In 2017, the federal government finally passed a law that allowed the purchase of over-the-counter hearing (OTC) aids in the US. And they were supposed to have started availability some time last year. Problem is, that darn virus happened and set a whole load of things back. Now that we’re getting back on track, so do OTC audio assistive products and the first of its kind is finally here in the form of the Bose SoundControl.
That’s right, the guys behind some of the best speakers, headphones, and ear buds out there now make the first FDA-cleared, direct-to-consumer hearing aid in the market. Unlike their previous effort on audio assistive devices, though, which took on an earbuds form factor, this Class II medical device looks like traditional hearing aids, so they’re a lot more discreet while being more familiar to people who have used them in the past.
The Bose SoundControl consists of a small enclosure that sits behind your ear and an earpiece attached to it via a short transparent cable. You know, just like your typical hearing aid. This design makes it barely discernible from most angles, so people aren’t likely to even know you’re using one unless they catch a glimpse around the back. The behind-the-ear enclosure is fitted with two microphones that pick up sound from your surroundings, which it then processes before sending to the speaker inside the earpiece.
What kind of processing is done? Instead of having to visit an audiologist to match the hearing aid’s settings to your particular situation, all the personalization can be done via a companion app. Granted, it’s not going to be a plug-and-play kind of thing. Instead, the setup process will take around half an hour to finish, which, let’s be honest, is still more convenient than having to take a trip to the doctor’s office.
The Bose SoundControl also allows you to make granular customizations after the setup, from adjusting the level of amplification and emphasizing bass or treble frequencies to changing the directional focus, so you can direct it to the front if you’re in conversation and direct it to the back when you’re eavesdropping. Or something like that. They also offer preset modes for a variety of situations, with one-touch settings for watching television, focused conversations, and more. And yes, you can create your own presets to minimize the amount of on-the-fly adjustments you’re going to have to make as you go about your days.
It comes with two kind of ear tips, open dome and close dome, each available in three different sizes, so you can fit it flush to your ears. Like other hearing aids, it uses 312 zinc-air batteries, each of which can last up to 56 hours of use, with eight pieces included with each set of two hearing aids. They’re also water resistant, so they should be able to shrug off light exposure to rain and splashes. Each comes with a small pocket-sized case for storage.
The Bose SoundControl Hearing Aids will begin rollout on May 18th at select states (Massachusetts, Montana, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina), with more states following afterwards. Price is $850.