Apple Cracks the Intelligent Earbuds Market with AirPods Pro

Now with noise cancellation and audio transparency mode!

I can’t wait to hear from our forum users on this product. Has anyone here ordered them?

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I’m still trying to figure out how HA’s and earbuds might mix. It would be cool if one could just transfer the gain table of one’s HA’s to the Equalizer function of earbuds and the earbuds would sorta of become like a lesser form of your HA that you could wear as something that integrated very well with your smartphone, etc., without wearing your HA’s.

My hearing aids work the way you are talking about, and I can now control them from the control panel of my iPhone, iPad, or even the Apple Watch.

I think the advantage of the best earbuds is that they have a bigger battery and don’t operate for long-term, i.e., several day use, between battery changes. So the main advantages of temporarily switching to an earbud would be better noise-cancellation (but never as good as over-the-ear headphones) and also many earbuds allow you to use the earbud mics for handsfree calling. The Marvels allow this, too, but in my limited knowledge, most HA’s do not - you have to rely on your phone or your streamer.

Perhaps in competition with earbuds, HA’s, as they get better processors, etc., will move in the direction that earbuds are going. Starkey Livio’s offered a lot of “earbud-like” features and more but when those HA’s debuted on the forum August '18 or so, the extra features were met with a lot of derision. So if HA’s stick to being largely HA’s to preserve battery, keep complications away from conservative users, etc., switching to earbuds from time to time might be a way of having one’s cake and eating it, too, for those of us who don’t have a phone and HA’s as good as yours, @cvkemp! The best earbuds are very pricey but not as expensive as buying a new set of HA’s to get the add-on features.

I don’t pay for my hearing aids and my hearing aids are doing a great job of noise reduction, and my hearing aid batteries last for about 5 days of daily use even with a lot of streaming.
I have a military related hearing loss, and I get my aids from the VA, I have no use for earbuds.

Your situation sounds great. I wasn’t offering my suggestions as to the utility of earbuds specifically for you but more for HA’s users in general, particularly people like me (the majority of old folks) who have mild to moderate bordering on severe age-related ski slope high frequency loss. Perhaps an additional requirement would be a person who wears earbuds temporarily should not be too much of an audiophile as I’m not sure earbuds could ever function as well for a hearing-impaired listener as their own finely tuned HA’s do. But earbuds offer economy of scale in development so I think the biggest implication might be that someday folks like Apple, Samsung, Bose, who are making a killing in earbud, hearphone, etc., devices will decide to get into the HA market and there will be a trickledown effect that benefits HA users in terms of features and pricing. Again, this comment is made relative to the general use of HA’s, not your specific situation, Chuck. Sorry if I seemed adversarial - maybe in some other posts-don’t mean to sound that way here.

What do you think about trying the new apple airpods pro instead of your hearing aids for mild hearing loss such as trouble hearing in a crowded room or listening to the TV?

You would have to try to see if it works for you.

Thanks…I am interested to see how this could work out. I believe you can try them out at the Apple Store?

Somewhere there is a post on this forum by someone technically in the know that explains why most HA’s can never have as good a noise cancellation as noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds. If I remember correctly, it’s the microphone arrangement relative to the sound barrier to outside noise.

To start with, if you’re wearing an open fit (open domes), you have relatively little barrier at all to outside noise. Noise can bypass your HA processing mechanism entirely and go directly to your ears. The more serious a hearing loss you have, particularly in the low frequencies, the more likely your receiver holding device (domes or molds) will be more occlusive, giving more passive noise-blocking of bypassing noise and allowing your HA’s to do their “thing” with noise reduction.

But the limit on HA noise reduction or cancellation is the geometry of the microphones, if I recall the post that I’m thinking about correctly. I seem to remember that post saying that headphones or earbuds have microphones outside and inside the sound barrier so that the processors involved can measure the outside and inside air pressures (frequencies) simultaneously and better figure out what is noise (outside sound) and what’s going on inside your listening environment - your earcup (headphones) or your ear canal (earbuds). AFAIK, most HA’s do not have this microphone setup. Most HA’s probably rely on frequency spectrum analysis or reading the sound between speech syllables to figure out what’s noise and what’s speech.

In the extreme, listening to music, most HA’s have noise reduction turned OFF. Because HA’s are not smart enough (yet) to figure out what’s music and what’s noise, e.g., listen to some heavy metal rock. Not a problem for the headphones or the earbuds because what’s music is what you’re streaming inside the barrier (ear cup or ear canal) and what’s noise is what’s outside, including someone else’s speech that you don’t want to hear while listening to music.

