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Orka Two Review: Sleek Hearing Aids with Underwhelming AI Noise Handling

Reviews, Prices, and Sound Samples

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$1,899 / pair New Purchase
Hands-Free Calling Yes
iPhone Streaming Yes
Android Streaming Yes
Rechargeable Yes
IP Rating IPx6

Update: Orka Two is currently "out of stock" on Orka's website, and Ben Sun, Orka's CEO & Cofounder, has not posted anything about the Orka Two on LinkedIn since November, 2023. We are currently asking around to find out what is happening with the Orka project. If you have any details, please use our contact form to let us know, or leave a comment on this page.

Orka claims its latest AI-powered hearing aids are "an ultimate hearing solution at an affordable price." But coming in at $1899, Orka Two is on the higher end for direct-to-consumer hearing aids. While we like Orka's approach to hearing care, the Orka Two underperforms in noisy environments—despite the company's claims that its “AI DeNoise” technology offers industry-leading noise reduction.

Orka Two On Workbench

Orka Two on the workbench.

Why I loved Orka Two

Personalized to Your Ears: Orka Two can be personalized based on a hearing test or screening performed through their app. While this does not replace real-ear measurements, it should work better than presets for most people.
Automatic Sound Adjustments: Orka uses an environmental classifier and AI-based noise reduction to automatically adjust to your environments. Continue reading to find out how well this worked in the HearAdvisor lab.
Multi-function Qi-Enabled Charging Case: Both program and volume adjustment buttons are found on the charging case, offering you greater control over your devices.
Sleek Modern Design: While Orka Two is a traditional receiver-in-canal style hearing aid, it has a sleek minimalist design reminiscent of Apple Airpods.
Latest Wireless Features: Enjoy the latest Bluetooth™ features such as streaming, hands-free calling, and multi-device connections with iOS and Android devices.

Drawbacks

Virtual-Only Professional Care: Virtual appointments can be convenient. However, they are not for everyone and some may miss the care associated with in-person visits.
No Physical Buttons: Part of Orka’s sleek design is a no-button approach. Adjustments have to be made through either the app or by using the physical buttons located on their charging case (tap controls are available during hands-free calls).
Not Evaluated by FDA: Orka Two is registered as a 510(K) exempt prescription hearing aid with the FDA, meaning it hasn't gone through the more rigorous approval process required of self-fitting OTC hearing aids.
Not Appropriate for Everyone: Orka Two is a direct-to-consumer (DTC) product and therefore should not be used by those with severe hearing loss or other complex needs.
Expensive: Orka Two hearing aids can be purchased for around $1899 putting them at the higher end of DTC products. You may therefore wish to find a clinic that offers prescription hearing aids with in-person care, for a similar or possibly lower price.
No Accessories: Currently, Orka does not offer any wireless accessories, such as remote microphones. This may be a reason to find similarly priced prescription hearing aids from an audiologist.
Shorter Battery Life: Orka’s rechargeable batteries last roughly 12 hours per charge compared to other traditional hearing aids offering well over 30 hours.
No telecoil: You won’t be able to pick up audio broadcasted by hearing loops in public auditoriums or other places where hearing loops are in use.
No Live Listen Support: When connected to an iPhone, Orka Two does not seem to support Live Listen which would normally turn your iPhone into a remote microphone for supported devices.

Who is Orka?

Orka describes itself as an “innovative global hearing technology company born out of a passion and commitment to address hearing loss challenges intelligently.” Orka has multiple cofounders, three of whom are based in Shanghai: ex-Facebook and Qualcomm software engineer Chauncey Lu, ex-Siemens System Engineer Linkai Li, and Xinke Liu, whom HearingTracker recently interviewed. A fourth cofounder, Ben Sun, is based in Menlo Park, CA, and previously worked as a Product Designer at Apple.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) website, Orka Two is manufactured by Orka Health Co., Ltd, out of Shanghai, China, with U.S. operations handled by Orka Labs Inc., based in Chicago, IL.

Orka is unique in its use of general-purpose computer chips, unlike the purpose-built chips more commonly used in the hearing aid industry. Orka claims this has helped drive their development speed and supported unique features like universal Bluetooth connectivity (most hearing aids are MFi/ASHA only) and their proprietary AI DeNoise feature.

