Those shopping for hearing aids know that they can cost a lot of money — well over $2,000 and sometimes much more for premium models. Now Bose is aiming to disrupt that market with its new $850 SoundControl Hearing Aids, which will be available directly from Bose starting May 18. They will not necessitate a doctor’s visit, a hearing test, or a prescription. Instead, Bose claims that its new Bose Hear app for iOS and Android will allow you to set up and customize SoundControl Hearing Aids from home in less than an hour, with “audiologist-quality results.” However, you won’t be able to stream Bluetooth audio or make calls with them.
Other companies, such as Zvox, have developed low-cost personal sound amplification products, or PSAPs – its VoiceBud VB20 amplifiers cost around $300 for a pair – but to call a product a “hearing aid,” FDA clearance is required, which is a step below FDA approval. As hearing aid regulation evolved during the pandemic, many new products fell into the PSAP gray zone.
For example, Vivtone claims that its $500 Pro20 model is FDA-cleared and “medical grade,” but then refers to it as a “hearing aid” and “hearing amplifier” on its Amazon product page and website, the latter of which contains typos like “me di cal-grade.” (A quick search of the FDA website yielded no results for Vivtone Pro20 or Vivtone, but the Bose SoundControl Hearing Aids are.) Bose previously experimented with hearing amplification with its $500 Hearphones, which were discontinued in 2020.
Bose’s SoundControl Hearing Aids have a similar appearance to other behind-the-ear, receiver-in-canal hearing aids and come with three sizes of open and closed dome eartips. According to Bose, each hearing aid weighs 3 grams and includes two microphones, one small speaker, and a standard 312 zinc-air battery. When used for 14 hours per day, a battery can last up to four days, and eight batteries are included in total. They’re water-resistant “to withstand light rain or water exposure.”
According to Bose, the CustomTune technology built into the Bose Hear app provides hundreds of fine-tuning options from just two simple controls: “World Volume can be adjusted to amplify quiet sounds more than loud ones for more comfortable listening, while Treble/Bass can be adjusted to accentuate or diminish certain vocal frequencies.”
Presets for activities and places can be named and saved in Modes for easy retrieval, and a Focus feature allows you to focus on sound that is directly in front of you (for restaurant conversations, for example), and presets for activities and places can be named and stored in Modes for easy retrieval. Directional audio features are fairly common on medical-grade hearing aids, many of which now have companion apps for iOS and Android to customize your settings, though initial tuning still requires an audiologist.
The SoundControl Hearing Aids include a 90-day risk-free trial period as well as dedicated support, including one-on-one video appointments with Bose Hear Product Experts to receive personalized help and guidance. It’s worth noting that they’ll be available in five states at first: Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, with nationwide availability to follow. They qualify for FSA and HSA reimbursement.