Home Tech Ceretone’s Core One over-the-counter hearing aids are almost invisible and barely useful

Ceretone’s Core One over-the-counter hearing aids are almost invisible and barely useful

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Two white in-ear headphones, one with a blue pad on the left and one with a red pad on the right.

Indiegogo-backed Ceretone is Another hearing aid company aimed at people looking for an affordable and easy way to improve their hearing. At $349 for a pair, or $229 for a single hearing aid, these small hearing aids are designed to have only a modest impact on hearing. Fortunately, they also have an equally modest impact on the wallet.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Core One is how small the headphones are. I weighed them at 0.96 grams each (with a small tip), making them perhaps the smallest headphones I’ve tested to date – just a hair lighter than the Sony CRE-C10. The bright white earbuds slide completely into the ear canal with only the retrieval thread protruding a few millimeters for retrieval. Unless you closely examine your ears, they are functionally invisible.

Out of ear, they are not so discreet. The color-coded, cone-shaped ear tips (one blue, one red) provide a somewhat conspicuous indication of which aid goes where. Only six ear tips are included in the box, a pair each in three sizes, although Ceretone also sent some clear ear tips on the side that I found a little more comfortable. All Ceretone ear tips are considered “closed” domes, which created a moderately distorted echo effect in my testing. At the very least, a broader selection of ear pads, including open domes that are more appropriate for users with mild hearing loss, would help improve audio fidelity.

Photography: Ceretone

Echo aside, I found the Core One experience to be initially a little shaky, mainly due to a significant, screeching response whenever I touched the aids or recovery thread in the slightest. While the impact of amplification was evident, aids were hampered by this acute interference. This was further compounded by problems getting the headphones into my ears correctly. It may not seem like it at first, but these aids have a “right side” as the recovery thread is designed to angle downward out of the ear canal. I found this surprisingly difficult to achieve due in part to the small size of the aids, which required me to constantly manipulate them.

Core One hearing aids are not tuned to your audiogram nor are there frequency equalization options available. Like many budget headphones, the volume boost is across the board, providing constant but forceful amplification of all sounds across the spectrum. You’ll need the mobile app to control the aids, as there are no built-in hardware controls available (and no way to access them anyway).

Even these controls are blunt: Six volume settings and two program modes (standard and restaurant) are available in the app, and each must be set individually for each aid. Curiously, there is no indication of what the active volume or program settings are in the app. Instead, you need to tap a control button (e.g. “Volume Up”) and listen to beeps to guess whether the audio is loud enough; Three beeps mean you are at minimum or maximum volume. The same goes for program mode: one beep means you’re in standard mode and two beeps mean you’re in restaurant mode. Once again, visual cues indicating the live status of these settings seem like the least you could ask for, even in a budget headset.

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