As reported in a Taiwanese study, certain commercially available wireless earbuds used in smartphones outperform conventional hearing aids, thus repurposing them as hearing aids for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss. may be
In electroacoustic testing, the pair of earbuds (AirPods Pro) that came with the smartphone met 4 out of 5 Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP) criteria. PSAPs, a category of wearable electronic devices intended for individuals with normal hearing, have been shown to help supplement hearing loss in terms of listening effort and perception of speech in noise in patients with mild to moderate hearing loss. It has been. [iScience 2022;doi:10.1016/j.isci.2022.105436; JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2019;145:516-522;
The AirPods Pro had frequency response smoothness and bandwidth, total harmonic distortion, and a maximum output sound pressure level of 90 dB. The only exception was that the equivalent internal noise of the earbuds exceeded regulatory standards. This means that the device can affect the user’s speech recognition.
AirPods Pro vs hearing aids
The performance of Airpods Pro was further evaluated in 21 hearing aid-naive adults with symmetrical mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) (mean age 42.9 years, 57.14% female). He then compared the device to its predecessor, his Airpods 2, and a pair each of premium and basic hearing aids.
During the test, participants were asked to repeat verbatim a short passage read by the author under the following conditions: without hearing aids and wearing AirPods Pro, AirPods 2, premium hearing aids, and standard hearing aids. situation. .
The AirPods Pro were just as good as basic hearing aids, but slightly worse than premium hearing aids when used in quiet environments. AirPods 2 made him the worst performer of the four devices, but helped participants hear more clearly than when they weren’t wearing hearing aids.
In noisy environments, on the other hand, the AirPods Pro performed similarly to premium hearing aids when the noise moved laterally. However, wireless earbuds failed to improve hearing when the noise came from the front.
“The difference between the two scenarios could be explained by two reasons,” said study co-author Ying-Hui Lai, a bioengineer at the National Yang Ming Jiaotong University in Taipei. increase.
“This could be related to the trajectory that sound waves travel or the advanced signal processing algorithms in premium hearing aids.
cheaper and more accessible
“To our knowledge, this study is the first to use smartphone-bundled earphones as a tested PSAP to compare hearing performance in patients with mild to moderate symmetrical hearing loss. We found that the AirPods Pro met most electroacoustic standards and could be considered a capable PSAP,” said the authors.
In 2016, Apple released the “Live Listen” feature. This is a feature that uses wireless earbuds AirPods for sound amplification and then acts like a PSAP.
“Globally, the wireless earphone market is growing rapidly. It proves the idea to be plausible,” said Lai.
Lai and colleagues see the AirPods Pro as a potential hearing aid device for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. These wireless his earbuds could be a good replacement for hearing aids, and have the added advantage of being cheaper.
The cost of hearing aids is largely responsible for the low penetration of such devices. Hearing aids cost US$3,000 to US$6,000 per pair, too expensive for many to correct their hearing loss. By comparison, the AirPods Pro cost just $249 USD. [Am J Med 2016;129:245-250; Disabil Rehabil 2021;43:436-446]
Previous reports show that about three-quarters of people with hearing loss do not use hearing aids. The numbers are alarming, according to the study authors. This is because hearing loss ultimately interferes with effective communication and, if left untreated, reduces quality of life and leads to increased medical costs over time. [Arch Intern Med 2012;172:292-293]
Dr. Yen-fu Cheng, lead author of the study and an otolaryngologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, admitted that persuading patients to use hearing aids can be difficult.
“These wireless earbuds are of course not perfect, but they will be a good starting point for many patients who do not have access to professional hearing aids. said Mr.