If you are hearing-impaired in the US, your only real option to improve your quality of life is to pay for expensive hearing aids. Like anything health related, they can cost thousands, and your insurance often doesn’t cover the costs.
Olive Union wants to do something about it, with the $ 300 Olive Pro headphones, which aim to bridge the gap between headphones and your wallet.
Now before we go any further, we should mention that the FDA is in the process of creating guidelines for over-the-counter hearing aids, like the Olive Pro. That means the market will soon get a lot of viable options, but let’s dig into the pair we have. by hand at this time.
So what is this all about?
Okay, the first thing you probably need to know is that even young people can suffer from hearing loss. It’s usually due to noise-induced hearing loss, which is why all those nights of clubbing or playing headphones too much take their toll. The Olive Pro takes a two-part approach to combat this, both by measuring the ambient noise around you (which is saved in the companion app) and by amplifying external sounds based on your custom listening profile.
Now you might think you don’t need to know the volume of things around you, but with nearly half of 12-35 year olds using unsafe volume levels for their headphones, you can see why you should take note. That awareness helps you avoid hearing damage in the first place, which could mean less chance of needing hearing aids when you’re older.
The ability to amplify or focus on external noise means you can better hear conversations while appearing to be wearing normal hearing aids. That’s good to avoid the usual stigma associated with medical hearing aids.
So are they good?
Now the Olive Pro sounds a bit flat like wireless headphones, but that’s not the real reason you’d buy them. The ability to listen to music and take calls is just a happy bonus. They are comfortable, however, which you will want to know as you will be wearing them all day to improve your hearing.
The first stage in improving your hearing is figuring out which frequencies you need to improve, and that means it’s time for the My Olive app.
It takes about five minutes, and the app guides you through a series of tones in low, mid, and high tones, first in one ear, then the other. All you do is touch the screen when you can hear it or not if you can’t. It’s a reasonable facsimile of a doctor’s hearing test, but it’s not as fancy as the hearing test Nura wears on her headphones.
I have some minor hearing damage, since my 20s as a drum n bass patch, among other things. I am also easily distracted by background noise, as my brain does not focus as well on a conversation and keeps it as the sole focus. I’m not really the target audience for Olive Union, but I did notice a difference with the improvements.
The point is, that difference seemed to just amplify everything in the room. He also introduced a hiss, as if he had turned up the volume on a turntable between tracks.
If Olive Union can make it focus on the person my head is pointing at, rather than taking all the sound out of the room, the effect would be instantly better. Maybe they can, in a future firmware update.
So should you buy the Olive Pro?
If you have any level of hearing loss and want to try and improve your hearing without spending the thousands of costs for professional hearing aids, the Olive Pro is worth a look.
For $ 300, you can find out if your hearing really needs a professional or if you can get by with in-app adjustments. I wish they were better at isolating voices, especially in loud environments, as this is the most critical frequency range for listening, but maybe the team behind them can improve it over time.
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