in a separate app and imported into Apple Health, a roadblock for some users who may not be aware of the feature. Also, the AirPods Pro have a battery life of only 4.5 hours, which limits how long a user can continuously use one pair throughout the day.

Amplification isn't perfect either. According to the Auditory Insights study, the AirPods Pro couldn't amplify high-pitched noises as well as conventional hearing aids.

Auditory Insight suggests that given the health data Apple has collected, the company could make big moves in the industry in future hardware. While the current models are limited by amplification ability and battery life, future models could implement these findings directly.

The research firm suggests that one of two actions will result from the study's findings. It suggests that either Apple will improve future hardware for better hearing amplification and protection, or the hearing aid industry can innovate and bring ANC and other features to affordable hearing aids.

Stay on top of all Apple news right from your HomePod. Say, "Hey, Siri, play AppleInsider," and you'll get the latest AppleInsider Podcast. Or ask your HomePod mini for "AppleInsider Daily" instead and you'll hear a fast update direct from our news team. And, if you're interested in Apple-centric home automation, say "Hey, Siri, play HomeKit Insider," and you'll be listening to our newest specialized podcast in moments.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,451member
    As someone with hearing frequency loss (not volume per se) as well as tinnitus, I read articles like this with great interest. My dad told me 40 years ago playing in a rock band would damage my hearing! Did I take any notice? No.  :(

    The noise cancellation aspect Apple brings to the table must also be a potential aid in the mix.  An app with AI ability would be too.  I really hope Apple pursues this area of research and fast.  To be honest I thought or maybe just assumed they were already.

    P.S. I tried the test posted on AI for the ability to detect Lossless audio improvement.  Haha!  However, Dolby Atmos actually improves my ability to hear greatly.
    edited May 2021 williamlondonmobirdcg27GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 2 of 13
    CuJoYYCCuJoYYC Posts: 71member
    Before Apple even introduced Air Pods, I predicted the next medically-related field Apple would enter was hearing aids. The current state of the art hearing aids are expensive, require a tonne of maintenance, and aren't nearly as discreet, for the most part, as their manufacturers claim. White in-ear buds wired or wireless, are completely socially acceptable now, so their visibility is never an issue and, they're not just for music, PodCasts, phone, etc. Turning them into de facto hearing aids is really just a natural evolution of the AirPod line, especially for our generally vain, aging population (a demographic to which I belong) that is loathe to admit they, you know, are actually aging.

    Thankfully, I've yet to experience hearing loss, though I'm sure some degree of loss is in my future. 
    cg27GeorgeBMacrobin huber
  • Reply 3 of 13
    semi_guysemi_guy Posts: 64member
    It is about time! The hearing aid market needs a shakeup. It is pitiful what they offer and extremely expensive. 

    Many in the semiconductor industry have been trying to offer better solutions, but this market is very controlled by large players without little incentive to innovate and controlled through a group of audiologists.

    With the sensors in the AirPods, beamforming solutions could be develop to improve hearing by pointing the beam in the direction the person is looking. In fact, one company Noopl (https://noopl.com) has developed one system. Unfortunately, they acoustically couple the audio instead of direct digital connection. But it is the first with this solution.
    cg27GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 4 of 13
    cg27cg27 Posts: 144member
    As I’ve stated before, absolutely no reason why Apple couldn’t and shouldn’t own this market.  It would dramatically improve the lives of users who suffer from the current high costs and social stigma, not to mention Apple’s solution would be far superior with the processing power of the iPhone, and even just an AppleWatch.  If battery life is an issue then a user could have two pairs and still be way ahead in terms of lower cost.  And with the AppleWatch a user could control the volume and other parameters discreetly with the crown without looking down/away, thus maintaining eye contact (and any lip reading) and not interrupting a conversation.  And it would be one less gadget that users need since they’d already have a phone, and older users will increasingly “need” a smart watch to monitor other vitals and falls.  I can’t think of a more win-win-win situation than this.
  • Reply 5 of 13
    AniMillAniMill Posts: 45member
    I suffer from crazy Tinnitus and mild hearing loss from years of band mixing and loud movies. I immediately thought that the AirPod Pros would be a huge benefit to me, both music enjoyment wise and hearing protection wise. I use my AirPod Pros when working with loud tools and they are a hearing saver. I just wish I could simply boost the Transparency Mode input volume to act as a Hearing Aid.
  • Reply 6 of 13
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,686member
    This was always common sense to me. Maybe Apple just wasn’t ready with the right technology to roll it out?
  • Reply 7 of 13
    stewartsstewarts Posts: 12member
     audiogram must be completed in a separate app and imported into Apple Health,”

    Where can I get such an audiogram?

