The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro has an Ambient Sound mode that uses onboard microphones to pick up and amplify sounds that you’d otherwise struggle to hear with the headphones in. Conceptually it’s no different to the transparency modes on many other wireless earbuds, but a new study has suggested the feature could make the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro an alternative to dedicated hearing aids.
The study, conducted by the Samsung Medical Center and published in the peer-reviewed Clinical and Experimental Otorhinolaryngology journal, involved 18 participants with mild or moderate hearing loss. Of these, 57.6% reported that using the Galaxy Buds Pro was beneficial to their hearing in quiet environments.
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It’s important to note the limitations of such a small sample size, as well as the fact that conventional hearing aids outperformed the Galaxy Buds Pro — especially in noisy environments, where only 26.3% of participants reported a benefit from the Samsung earbuds.
But while Samsung isn’t advocating the Galaxy Buds Pro as a one-to-one replacement to hearing aids, the study does make a good point in suggesting headphones with ambient/transparency modes could be useful in low- and middle-income countries, where hearing aids are prohibitively expensive.
The World Health Organization’s research on deafness and hearing loss, cited in the Samsung study, notes that 80% of people with disabling hearing loss live in these countries, and that only 17% of those who could benefit from a hearing loss actually wear one.
Hearing aids can be free at the point of use in some countries, like the U.K., though elsewhere the $199 Galaxy Buds Pro could feasibly be seen as a more attainable alternative to hearing aids that typically cost several times as much. Even if it’s not as effective, and has a battery life lasting a few hours (instead of several days like most hearing aids).
Samsung has focused on the therapeutic qualities of the Galaxy Buds Pro before. In January it released a software update that added the ability to adjust volume on the left and right Galaxy Buds Pro independently, potentially helping those with worse hearing in one ear than another.