Frequently Asked Questions

Both Orka Hearing and their products are relatively new, meaning there is limited information from consumers on how they hold up to daily use. What we do know is that traditional hearing aids typically last between 3 to 5 years. It is fair to assume that Orka Two hearing aids may approach this lifespan due to their IP rating of X6. Regular care and maintenance will help them last longer and sound better throughout their life. 

Orka hearing products can be purchased directly from their website. They are not currently available for purchase at local retailers or in-office by hearing providers. 

Hearing providers program Orka Two based on either a traditional hearing evaluation or a screening performed through the Orka Health app. You also have access to unlimited free remote consultations and support with their hearing providers.

What is Orka Two

Orka Two is Orka's second AI-based hearing aid, which includes Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity, automatic environmental adjustments, and AI denoising. The hearing aid sits behind the ear, and a thin wire runs down to a speaker in the ear canal.

Orka Two Birds Eye

Bird's-eye view of the Orka Two charging case.

How much does Orka Two cost?

For $1,899, you get two Orka Two hearing aids, a charging case, assorted accessories, a welcome call with a "hearing expert," and unlimited virtual consultations. Orka Two comes with a 45-day return period and a 3-year loss and damage warranty (includes one-time replacement). Orka also works with Affirm to provide 0-36% APR financing to those who qualify.

Product design and comfort

Orka Two is a glossy white hearing aid with a distinctly Apple aesthetic. Perhaps Orka's Ben Sun is simply paying homage to his time as a Product Designer at the tech giant?

Aside from their looks, the hearing aids feel well built and are on-par physically with products we've reviewed from veteran hearing aid manufacturers. The receiver wires are resilient yet moldable, which should help give users a good, comfortable fit. The overall quality also extends to the portable charging case, which offers a strong magnetic hold of each device in the charging docks.

I found Orka Two comfortable on my ears and similar to the feel of traditional hearing aids. Their slim size allowed plenty of space for my glasses and did not cause pressure points even after wearing them for several hours.

Orka Two On Steve Taddei

Here I am wearing Orka Two to test their comfort, sound quality, and app features.

Mixed feelings about audio quality

Regarding general audio quality, Orka Two sounds relatively clear and is capable of providing very crisp high-end sound (more on this below). However, there was a very noticeable “hissing” in the background that was not from the environment.

My main complaint with sound quality was that I heard an occasional tonal artifact that would underlay certain external sounds like speech. To be fair, this was extremely subtle and likely unnoticeable to most. It is unclear what may be behind this; however, I’ve heard similar artifacts from either aliasing or strong noise-cancellation algorithms.

Streamed audio was reliable and stable though nothing to write home about. The sound quality could be described as thin but crisp, which is consistent with expectations for my fitting and a receiver-in-canal style device. I would much rather have this quality audio streaming over none at all—I have a hi-fi system when it’s time to really sit and listen anyway.

Excellent wireless connectivity

Orka Two has impressive wireless capabilities with Bluetooth 5.3 and is compatible with both iOS (14 and later) and Android (7 and later) devices. This not only lets you stream music and control Orka directly from their app, but it also brings you hands-free calling across both platforms. You can even connect to multiple devices (up to two) giving you greater flexibility in your wireless ecosystem.

One thing I noticed while testing Orka is that adjustments to your hearing aids do not seem to influence the streamed signal. This may be a slight disappointment for those who want more than broad volume changes with your phone. The app does not provide any customization for your streamed audio either.

For reference, many other DTC hearing aids give you adjustments such as a 3-band EQ and balance controls while streaming. While I tend to like these extra controls, the audio quality was comparable to other receiver-in-canal style devices and I did not experience any connection issues. This is one area Orka has seemed to put in the work; wireless connection is always quick and reliable.

Rechargeability and somewhat limited battery life

Orka Two hearing aids offer a reported 12 hours of battery life per charge thanks to the internal lithium-ion cells. When the batteries are depleted, simply place them in the case’s respective left and right magnetic charging docks (note that only one side of the hearing aids have charging pins so they must be inserted properly).

The Qi-enabled charging case also has an internal power bank giving you approximately 3 full charges of additional battery life. You can expect up to 1.5 hours to charge both the hearing aids and charging case using a standard USB-C plug. Otherwise, a wireless charging station can also be used, though this extends the charge time up to 3 hours.

Orka Two may not carry you through the day on a single charge as the batteries last roughly 12 hours. Other traditional hearing aids by comparison can offer 30-plus hours per charge. While this may not be an issue for you, this is worth considering before pulling the trigger on Orka. Is your schedule packed and can you get by if your hearing aids need recharging at midday?

