Everything these days is smart, and this is a trend that is only going to intensify from here. We’ve reviewed many health and fitness gadgets but never a smart hearing aid.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
This one is called Olive Smart Ear and it comes from an outfit called Olive Union. It won Engadget’s the “Best Wearable” at CES 2020 “Best of CES Awards” earlier this year. The criteria for selection was based on innovation, quality of design, overall efficiency and market demand.
The gizmo is not a fully fledged hearing aid. It is meant, instead, for those with mild to moderate hearing loss who are after an affordable earbud. Plus it has other functions. For example, you can listen to music via the Bluetooth connection, make and receive phone calls.
We’ve just got our hands on the thing and will be testing it out in the next few weeks. Ahead of our full review, this is our unboxing and first look article.
Olive Smart Ear arrives in a smart looking box the size of an iPhone case. Inside you’ll find a single ear bud, portable storage that doubles up as a charging base, a bunch of silicone and foam tips, a USB connector cable, AC wall adapter and a user guide/instruction manual.
This is a hearing aid that looks nothing like a hearing aid. Unlike the traditional thing which is typically worn around the ear, it fits inside the ear. This type of design was chosen to remove the stigma of wearing hearing aids.
The thing weights only 7 grams and measures 23 mm (depth) x 20 mm (width) x 22m (height). In terms of looks, it reminds very much of a high-end earbud. So if you’re self-conscious about wearing a hearing aid, this one it has such a nice design that no one will even notice.
The extra ear grips are provided for different ear sizes. A medium ear tip is already mounted, and it will fit most people just fine. But there are also small and large ear tips in silicon and urethane. You will need to try them out for yourself to find out which offers the most comfort.
I would say Olive Smart Ear works for occasional use, not all day. This is reflected in the battery life.
The gizmo uses AI to capture 99.8% of the sounds within your hearing range without distortion. With 16 channels / 16 bands, it cancels out background noise and feedback. All it takes is a quick 5 minute hearing test to fully personalize everything.
You can also adjust the equalizer manually for added customization. So for example, if you have trouble hearing deeper sounds, the app allows you to adjust easily just for that. There are also a number of modes to choose from including TV, conversation and normal.
If you’re buying this for an older person, you might need to help them with setup. I think it might be a little difficult for the elderly to do it alone. But from there, they should be able to manage just fine.
After the setup you can use the thing independently of the smartphone. But Olive Union suggests you carry the phone with you as it provides access to additional features such as music listening, phone call, calibration and more.
The thing has touch control. You can tap Olive Smart Ear to turn it on and off, increase/decrease volume and answer phone calls. It’s worth pointing out, the touchpad is very sensitive, so will sometimes turn on even when you just brush a finger against it.
Olive Smart Ear comes with a little case where you can store the bud so that it doesn’t get lost. A you’d expect, this also acts like a portable charger. The bud itself is able to keep working for about 7 hours when the battery is full, with an additional 14 available from the case.
The charging dock is magnetic. Olive easily snaps onto the two pins to refuel. When it’s charged, gently push it out of the dock with one finger from underneath. The white LED on the top blinks when charging and the green LED on the side is on; both turn off when fully charged.
From there, you’re good to go. The thing will amplify everything, from conversations with friends to the television across the room. You can customize the volume and equalize the sounds until it sounds perfectly natural to you. Plus it looks great.
Olive Smart Ear will even let you listen to music, receive and talk, reject, or hang up a call by tapping on the Olive touchpad. It’s worth noting, the product may not be sufficient for those who require over 50dB of amplification.
Price and availability
If you’re after a sleek and inexpensive solution to boost your hearing, Olive Smart Ear might fit the bill. It can also benefit people who wouldn’t otherwise wear an aid at all or are not ready for one.
You can check it out on Olive Union’s website. It retails for $299 which is considerably times less than conventional hearing aids which can set you back a few thousand dollars. There’s also a 10% discount for US residents that sign-up for the company’s newsletter. Olive Smart Ear is available in black or white.
Stay tuned for our full review in the weeks to come.
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