Home Tech These hearing aids are big and clunky, but they help with mild hearing loss

These hearing aids are big and clunky, but they help with mild hearing loss

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Two black and white over-ear headphones floating side by side

you do not have be almost deaf to use a hearing aid. Many doctors urge patients to obtain started with devices early, before hearing loss becomes critical. Olive Union’s Olive Max is the first hearing aid I’ve found designed for this specific purpose, created for users with “mild to moderate” hearing loss, which the company defines as a loss of 26 to 55 decibels. That matches my diagnosis exactly, so I thought I would be a perfect candidate for these new devices.

Out of the box, you’re probably saying what I, and everyone I’ve ever met, immediately said when I first saw the Olive Max: They sure are big. Really big. Each one looks like a Bluetooth headset from the early 2000s, except you have to use two. At least the units, in a two-tone white and gray design, look sporty, including a wraparound ear hook that helps keep them in place. They also have an IPX7 water resistance rating. But at more than 12 grams each, they weigh four or five times more than a typical over-the-counter hearing aid. The kit includes a total of eight different ear tips, in three different styles, to ensure a good fit.

Photography: Unión Oliva

As headphones, the Olive Max units work more or less as advertised, and casual users can take them out of the box and place them in their ears to get started with minimal effort, although hooking them correctly over your ear can be tricky, especially if you wear glasses. . Controls on the back of each earbud manage volume (independently for each ear) and let you select one of four environmental modes (TV, Meeting Room, Outdoor, or Restaurant). You can also use the buttons to toggle “Hear-Thru mode,” which lets you disable ambient audio processing entirely if you simply want to use the Olive Max as Bluetooth headphones.

You can adjust your listening experience in the My Olive app; although, interestingly, the manual for the hearing aid does not mention that there is an app, or even that you can use the hearing aids as Bluetooth headphones. (You want the My Olive app (Android, iOS), not the incompatible Olive Smart Ear app). The app lets you make the same adjustments as the physical controls, but also offers a noise reduction and feedback cancellation feature (pro tip: maximize both), and includes a more detailed graphic equalizer that lets you fine-tune the response of frequency.

You can’t test your hearing directly within the app, although a short questionnaire will connect you to several “AI recommended presets” based on your age and some other basic information. If you want something more refined, you’ll have to dig into the EQ by hand, but this is mostly a trial and error situation. It’s also worth noting that the My Olive app includes an audio therapy system designed to help people with tinnitus. I don’t suffer from tinnitus, so I wasn’t qualified to test this feature.

Photography: Unión Oliva

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