All listed charge and use times are based on data from Orka and were not verified by us.

Controlling Orka Two

You will not find any buttons, sliders, or rocker switches on Orka Two hearing aids. Orka Hearing made a bold decision to move the buttons from the devices to the portable charging case. This may cause mild annoyance if you are accustomed to them, but the omission of physical buttons on the hearing aids can actually improve their water resistance and overall lifespan. Many of us are accustomed to carrying around a case for storage and charging anyway—so the buttons should never be too far.

The charger case offers both a program button and a rocker switch for volume control. A long-press (3 seconds) of the program button activates Bluetooth pairing, allowing you to connect Orka Two to multiple devices. On the topic of Bluetooth, Orka does offer touch controls (double-tap the back of either hearing aid) to answer incoming phone calls.

The Orka Health App

The Health App is simple yet effective, providing you control over Orka without being too complicated. You have access to two main programs, the first of which is a Normal setting that uses an environmental classifier to adjust automatically for quiet, speech, or noisy situations. The second program locks Orka in its noise setting and offers you control over the directional microphones.

Orka App Screens

Orka’s Normal (left) and In Noise (right) programs that you can control within their app.

In-App Hearing Screening

Orka Two is a “self-fitting” hearing aid offering greater customization than preset-based devices. One way they accomplish this is by including an in-app hearing screening that, once completed, allows the devices to be adjusted more appropriately for your ears. You can find the Hearing Screening within the app’s “hamburger menu,” and the process takes roughly 5 to 10 minutes. Be sure to follow the app’s recommendations and complete the screening in a quiet space to obtain the most accurate results.

Orka Two Screening

Orka’s app guides you through the hearing screening process and even checks noise levels to ensure your environment is quiet enough for testing (middle image).

If you already have a hearing test, you can upload a picture of it instead of taking the hearing screening. Diagnostic tests or hearing screenings performed in calibrated sound booths are generally more accurate than on-ear assessments.2 While we did not test this, the data from a professional hearing test should allow Orka Two to provide more appropriate amplification for your hearing loss. For this reason and more, I would recommend uploading your audiogram if you have the option.

If you don’t perform either of these, you will have access to three general volume presets (Mild, Moderate, or Severe).

Professional adjustments at home

Orka Two offers a hybrid approach being a “self-fit” hearing aid that also includes virtual consultations. These services are free with your purchase of Orka hearing aids and unlimited, meaning you receive ongoing care throughout the life of your devices. Consultations can be in the form of video calls and range from simple unboxing assistance with their technical staff to more involved fine-tuning sessions with their licensed hearing care professionals.

I was able to experience Orka’s Remote Consultations both as a customer and provider and was overall impressed with the ease and stability of their virtual support system. You can schedule a Remote Consultation from within the Orka Health App and see a list of both past and previous appointments. Once your phone is securely synced with your hearing care provider, adjustments can be made much like in-person appointments at a local clinic. Changes occur in real-time so there is no downtime or need to install updates. This is a nice workflow as you can immediately hear adjustments being made by your hearing care provider and whether they are beneficial or not.

Lab testing with HearAdvisor™

HearAdvisor is an independent lab that provides objective comparisons of prescription, over-the-counter, and hearable devices. All products are tested in two settings which approximate what consumers experience when fit with hearing aids:

  • Initial Fit: The Initial Fit programming reflects how a device performs “out of the box” when the recommended settings are used. Volume adjustments may be made depending on the device, but real-ear measurements are not performed. HearAdvisor’s Initial Fit aims to reflect the performance most people experience with their hearing aids.
Kemar Testing Orka Two

Orka Two in the HearAdvisor lab being tested.

  • Tuned Fit: The second test setting involves professional adjustments, such as real-ear measurements and optimizing the device’s amplification. This reflects how devices perform when best practices are followed and a hearing care provider professionally fits you.

HearAdvisor’s testing shows that Orka Two can improve speech clarity. The default settings from Orka’s hearing care providers offered some benefit. However, greater improvements were observed when real-ear measurements were performed, which would require collaboration between a local provider and one from Orka.