The problem with taking out your HA’s and just using headphones or earbuds is their equalizers are not as good at correcting your hearing loss as your HA’s. And if you try to wear headphones or earbuds over your HA’s, you may have a big problem with the sound output of those devices relative to your HA mics or your receiver and wires blocking or making awkward, hurtful the insertion of earbuds into your ear canals. On a related note, just as folks have trouble finding the right fit of the right size dome in your ear canal, earbuds may poorly block your ear canal (the best noise-cancelling ones come with a small variety of “ear plug” shapes to try out). So in general, you get the best noise-cancellation from over-the-ear headphones, e.g., the Sony WH-1000MX3’s. It’s said those are capable of almost completely subtracting out moderate volume outside sound. Most HA’s only offer noise reduction in the range of 20 to 30 dB and for the reasons cited above are NOT capable of ~complete noise cancellation of normal volume sound.

I’d just repeating the gist off what I’ve read elsewhere and am a relative ignoramus on this stuff but someone more knowledgeable, Abram?, Haggis?, can correct me.

I have bose quiet 35 over the ear headphones that I use when I need that much noise cancellation. They go nicely over my hearing aids .

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A bit of a tangent, but I’ll comment on the Bose Hearphones I tried out sometime back. Their noise cancellation works only on a sound source that’s streamed to them. For conversation, they rely on directional microphones (pretty similar to hearing aids) (I verified this with Bose tech support) For me they were no better than my hearing aids. Others have preferred them to their hearing aids. If there’s one thing I’ve gotten from this forum is that we’re all different in what we prefer and how important it is to us.

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Yes, that’s the gist of what I’ve been saying. That the best and only real noise-cancellation is listening to what’s streamed inside a noise barrier vs. whatever sounds are outside. The one other thing I mentioned in my first post in this thread is something like the Bose Hearphones or over-the-ear headphones can potentially have a much bigger battery and a much more powerful processor and perhaps get a lot hotter if the processor were in an ear cup or a neck loop and thus have more sophisticated AI for removing noise from sound than an HA could because of its size and limits on battery life. Overall, I get the best-streaming experience streaming directly to my HA’s with an occlusive fit and then wearing my Surface Headphones in maximum noise-cancelling mode over those. That probably provides me in the range of 40 to 50 dB of outside noise reduction/removal, better than either the HA’s or the headphones alone.

P.S. As I’ve mentioned in another thread, a most stupendous application of direct streaming while listening to speech from folks in your environment is to combine use of a remote microphone (the streaming part) with wearing HA’s that provide an occlusive fit combined with over-the-ear noise-cancelling headphones. As mentioned, one can hear a speaker with the remote microphone hanging around their neck or oriented towards them on a table extremely clearly while the headphones and occlusive fit doubly block out unwanted sounds - there is still some unwanted noise that gets reflected into the remote mic in unidirectional mode, then streamed, and one looks dorky wearing over-the-ear headphones in a restaurant but as a car passenger in a car doing 75 to 80 mph, no appearance problem, no need to hear the outside world as I’m not driving, and no more “I can’t hear what you’re saying above the road/engine/wind noise” with a very soft-spoken wife who doesn’t enunciate especially clearly to being with (and is often facing away from me while driving with me in the front passenger seat).

Sorry to take the thread off-topic but I hope Apple will continue to contribute as it has to accessibility/hearing issues and I think it’s great that they’ve provided ear buds to the normal hearing masses that address hearing issues.

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I actually wrote to Tim Cook a few months ago, suggesting that Apple consider helping out the mildly hearing impaired. It had to be that Apple was coming out with a noise cancellation AirPod, which they now have done. My thought was that it would be pretty simple for Apple to provide an app interface that would allow a mild hearing loss to be programmed into the buds - user opens app, supplies a few data points from a hearing loss profile, buds provide some simple correction. What I told him is that hearing aids are outrageously expensive, and the simple, mild cases need an inexpensive solution. And the federal government recognizes the problem, and sees a huge increase in older people coming down the road; I believe that the rules for hearing devices are officially changing in 2020 to help open up the market to lower cost solutions.

This is such a no-brainer that I have to believe that I’m not telling Apple engineers anything that they aren’t already addressing. The thing about Cook is that he is personally focused on the future of wearables and health. What I am thinking about might be a good fit. There is a huge need among millions of people who just are not in a position to shell out six grand large for improved hearing.

Sounds exactly like the NuHeara Boost. It goes to show what a hard road it is for a startup these days. They’ve had this out for at least a year and most people haven’t heard about it. Apple come out with something that doesn’t even approach that functionality but people are either trying to use it as a cheap hearing aid or clamoring for Apple to modify it to make it one. All from a simple product announcement. Coincidence or not, shortly after the Apple announcement, NuHeara had a 40% off sale on the Boost. I seriously considered getting one, but I think my loss is too much for it.

Edit: The NuHeara has a hearing test built in.