The days of earphones only doing one thing are coming to an end. And one of the companies leading the charge with these new innovative hearable devices is NuHeara. A hearable is an earpiece or ear-level device that can do more than just play music.In 2016, NuHeara released their iQBuds which allow the user to listen to music, but also augment their listening environment by either blending music with the environment around them, and controlling environmental background noise while listening to speech.
The reason I wanted to review the NuHeara iQBuds is that individuals with mild cases of hearing loss have been using them to help improve their hearing, and as an Audiologist, this naturally peaks my curiosity.
The IQbuds app allows the user to toggle between 7 different environmental presets. You can also adjust how much real world volume you want, if you want the IQbuds to focus on speech, if you want to filter out more low or high frequencies, and adjust your personal profile to accommodate a hearing deficit. I wanted to test these devices in two specific environments, the Gym and a Restaurant. If they could perform well there, they could perform well anywhere.
Lets talk about the gym. The gym preset was not to my liking because it let in too much surrounding sound. This would have been good if I wanted to talk to a workout partner, but I prefer to listen to music and lift. After adjusting the Real World Volume, the IQbuds worked great. They even stayed in my ears during my workout.
What about at a restaurant? I actually liked the restaurant preset. I also preferred hearing through the IQbuds vs. my own ears! They did however, become a little uncomfortable while eating, talking, and laughing. As with any device that provides amplification, I wanted to see how well the amplification could match a mild hearing loss prescription.
Overall, it wasn't able to match a mild hearing loss prescription, but I believe the high-frequency amplification would be beneficial to an individual with a mild high-frequency hearing loss. The devices also remove a massive amount of background noise with it's noise reduction capabilities. It did this even better than some hearing aids I've tested.
Overall, the IQbuds performed better than expected. I would highly recommend these wireless bluetooth earphones to someone who hates cords and wants to control how they hear their music and surroundings. I wouldn't necessarily recommend these for individuals with hearing loss. Hearing aids still perform better head to head, but at such a low price point, it may be a good stepping stone if someone wasn't ready for hearing aids.
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