Researchers Compare $129 Apple AirPods To $10K Hearing Aids With Surprising Results

hero apple airpods pro gen 2
A Taiwanese study has found that a pair of $250 Apple Airpods Pro can, in certain situations, perform just as well as medical-grade hearing aids costing many times more.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), disabling hearing loss affects 5 percent of the world population (roughly 430 million people), and by current estimates, that number will jump to over 700 million by 2050, or roughly one in every 10 individuals. This poses a current public health concern because in many parts of the world, due to limited insurance coverage and the high cost of hearing aids ($3-10k per pair), many sufferers are left untreated.


Thanks to a group of Taiwanese researchers, it's been found that a cheaper device like a pair of Airpods Pros can serve some individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss. They conducted the test comparing prescription two hearing aids (one premium model, the other a basic type) with the Airpods 2 and Airpods Pro. What they found was that the two store-bought earbuds (when paired with a smartphone) met the personal sound-amplification product (PSAP) criteria. While not certified as medical grade devices that can “treat” hearing loss, the paper says that "PSAPs not only meet the objective electroacoustic criteria when compensating for hearing loss, but also provide comparable benefits in terms of listening effort and speech-in-noise perception among patients with mild-to-moderate hearing loss." The Airpods Pro met four out of five of the criteria, with the Airpods 2 only meeting two.

They also found there were no significant differences with speech perception between using either the hearing aids or the Airpods Pro (both amplified voices just as well) in quiet environments. In noisier ambient situations, the hearing aids came out on top. 

The research team also clarified that while their study produced interesting results, they admit that this had a narrow sample size and group, requiring more testing to determine the feasibility as well as safety of using earbuds equipped with PSAP, among other considerations.