Hearing loss is becoming more common at younger ages, and technology is reaching out to meet it. The availability of so many new hearing assistive apps, devices and smartphone features can be confusing, though, and we get a lot of questions about how and whether Noopl matches up. In our new series, audiological experts Tim Trine and Paul Burchfield will be conducting controlled tests in order to sort out which consumer audio products, including Noopl, work best in which situations. We’ll be sharing the results and answering your questions, so please fire away below!
For a more in-depth and technical version of this article, please see Apple AirPods Pro® as Hearing Aids — How Effective is Conversation Boost?
What is Conversation Boost?
While they are not the same as hearing aids, Apple’s AirPods Pro are in many ways useful for the hearing impaired. They work in tandem with Noopl for one thing, but Apple is also working on developing its own hearing-enhancement features, including Conversation Boost, which will be available to consumers this fall. Like Noopl, Conversation Boost furnishes directional hearing, which is what helps you hear individual voices in a crowd.
The Big Test
To measure the benefit from Conversation Boost versus that from Noopl, we made a variety of controlled tests using the setup pictured below.
Lab with EARS and typical six loudspeaker configuration
We played recorded restaurant noise on an array of speakers to simulate the volume and profusion of sound in a common loud environment. With the highly sensitive miniDSP EARS (Earphone Audio Response System), a variety of measurements were made for both Conversation Boost and Noopl. (See our technical version of this article for the exact test conditions).
The Verdict on Conversation Boost
We found that Conversation Boost furnishes a hearing benefit approximately equivalent to that of a well-designed directional hearing aid. It might be even more helpful than a directional hearing aid for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, since AirPods Pro are tightly acoustically coupled in the ear canal so that sound enters directly into the ear. Hearing aids designed for those with mild to moderate hearing loss often have open fittings, which purposely let some outside sound in.
How did Noopl Do?
With the significant noise-to-signal ratio improvement of over 13.5 decibels, we humbly report that Noopl basically blows Conversation Boost out of the water. We’ve been asked by a lot of customers and interested parties whether the new Conversation Boost Apple feature might put us out of business, and we hope that this test puts that question to rest!
Hear the difference for yourself:
Earbuds are not hearing aids, but consumer electronic companies like Apple and Noopl are providing features that offer many of the same benefits, and in some cases superior benefits, to those found in modern hearing aids.
Apple’s Conversation Boost, which will be available with the release of iOS 15 in the fall of 2021, is a solid new option for hearing a little better in modest background noise conditions for people who either don’t yet need or want traditional hearing aids. Noopl combined with AirPods Pro or Made for iPhone (MFi) hearing aids is an even better option for hearing in any amount of background noise—from a loud restaurant to a noisy workplace to the din of trains, planes and busses.
In our next installment of this series, we’ll take a closer look at what iPhone’s Headphone Accommodations mode means and how it works. In the meantime, please post comments and questions below!