Bose just announced their latest product, the SoundControl Hearing Aids – the first FDA-cleared, direct-to-consumer hearing aid developed for adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. They’ll be sold by Bose (as opposed to being available at medical stores) and can be directly purchased, worn, and controlled by the wearer without needing to visit a doctor for a prescription or even an audiologist for a hearing test and professional fitting. The SoundControl hearing aids partner up with the Bose Hear app that gives wearers complete control over their wearables through their smartphone. Using its revolutionary CustomTune technology, the app lets you personalize your hearing experience in under 30 minutes, which Bose says is “a seismic shift from the process required for conventional hearing aids”.
The hearing aids come with a rather discreet design that’s virtually impossible to spot when worn. They even come in a palm-sized case that’s highly reminiscent of TWS earbuds, helping bring hearing aids into the 21st century… although Bose mentions that they’re strictly just regular hearing aids. They don’t stream music from your phone or let you use them as Bluetooth headsets while on calls or video chats. However, designed as a culmination of over 30 years of research and conceptualized along with scientists, audiologists, and engineers, the SoundControl claims to do a remarkably good job with being able to make the hearing-impaired hear crisp, clear audio, with the ability to amplify soft and easy-to-miss sounds in conversations (like consonants).
The SoundControl ‘hearables’ take on a sleek, practically invisible design featuring a tiny ear-tip that connects using a transparent cable to the receiver that sits behind the ear. Each earpiece contains one tiny speaker and two microphones, while the receivers both come with their own dedicated volume buttons that control ‘World Volume’, that helps amplify quieter audio to balance it out with louder noises. Each earpiece weighs just 3 grams (0.1 ounces) and runs on a standard 312 zinc-air battery, which lasts for up to four days when used 14 hours daily. That would imply that the case that comes along with the SoundControl is purely for storage, and doesn’t provide any charging function, as found with most TWS earbuds.
The SoundControl is Bose’s first foray into medical audio tech. “In the United States alone, approximately 48 million people suffer from some degree of hearing loss that interferes with their life. But the cost and complexity of treatment have become major barriers to getting help,” said Brian Maguire, category director of Bose Hear. The SoundControl aims at bridging the current divide by providing those people with access to the same high-fidelity audio experience that Bose provides to the rest of the world. My personal gripe with the SoundControl, however, is its absolute lack of smart features. The hearing aids don’t play music from your phone or even assist with phone calls or alarms. They don’t summon your phone’s voice assistant either – which does seem like a bit of a let-down, but then again, that could have impacted their FDA approval. They do, however, move mountains by making hearing aids much more accessible to the masses by helping customers circumvent the current system of consulting doctors and buying prescription hearing aids which can cost in the ballpark of over a thousand dollars. The SoundControl helps avoid that clinical route, and customers can purchase them for $849.95 starting May 18th in five states: Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas — with nationwide availability to follow.