Apple has recently made waves for the hearing-aid-like functions of their AirPods Pro, but almost 3X as many people use Android as iPhone.
If you are among the good people of Android nation, you might be curious about Samsung's earbud hearing aid capabilities.
Samsung has been quietly working on its own hearing enhancement features inside Samsung Galaxy Buds, and in this article, we're going to look at how to enable Ambient Sound + a few hacks that will enhance your listening experience.
Let's get into it!
First, what is Ambient Sound, and how does this help with hearing?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of setting up your Samsung headphones to amplify the outside world, let's start with a bit of background.
Ambient Sound uses the external microphones on your earbuds to let you hear outside noises.
The feature is helpful for runners or city dwellers who don't want to feel cut off from the world while they listen to their music or podcast.
It turns out that the same feature turns Samsung Galaxy Buds devices into entry-level hearing aids by picking up outside sounds and sending them into your ear, much like a prescription device would.
This is all promising for those with hearing loss. In March 2021, Samsung came out with a study demonstrating meaningful benefits to hard-of-hearing consumers with mild-moderate loss.
How much benefit? Less than traditional products, but better than nothing at all. Specifically, Samsung's study revealed that 57% of wearers found hearing benefits in quiet environments.
Not the kind of results that will upend the need for hearing aids, but worth a try if you already have a pair of Samsung earbuds at home.
How to enable and adjust Ambient Sound in Samsung earbuds.
Samsung has several versions of its Galaxy Bud product. The most robust option is the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. Here is the list of products with Ambient Sound enabled:
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
- Galaxy Buds+
- Galaxy Buds 2
- Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
- Gear IconX 2018 and 2017
- Galaxy Buds LIVE (Ambient Sound not available)
The easiest way to turn on Ambient Sound in your Samsung Earbuds is by downloading the Galaxy Wearable app.
Tap the Galaxy Buds section and click "Ambient sounds". Toggle ambient sound on and adjust the volume slider to your comfort.
After you've set your preferred volume, you can toggle on Ambient Sound mode at any time by touching and holding one of the earbuds. You will hear a beep, indicating that noise controls have been changed. This same method turns on active noise cancellation.
What to do if Ambient Sound is too quiet?
If you have hearing loss, you'll need more amplification than the average user. If you've maxed out the Ambient Sound volume and still need more boost, scroll down to the "Labs" section of the Ambient Sound screen and toggle on the "Extra-high ambient volume" setting.
Can I turn on Ambient Sound for one ear?
Yes. If you have Galaxy Buds Pro (and possibly some other versions) you can adjust Ambient Sound in one earbud aid at a time. This is helpful for folks who have more hearing loss on one side vs the other.
In the Samsung Wearables app: go to Earbud Settings>Accessibility>Noise Controls with one earbud.
While Ambient Sound might offer a boost to folks with hearing loss, the devices currently have their limits.
To my knowledge, Ambient Sound does not customize amplification from the outside world to match your specific audiogram. At the moment, Apple's Airpods are the only major headphone maker using an audiogram for streamed and outside-world sounds.
Samsung does offer customized audio for streaming, but I could not identify any documentation that showed these customizations work for outside-world sound.
Are Samsung Galaxy Buds a replacement for traditional hearing aids? Probably not.
Still, if you have a pair of Samsung earbuds at home, it's worth taking 10 minutes to boost their volume and try them out around the house.
One thing is clear, headphones from the likes of Apple and Samsung are getting smarter, and tech leaders are increasingly focused on solving hearing challenges for the 2.5 billion people expected to have hearing loss by 2050.
For someone like me, that focus from some of the brightest minds in tech is music to my ears.