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Study: AirPods Pro are *this close* to being full-fledged hearing aids

Enlarge / Apple’s AirPods Pro, with their noise-cancelling and live-listening features, perform fairly well in tests against more traditional hearing aids. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

A study in the journal iScience suggests that, in some noise situations, AirPods, particularly the Pro model, can work just as well as far pricier prescription-only models.

AirPods are not sold or approved by the Food and Drug Administration as devices for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. But with cheaper, over-the-counter hearing aids now available at common retailers, there’s a renewed interest in non-medical companies moving into the space to help people who don’t need expert care—including from Apple itself.

Researchers from the Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taiwan’s National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, and other entities conducted what they believe is the first comparison of smartphone-oriented earphones with medically prescribed hearing aids. The study had a very small sample size of 21 people between 26 and 60 years old and was conducted in a lab setting with a single source of sound. Still, the results are intriguing, especially considering how many people already have access to iPhones, AirPods, and their audio-enhancing features.

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