    And do I have to be part of a Research program or is it available to anyone now?
    sellerington
  • Reply 8 of 13
    beowulfschmidtbeowulfschmidt Posts: 1,519member
    MacPro said:
    As someone with hearing frequency loss (not volume per se) as well as tinnitus, I read articles like this with great interest. My dad told me 40 years ago playing in a rock band would damage my hearing! Did I take any notice? No.  :(

    The noise cancellation aspect Apple brings to the table must also be a potential aid in the mix.  An app with AI ability would be too.  I really hope Apple pursues this area of research and fast.  To be honest I thought or maybe just assumed they were already.

    P.S. I tried the test posted on AI for the ability to detect Lossless audio improvement.  Haha!  However, Dolby Atmos actually improves my ability to hear greatly.

    I have problems with specific frequency ranges.  Some are crystal clear, some are muddy, and some are inaudible.  Add in the tinnitus and I'm not sure AirPods will help much.  I can hope I'm wrong though.

  • Reply 9 of 13
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,044member
    semi_guy said:
    It is about time! The hearing aid market needs a shakeup. It is pitiful what they offer and extremely expensive. 

    Many in the semiconductor industry have been trying to offer better solutions, but this market is very controlled by large players without little incentive to innovate and controlled through a group of audiologists.

    With the sensors in the AirPods, beamforming solutions could be develop to improve hearing by pointing the beam in the direction the person is looking. In fact, one company Noopl (https://noopl.com) has developed one system. Unfortunately, they acoustically couple the audio instead of direct digital connection. But it is the first with this solution.

    Yes, but it's not just the hearing aid industry gouging users but the eyeglass industry as well.   Both are far more expensive than can be justified -- but having a cartel / monopoly they can charge what they want.

    But, competition like this may rein in the hearing aid industry.
    And competition is already making itself known in the eyeglass industry:  
    I just took advantage of one:   for me new, high strength glass with exam and frame would run well over $500 and likely over $750.
    But instead I purchased a kit to test my own eyes for strength and astigmatism ($75) then order frames and lenses online ($99).   And, to tell the truth, they are better than I would have if I had gone the conventional route:   The eye doctors always have trouble getting an accurate measurement of me.  But, doing it myself I could take as many measurements as i wanted to be sure I got it right (I think I took about a  dozen).
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 10 of 13
    stewarts said:
    “ audiogram must be completed in a separate app and imported into Apple Health,”

    Where can I get such an audiogram?

    And do I have to be part of a Research program or is it available to anyone now?
    Have you tried the Mimi Hearing Test app?
  • Reply 11 of 13
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,530member
    Been praying for Apple to see the natural progression from buds to aids. They have smashed the idea that having a bud in your ear means “old man” and substituted “cool guy.”
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 12 of 13
    semi_guy said:
    It is about time! The hearing aid market needs a shakeup. It is pitiful what they offer and extremely expensive. 

    Many in the semiconductor industry have been trying to offer better solutions, but this market is very controlled by large players without little incentive to innovate and controlled through a group of audiologists.

    With the sensors in the AirPods, beamforming solutions could be develop to improve hearing by pointing the beam in the direction the person is looking. In fact, one company Noopl (https://noopl.com) has developed one system. Unfortunately, they acoustically couple the audio instead of direct digital connection. But it is the first with this solution.
    OMG! "Deep Sound" has been getting away with highway robbery!

    Next, you'll be telling me that the so-called "Brown Note" doesn't exist!

    Smash the conspiracy!

    /s
  • Reply 13 of 13
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 1,027member
    As a physician and sufferer of tinnitus and hearing loss, I would love to see Apple get in this space to shake it up.  This source of suffering and expense for retirees on a fixed income is immense.  For people that can’t afford a $100 medication copay, the $1000s of dollars for hearing aids is a monstrous expense & for most it is not covered by insurance.

    And the products are not great.

    Apple needs to do this.  I would love to have the hearing aid industry complain of a 30% app store cut as a comeuppance.
    Detnator
Sign In or Register to comment.