These Great Hearing Aids Look Just Like Regular Earbuds

As someone who’s never worn hearing aids, I found that they definitely took some getting used to. Hearing aids extend much deeper into the ear canal than a standard earbud, which makes them difficult to put in, more difficult to take out, and mildly uncomfortable all the time. After a few hours of sustained use, I found that my ears would begin to itch, necessitating a break from wearing them, at least for a time.

With the Signia Active Pro hearing aids in, and this might sound obvious, everything is louder. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. Yes, the TV is louder. Yes, my wife’s voice is louder. But so is my voice. So is the rustling of the bag of chips I’m eating, and so is my crunching. The scratch of a pencil on a piece of paper can sound deafening, and every little noise echoes. I eventually started to feel paranoid, like someone was always behind me—only to realize that the sound I was hearing was the echo of my creaking desk chair. There is also always some level of background hiss, sometimes high, sometimes quite low. I presume that if you’re super deaf you probably don’t really notice it; maybe in a few years I’ll be at that point.

After some initial testing, I went back to Signia for a Zoom-session tweak, boosting frequencies that would make TV audio clearer, reduce the volume of my own voice, and mitigate hiss. The changes helped, but I soon got the impression that we were reaching a point of diminishing returns, and that things were just about as good as they were going to get.

Turns out though, that’s pretty good. The “everything is louder” approach worked well enough in the end, provided I wasn’t moving around a lot or trying to eat while listening. And the more I wore the units, the more comfortable they got, though I still haven’t reached the point where I feel like I could wear them all day. Even after weeks of testing, I really only felt like wearing them when I knew in advance I was going to need them.

Human Connection

woman wearing hearing aids

Your audiologist can tune your hearing aids and set you up with preset modes for different situations.

Photograph: Signia

The Active Pro hearing aids connect to your phone over Bluetooth and can double as streaming audio monitors in a pinch, but I can’t recommend them for this purpose. While they turn down the volume of the outside world a bit while you’re listening to music or watching a movie, they don’t block it out like a pair of noise-canceling earbuds can. What you’re left with is a strange combination of the entertainment program you’re enjoying and everything else. While wearing the Active Pros at the gym, it was like having an ambient Bon Jovi soundtrack overlaid on top of the Netflix movie I was watching, and it made me long for my usual earbuds. Plus, there’s like no bass at all.