Spurred by regulations that will allow over-the-counter sales, hearing-aid companies are pushing the limits of what their products can be.
1. Eargo Neo
Best for: Chronic customizers
Eargo’s product comes with a pocketable charging case and two tiny hearing aids that nestle into the ear canal. They’re nearly invisible; a whisper of a cable pokes out from each aid like a bug’s antenna. Eargo says its latest model has better acoustics and provides more volume than previous versions, although the Neo is largely meant for folks with mild to moderate hearing loss. The barely there buds also introduce a feature that one can only hope other manufacturers start to emulate: gesture controls. Double-tapping on your ear will cycle through four audio presets, from Quiet Conversation to Noisy Restaurant. Presets can be tweaked in the app, which also includes remote support from real humans—so you can leave the fine-tuning to the professionals.
$2,750 per pair
2. Starkey Livio AI
Best for: Safety-firsters
Starkey has been in the hearing-aid business for more than 50 years. But its latest product, Livio AI, includes sensors that, combined with a mobile app, turn it into a full-fledged activity tracker. The device counts the user’s steps, of course, but it will also detect a fall and send an automated text message to up to three people, provided the wearer’s phone is in Bluetooth range. The sensors even monitor how often and for how long the Livio is used. Sounds creepy, but there’s a benefit: By determining how engaged a wearer is, Starkey can alert them to possible correlations between a decrease in social and physical activities and an increased risk of heart disease, depression, and cognitive decline. See? Big Brother really is looking out for you.
$2,500 and up per ear
Two new Google apps, Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier, provide onscreen captions and enhanced audio during conversations. All you need is an Android phone and a pair of earbuds.
Styling Grace Suh
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This article appears in the June issue. Subscribe now.