When objectively tested, Orka Two performed similarly to many of the over-the-counter hearing aids we've tested. In quiet it was slightly below average in its initial state and slightly above average once professionally tuned. The Initial Fit settings offered less amplification than standards would suggest for the hearing loss used. This is common among all devices when relying solely on default recommendations. Both Initial and Tuned fitting scores fell below average in louder noisy environments.

Importantly, Orka's performance in noise was found to be most effective when using the dedicated Noise program. However, selecting the Noise program also reduced performance for speech in quiet environments. All changes were marginal. Following HearAdvisor's evaluation paradigm, we set Orka into the automatic program for testing. If purchasing Orka, we recommend manually accessing the Noise program when in difficult environments, and switching back manually when in quieter environments.

No feedback, or squealing, was present when testing Orka Two in the Initial Fit setting, while some was present once they were professionally adjusted. This suggests you may experience feedback in more extreme cases when the volume (gain) is optimized for speech clarity. Your experiences may be different based on factors such as hearing loss, amplification settings, ear tips used, and more.

This metric is similar to others in that it is affected by your ear tip and how well your hearing aid plugs your ear (i.e., occlusion). Based on the ear tip used, Orka Two had minor occlusion, causing it to score above average compared to other devices in this category. You should not therefore experience an exaggerated “boomy” voice quality if your fitting is similar to HearAdvisor’s test setup.

Orka Two streamed audio sound quality is similar, albeit slightly better, than average scores for over-the-counter and prescription devices. This is largely influenced by the ear tip used and how well it plugs your ear. Testing revealed that you will still find better sound quality with reputable hearables designed around music reproduction (such as Apple Airpods Pro). However, HearAdvisor testing reflects streamed quality when the devices are optimized for speech clarity—not music. Your hearing care provider should be able to improve upon this if it is of special interest to you.

You may need more volume to benefit with hearing aids

I followed the typical consumer experience and uploaded an audiogram (hearing loss report) through the Orka Health app so my devices could be programmed by their hearing care providers. I then tested Orka Two on an acoustic manikin to assess how accurately the devices provided gain (amplification) based on the hearing loss I used (N3 configuration to be specific1).

My testing showed Orka's programmed amplification was much lower than standards recommend—predominantly in the higher frequencies that make speech clear. This means if I needed hearing aids and had mild-to-moderate hearing loss, the settings I received from Orka would not be ideal for making speech clear. It is also unlikely that I would stumble on better settings within the app as adjustments are limited to global volume controls.

On Kemar Two

Orka Two in the HearAdvisor lab being tested.

This is not the end of the world, as manufacturer-recommended settings tend to be low even among traditional hearing aids. In fact, this is well known among hearing care professionals and we perform real-ear measurements to provide you with better settings. However, real-ear measurements are not offered in Orka’s virtual fitting model so it is not possible to verify whether your settings are appropriate. Based on my testing, they could be improved and you can likely expect less-than-optimal benefit. To be fair to Orka, this is a major problem across all DTC and OTC devices.

But how would Orka Two perform if we could adjust them with objective tests? Well, I was able to get my hands on the software their hearing care providers use (thanks, Orka) and perform real-ear measurements. I was much happier with their settings afterwards and this also improved objective speech performance scores at HearAdvisor. However, this was bending the rules slightly and would not translate easily for you in the real world. This would require a rather arduous process of orchestrating an in-office appointment with a local provider, and a virtual consultation with Orka, so the two professionals could tag-team adjustments for your devices.

Collectively this makes it difficult for me to recommend Orka Two unless their recommended settings are improved. With that said, I considered one hearing loss and it is possible their settings are more accurate for others.

Should you buy the Orka Two?

I found myself expecting more given the $1899 price tag. I was unimpressed with the limited battery life, audio artifacts, and lack of telecoil and remote mic. And in my testing, I ran into trouble achieving adequate amplification through the Orka Health App, including via Orka's remote consultations. Having said that, the product is physically robust, and Orka has a well-thought-out remote care model. I also liked the generous loss and damage warranty.

What other hearing aids should I consider?

Orka Two, and its hybrid self-fit / professional model, is similar to Jabra Enhance Select 200 which has a similar price and can loosely be thought of as rebranded technology from Resound— a giant in the hearing aid market with a history of successful hearing solutions. Jabra Enhance Select 200 outperformed Orka Two in the HearAdvisor lab and received a 2023 Expert Choice Award.

Jabra Enhance Select

5 stars stars
1 review

Listed prices are for a pair of hearing aids in US dollars unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and may vary by region.

