Coloring your hair can conceal creeping gray, but it's harder to disguise another age indicator, hearing loss. That's especially true if you refuse to wear a hearing aid because you think your only option is the large old-fashioned variety. Today's over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are either nearly invisible or come in stylish designs that look like traditional in-ear headphones.
I've been writing about and testing hearing aids for the last 15 years, and the following four new OTC hearing aids caught my attention. These new models not only look good, they also come with the critical features you need in a hearing aid. All come with a smartphone app to test your hearing and tune each device to your particular hearing levels. Each provides customizable ambient listening adjustments. And, all offer rechargeable power – no more tiny batteries to buy and replace, which is really cool.
Eargo Neo HiFi
Eargo's Neo Hifi OTC hearing aids are cool mainly because each tiny fringed bud is "virtually" invisible. Only a short, clear, tube extends slightly from your ear canal so you can grab the bud. Neo's price includes multiple phone consultations with one of Eargo's on-staff audiologists, who can remotely tune the buds with the programmable app. Neo provides wide bandwidth for more natural sounds, feedback cancellation – almost no squealing! – and they reduce wind noise for whoosh-free outdoor conversation.
Olive Union Smart Ear
If you suffer only mild to moderate hearing loss, the single Olive Union Smart Ear is your cool OTC hearing aid solution. Designed to be popped in and out of its small charging cube when you need it, Smart Ear enhances hearing for clear live conversations, and doubles as a Bluetooth earpiece for wireless phone calls. Two Smart Ears can be paired to your phone to create stereo sound for listening to music. Olive Union plans on coming out with a stereo pair in the fall called Olive X ($449).
Alango Wear & Hear BeHear Access
Alango's Wear & Hear BeHear Access operate as regular behind-the-neck Bluetooth headphones, letting you listen to music, take calls, and adjust the volume of ambient sound. They also have a couple of OTC hearing aid extras. If you have trouble following fast talkers or people with accents on phone calls, an EasyListen mode elongates consonants to remarkably improve comprehension. The BeHear Access are T-coil compliant, which means you’ll receive broadcasts directly to the headphones in loop-enabled public venues like theaters and churches. (You can tell by the "T" designation on your program.) And the headphones have good ergonomics: The headphone controls are extra-large, uniquely-shaped buttons you can control by feel, and there is a drop-in magnetic charger, so you don't have to fiddle with tiny jacks and plugs.
Price: $349 on WearandHear
Nuheara IQbuds² Max
Like the BeHear Access, the Nuheara IQbuds² Max are designed for music and calls, delivering excellent sound for a pair of true wireless buds. Nuheara's app assesses your hearing and calibrates the buds to your personal hearing profile. In addition, the IQbuds² Max let you adjust and amplify ambient sound, and you can choose to emphasize voices. Or, you can activate noise-canceling to enjoy only the dulcet tones of your favorite recording artists.
Price: Pre-order for $359.00, regularly $399 on Nuheara. Expect delivery in May 2020
[Image credit: Eargo, Olive Union, Alango, Nuheara ]