Apple AirPods 3 Vs AirPods Pro For Hearing Loss & Tinnitus

Apple AirPods 3 vs AirPods Pro

Nearly everyone owns a pair of Apple AirPods. But what are their applications for tinnitus? Dr. Ben has put together some thoughts on the uses of Apple AirPods 3 and the AirPods Pro for his patients and others.

Dr. Ben Thompson talks about AirPods 3 and Airpods Pro for hearing loss and tinnitus.

Fit & Features

AirPods Pro

The AirPods Pro occlude or block the ear since they are fitted with a rubber tip. Thus, all the sound that comes into your ear is processed through the electronics of the device. That said, the AirPods Pro offers a feature called transparency mode where the microphones on the device will pick up ambient sounds and process them into your ear so that you have more clarity when speaking and listening.

Apple AirPods 3

In contrast, the AirPods 3 have a hard plastic coating that does not fully occlude the ear, resulting in a semi-open fitting style that enables more ambient environmental sound to come in. The AirPods 3 do not offer transparency mode; that said, as of the iOS 15 update, they do offer something called background sounds, which is akin to sound therapy.

I recommend the AirPods 3 for those patients with mild hearing loss, as they can benefit from the sound therapy features and the semi-open fitting style, which allows you to hear ambient sounds in your vicinity (unlike the AirPods Pro, which fully block the ear). Nonetheless, the AirPods 3 are limited by their six hour battery life and thus aren’t a sustainable long-term solution for those following a tinnitus retraining plan.

Background Noise & Transparency Mode

With Apple’s background noise feature, you have the ability to choose and customize different sounds for your sound therapy. In my tests, I was able to find sounds that mixed well with my high-pitched tinnitus. Despite their short battery life, the AirPods 3 are a useful sound therapy option when used in tandem with other devices like bone conduction headsets, ear-level sound generators, and speakers. 

With transparency mode, the AirPods Pro are better designed to replicate the features of a hearing aid. That said, the AirPods Pro do block the ear canal and create an occlusion effect, which is not ideal for those who can still hear low-pitched bass tones. In contrast, the Apple AirPods 3 and their open fitting style do not create an occlusion effect.

In order to make the AirPods Pro work best as hearing aids, you must first go to the Settings, then select Accessibility -> Audiovisual -> Headphone Accommodations. There, you can upload your own hearing test (either by uploading a picture or entering the data yourself) or take an online hearing test via the Mimi app. The AirPods Pro work best for those with mild to moderate degrees of hearing loss. And remember that if you need any help, you can reach out to the Treble Health team for further assistance.


The Apple AirPods 3 are better suited for those with tinnitus and normal range hearing, due to their sound therapy features combined with their open fitting style. The Apple AirPods Pro are better suited for those with mild to moderate hearing loss, since transparency mode is better optimized for hearing loss and can be custom adjusted to best match your specific needs.

If you are looking for suitable devices to manage your tinnitus, you may want to consider a pair of AirPods. They are generally affordable, and easy to access. As always, discuss your tinnitus with your audiologist.

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