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Quiet Office
With device

Lexie B2 Powered by Bose are also worth consideration. They are more á la carte as they don’t include virtual remote consultations, though you can receive technical support from their specialists. Some benefits of B2 are their lower cost (roughly $999) and the simplicity of their overall design. The app provides only two adjustment wheels for control over either “World Volume” or “Treble and Base.” While this may seem prohibitively minimalist, Lexie B2 is a top performer among devices tested by HearAdvisor and it also received the 2023 Expert Choice Award.

Lexie Powered by Bose

3.5 stars stars
3 reviews

Listed prices are for a pair of hearing aids in US dollars unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and may vary by region.

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About HearAdvisor

HearAdvisor is an independent testing lab that uses specific testing protocols to improve the accuracy, replicability, and reliability of device comparisons. All technologies are programmed or adjusted to best meet the audibility needs for a person with mild sloping to moderate hearing loss.

HearAdvisor also uses a series of decision trees, documented in the white paper found on HearAdvisor.com, to select specific listening programs or noise-handling features. As such, the reported data will not reflect device performance reliably across the range of use cases and possible hearing losses. If you have more or less hearing loss, or a different pattern of hearing loss, HearAdvisor’s data and audio samples will not be representative of the performance and sound quality you will experience with hearing aids configured for your own unique needs.

References

  1. Bisgaard, N., Vlaming, M. S., & Dahlquist, M. (2010). Standard audiograms for the IEC 60118-15 measurement procedure. Trends in amplification, 14(2), 113-120.
  2. Kiessling, J., Leifholz, M., Unkel, S., Pons-Kühnemann, J., Jespersen, C. T., & Pedersen, J. N. (2015). A comparison of conventional and in-situ audiometry on participants with varying levels of sensorineural hearing loss. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 26(01), 068-079.

Table of Contents

HearAdvisor Sound Performance Lab Results

SoundScore 3.6
Speech in quiet 3.2
Speech in noise 0.8
My own voice 3.2
No feedback issues 5.0
Streaming quality 3.3

Maximum score for each category is 5 points. Green triangles (if present) denote above-average performance; hover your cursor over them to see the specific data.

Off
Initial
Tuned
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Quiet Office
Audio Stream

Adjust volume to make "Open Ear" as loud as it would be in the real world, without hearing aids. Remove hearing aids while auditioning. High-quality headphones will improve results!

Recordings are made in a sound-treated acoustic test lab an 8-speaker ring presenting ambisonic recordings and an acoustic manikin. For more important listening notes, be sure to check out our hearing aid comparison engine.

HearAdvisor partners with HearingTracker to provide objective laboratory performance data. All hearing aids are fitted and performance-tested for mild sloping to moderate hearing loss. All audio samples cutoff above 10kHz. *Specific model tested: Orka Two.

Orka Two Physical Specifications

Orka Two
Orka Two
Rating
0%

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Bluetooth® Audio Protocol
  • Bluetooth® (A2DP)
  • Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE)
Hands-Free Calling Protocol
  • Bluetooth® (HFP)
IP Rating (Liquid) 6
Rechargeable Batteries Battery Type
Lithium-ion
Tap Controls Tap Options
  • Accept/end calls
Accessories

Model details listed above may be incomplete or inaccurate. For full specifications please refer to product specifications published by the original equipment manufacturer. To suggest a correction to the details listed, please email info@hearingtracker.com.

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Orka Two Technology Details

Technology specifications listed above may be incomplete or inaccurate. For full specifications please refer to product specifications published by the original equipment manufacturer. To suggest a correction to the details listed, please email info@hearingtracker.com.

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Orka Two Accessories

Charging case

Charging case

The charging case includes a program button to switch between normal and noise programs and a volume up and down button.

Functions

  • Remote Control
  • Battery Charger
  • Power Pack

Compatible Aids

  • Two
Health App

Health App

The Orka Health App is designed to optimize the performance of your Orka hearing device. It's your one-stop solution for everything you need - real-time adjustments, connections with hearing professionals, available anytime, anywhere.

Functions

Compatible Aids

  • Two

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Orka Two Reviews

Hearing aid reviews are fundamentally different from reviews for most other consumer electronic products. The reason is because individual factors, like degree of hearing loss, have a profound effect one's success and overall satisfaction with the product. When purchasing a hearing aid, you'll need to consider more than just your hearing outcome ... Continue reading

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