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Cutting Through the Noise: Startup's Vetting Lab Highlights Best and Worst OTC Hearing Aids

HearAdvisor’s Lab Team Has Tested 65 Hearing Devices, Offering Consumers Free Access to Detailed Performance Scores and Audio Samples.

Audien

Audien Atom Pro 2 OTC hearing aids being worn by KEMAR, a manikin with artificial ears that mimic the acoustics of human ears.

Chicago, Illinois — The Amazon listing for the Audien Atom 2, a new over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid recommended by Forbes Health as “Very Good” reads: “It’s time to say goodbye to distracting background noise … Thanks to the A2 Pro Chip, you can tune into precisely what you want to hear while filtering out unwanted noise.”

But after testing 65 pairs of hearing devices in a state-of-the-art acoustic laboratory, HearAdvisor has revealed—via the HearAdvisor™ SoundScore Leaderboard—that the Audien Atom 2's sound performance puts it in the bottom 10% of all OTC devices tested, with speech-in-noise scores that predict no noticeable hearing improvement versus wearing no hearing aids at all. Worse yet, the device overamplifies loud sounds, which would likely make speech less clear and more uncomfortable in difficult communication situations like bars and restaurants.

The truth is that the U.S. consumer has no ally when it comes to navigating the complex and evolving marketplace for hearing aids. Hearing aids are now just a click away on Amazon, BestBuy, and Walmart, and yet, there is no independent or governmental body proactively vetting the rampant marketing claims promising better hearing in background noise. And while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of all hearing aids*, they don't guarantee audio performance.

To help consumers navigate the chaos, the independently-owned and operated HearAdvisor lab was started by two doctors of audiology and one communication sciences Ph.D. with the mission to provide consumers with the objective data they need to make more informed hearing aid purchasing decisions. The lab was built by Dr. Steven Taddei, a Doctor of Audiology with a background in acoustics and audio engineering, to the same specification that industry-leading hearing aid manufacturers use in their commercial research and development labs in countries like Denmark and Switzerland.

The lab is posting all their results for anyone to access, with the hope that consumers will use its HearAdvisor Expert Choice Award as the threshold for which products to consider, and which to avoid. Likened to the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval for hearing aids, the HearAdvisor team hopes that the simple-to-communicate award will help consumers avoid deceptively-marketed poorly-functioning hearing aids, and stick with the models that are proven to be effective in its lab.

HearAdvisor's Expert Choice Awards for OTC hearing aids.

HearAdvisor's Expert Choice Awards for OTC hearing aids.

For further details or to arrange an interview with Dr. Steven Taddei, please contact Abram Bailey at hello@hearadvisor.com.

*On its website, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that it ensures the “safety and effectiveness” of all hearing aids for consumers. This includes OTC hearing aids, which have been available to purchase since October 17, 2022. Critically, preset-based OTC hearing aids, like the Atom 2, are exempt from the onerous 510(k) approval process, which requires manufacturers of other OTC hearing aids to provide evidence proving the effectiveness of their devices. As a result, preset-based hearing aids are far more prevalent in the marketplace—and their performance far more varied.