As I've previously mentioned on this site, my hearing is abysmal. It has been poor for at least 25 years and I've noticed it worsening in the last decade. Originally my right ear was worse than my left, but a recent hearing test showed that my left ear has caught up and there's now virtually no difference between the two ears. That's probably why I've been noticing it decline further of late.
My hearing loss is between moderate and severe. It's particularly bad for high frequency sounds, but better at hearing low frequency sounds. This means I struggle to hear 'f', 's' and 'h' sounds when people speak to me. I had been wondering what "uck-o-it-ace" meant.
I'm terrible at hearing people close to me when there's a lot of background noise. The background murmur registers as a low frequency rumble, which I hear to the detriment of anyone speaking to me at close quarters. Electronic sounds are problematic too, such as from a phone or television. Even turning my telly up loud is insufficient and I've been using subtitles for many years.
For the last six or seven years I've been using cheap hearing aids I've purchased online. The term 'cheap' in relation to hearing aids is a misnomer. You might find some in the £50 region but a lot of them cost £100s. This is as opposed to what you might call 'proper' hearing aids that you get from an audiologist, which cost £1,000s. In the UK you can expect to pay anywhere from £1,500 to £4,000 for a pair of good hearing aids. Frankly the expense baffles me for such minuscule electronics, but there are only half a dozen or so suppliers of the things and a monopoly exists.
This is the background from which I came to try some Nuheara IQbuds2 Max. I was resigned to needing proper hearing aids but someone suggested I try IQbuds first because Nuheara offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Let's get one detail out of the way first. I am not reviewing these as ear buds of the sort you might listen to music through. For what it's worth, they're pretty good in that respect, at least as good as my Apple AirPods. I am reviewing these as sound amplification devices to help the hard of hearing. I think it is fair to review them in this way because, although Nuheara explicitly state their IQbuds are not hearing aids, the marketing of them clearly considers the hearing assistance a big part of what they do.
What you get
What you'll receive is two IQbuds, a charging case, a USB power lead, an instruction manual and an assortment of grommets to help you fit the IQbuds snuggly in your ears.
The charging case
The first thing you'll want to do is charge things up. The charging case is magnetised and you'll feel the IQbuds pull into place when they're close enough to the charging slots. The case holds three charges, and then there's the charge that's in the IQbuds themselves. That means you can have up to four charges without having to recharge everything.
Each charge gives you 5 hours of Bluetooth streaming or 8 hours of hearing assistance. If we take an average of the two modes you should on get around 6.5 hours of use with each charge. With three additional charges in the case, you're good for about 26 hours without having to plug the charging case in.
That's what Nuheara estimate, anyway. It would be prudent to reduce that a bit in real life and maybe work on the basis of having a day's worth of charging with the IQbuds and case fully charged at the outset.
Bear in mind that it takes around two hours to fully charge the IQbuds from the case, which will be downtime when you cannot use them.
This is an area I found problematic. You need to completely seal your ears if you want to use the IQbuds for hearing assistance. It's not so important if you're merely streaming music, but you won't get the full value of hearing assistance if your ears are not sealed.
The IQbuds come with small, medium and large grommets in both foam and silicon. You want the largest grommet that works.
The problem I had was that the medium size didn't seal my ear and the large size was a little uncomfortable. I could have done with something between the two sizes.
There's an app for this. It's available for both Apple and Android devices. It's a good app and it will allow you to configure various aspects of your IQbuds. You can select various modes depending on the environment you're in, there's a volume control, there's a hearing test that will configure the IQbuds to match your hearing, and there are various other things you can fiddle with.
You need to check out the help files on Nuheara's website to get the most out of the app.
I had two problems:
- The fit.
- The volume.
I struggled to get a fit that both sealed my ears and was comfortable. When I did get the necessary fit the Nuheara IQbuds did indeed enhance my hearing, but even at maximum volume it was not enough to compensate for my hearing loss.
If you find the volume sufficient you might want to try the directional setting. This focuses the hearing assistance on things in front of you. It's ideal for talking one-to-one with someone and it works really well.
If you have mild to (the lower end of) moderate hearing loss, these may work well for you if you can find a comfortable fit. I think you need to look at proper hearing aids if your hearing is worse than that, which is what I'm now doing.
Nuheara are a good company, though. They honoured their 30-day money-back guarantee. The process took about two weeks and at the end of it I got a full refund of the purchase price and the postage to return the items.
As I explained at the start, I'm reviewing these based on their hearing assistance. They're good ear buds for listening to music through and Nuheara are, in my experience, an excellent company. However, they did not work for my hearing. I can nevertheless see that they might work well for someone whose hearing is not as bad as mine. Hence I'll give them an average rating to reflect that combination of things.