Apple’s AirPods Pro may be a quickfire, inexpensive solution to your hearing loss


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It may be presumptuous and too early to say that Apple AirPods Pro is both a flexible and cost-effective way to solve people’s hearing loss problems, but recent medical research has electrified the medical community around the world with its implications for those with hearing impairment.

Happy accidents

Sometimes, inventions, even medical ones, do not come from the concerted and concentrated efforts of scientists to solve problems that plague mankind. Instead, they go from happy accidents to life-saving necessities.

For example, in 1928, Dr. Alexander Fleming left cultures of Staphylococcus aureus — or “staph” as it is commonly known (which are soft tissue infections such as abscesses and boils) — for several weeks. When he went back to check on them, he found that the fungus had inhibited their growth, thus bringing the life-saving drug penicillin to the world.

Also, in 1968, when Wilson Greatbatch, a professor of engineering at the University of Buffalo tried to record heart sounds, he noticed that the transistor he was using to record emitted electrical pulses almost like a human heart. This eventually led to a collaboration with a surgeon, William Chardack, and the two came up with another device that changed the world: the pacemaker.

Likewise, could a cheap, common device used by tens of millions around the world change the treatment of healing loss?

A pair of white AirPods

Apple’s AirPods Pro at $249 are a fraction of the price of hearing aids.

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Researchers at Taipei Veterans General Hospital conducted a study involving 21 people with mild to moderate hearing loss — with the goal of determining how AirPods’ Live Listen feature, which debuted in 2014, would stack up against a range of medical hearing aids. (Apple doesn’t advertise Live Listen for the hearing impaired, but on its website, it says it improves hearing skills in noisy environments.)

The researchers read a short sentence and tested their subjects’ hearing while wearing a hearing aid first, then the premium, followed by the Apple AirPods 2, and finally the Apple AirPods Pro. The results were amazing.

In all but one case, the AirPods Pro gave the hearing aids a run for their money. In a quiet environment, the AirPods Pro, due to their noise cancellation feature, in addition to the Live Listen one, resembled the experience of wearing basic hearing aids and were less efficient than the premium ones. (AirPods connected to smartphone).


Jabra’s Enhance Select hearing aid, rated No. 1 by the National Council on Aging, can cost from 3 to 10 times more than AirPods Pro.


In a surprising development, AirPods Pro have matched the premium accessories when the sound comes from the sides. The only time when AirPods Pro can’t match the premium services is when the sounds are coming from directly in front of the subject.

According to the study, AirPods Pro also met four out of five electro-acoustic criteria for hearing aids known by ANSI/CTA-2051 standards.

Hearing aids vs. AirPods Pro

The bottom line is that you may need a more robust hearing solution than the AirPods Pro can offer.

In a decision with major implications for the hearing impaired, the price of hearing aids will soon begin to drop. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the green light to over-the-counter hearing aids that don’t require a prescription or medical exam like they did before,

However, these still run around $2,000 to $3,000 right now compared to $249 for the AirPods Pro. Most are usually not covered by insurance.

Here’s how over-the-counter hearing aids compare to AirPods Pro:


Improving Jabra


Apple AirPods Pro


$799 to $1,995

$1,398 to $2,998


Hearing Aid Style

Receiver-in the canal, in the ear

Receiver-in-canal, behind-the-ear, completely-in-canal

The earphones have active noise cancellation

Battery life (hours)

12 out of 30







Standard warranty length (years)



1 Year Limited Warranty

Source: National Council on Aging

Lack of affordability is one of the reasons why only about 20 percent of those who need to wear hearing aids actually do so in the US. For them, this is a development that could be as historic as Fleming’s discovery of penicillin was to the world.

How to use Live Listen on AirPods Pro

First, add Listen Live to Control Center on your iPhone:

  1. Go to Settings > Control Center
  2. Tap the Add button next to the hear button
  3. Go to Settings to save changes

Second, use Live Listen:

  1. Open Control Center on your Apple device (iPhone, iPad, etc.)
  2. Tap the hear button
  3. Tap Live Listen
  4. Experiment with placing your device closer to your subject — in front or to the sides
  5. Be sure to monitor your volume levels
  6. Try connecting an external microphone to your device


Now, before some of us rush out to get AirPods Pro to deal with hearing problems, you might want to listen to some experts who have weighed in on what they think are some key issues with this development. Most important is the emphasis that AirPods do not replace hearing aids.

This is because not all cases of hearing loss are the same. There are significant differences in both its causes and the anatomy of the ear. Others, like Hearingtracker, recommend getting an audiogram from an audiologist to get clarity on the disorder. (According to the website, you can download the Mimi app to get a regular test of your hearing ability and share the results with the Apple Health app before going to the audiologist).


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