Eargo 5 is a rechargeable hearing aid that is ordered online, or over the phone, and delivered to your door. Unlike traditional hearing aids, no in-office visit or in-person hearing test is required. The Eargo 5 product bundle costs $2,950 and includes two completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aids, a charger, a 2-year warranty, and lifetime customer support. Eargo 5 is intended to help people with mild to moderately-severe high-frequency hearing loss.
Highlights of Eargo 5
- The smallest Eargo hearing aid available
- Redesigned petal tips with built-in wax filters
- New Sound Match™ technology offers hearing test via Eargo app
- Additional fine tuning for listening environments
- New inductive charging
- Quicker charging compared to previous generations
- In-field “upgradeable” feature
Connectivity and streaming
Like Eargo’s previous hearing aids, Eargo 5 does not support streaming audio from Bluetooth-enabled devices. If you do receive a phone call while wearing Eargo, you would simply hold the phone to your ear and take the call as you normally would. Eargo 5 is an “open-fitting” hearing aid, meaning your ear canal is not sealed off by the device, so there is a risk of acoustic feedback whenever an object (like a phone) gets too close to your ear. It may help to hold the phone at an angle or slight distance from the ear to minimize feedback.
Sound Match is a new feature in Eargo 5. After completing a 10-minute tone-based hearing test using your Eargo devices, Sound Match creates a unique sound profile for each hearing aid—to better meet your individual hearing needs. As the hearing test is conducted through the hearing aids themselves, the results will reflect your individual ear shape as well as your selected ear tips. Once you’ve completed Sound Match™, the app provides a “normal” program from which any other program changes are based.
The new Eargo App includes Sound Match™ technology, which tests your hearing aid provides personalized amplification.
The Eargo App
With Eargo 5, you can now use the app as a remote control for muting your hearing aids, and changing listening programs, volume, tone, and background noise level. You can also change listening programs by tapping your ear. As with their previous models, product support is provided for the lifetime of the hearing aid. With Eargo 5, customer support can be accessed via the app, over the phone, or via online chat. You can schedule an appointment with an Eargo hearing professional via the app at any time. Eargo also provides “field upgrades” to the charger and hearing aids, which means your Eargo 5 devices may receive future software enhancements.
Eargo hearing instruments provide linear amplification, which is a departure from what most modern digital, programmable hearing aids provide. Linear amplifiers do not compress (limit) sound variably across input levels. This means, Eargo hearing aids produce a constant volume boost across low-level (soft) and mid-level sound inputs, and sound clipping for very loud input sounds (to limit over-amplification). Numerous studies through the years have indicated that hearing aid users prefer digital compression over linear amplification. There has also been a great deal of advancement in the algorithms underlying modern compression amplification. However, that is not to say that linear hearing aids cannot provide hearing benefit, or that they cannot be acoustically comfortable.
Customer support and warranty
Eargo provides lifetime professional support for its hearing devices. Support is provided via the phone or smart phone app (depending on model chosen) by Hearing Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) at the company who can answer your questions and recommend sound settings. All Eargo hearing instruments come with a 45-day full-refund policy. So, if for whatever reason you are not satisfied with the Eargo product, you can return it without a cost to you.
Eargo provides an option to finance your hearing aid purchase through Ally Lending over 12 or 24 months with interest rates ranging from 0% to 29.99% APR. Before purchasing with the financing option, be sure to read this article, by Laura Wadsten at The Capitol Forum, in which Wadsten raises some concerns about the financing option and accuses Eargo of slow-walking customer service requests within its 45-day return window. HearingTracker has not independently verified these claims.
Through the years the company has continued to improve its signature CIC form factor, making it smaller and improving the “off-the-shelf” fit of the instruments. For example, Eargo continues to tweak their eartips to provide an open fit while helping to ensure comfort and good sound quality for a wide range of ear sizes and shapes as well as hearing losses. With Eargo 5, Eargo has again redesigned the eartips, which now include built-in wax filters, making the device much easier to maintain. Eargo has also continued to improve Eargo’s rechargeability—Eargo 5 is the first product to use an inductive charging system with no contacts.
Eargo product overview
Eargo sells four different products—the Eargo Max, launched in 2018, the Eargo Neo, launched in 2019, the Eargo Neo HiFi, launched in 2020, and Eargo 5, launched earlier this year. All Eargo hearing aids are intended to fit mild to moderately-severe high-frequency hearing loss and can be ordered online or by phone.
Eargo Max is the company’s oldest platform and is considered their entry level hearing aid; however, it is also the least expensive aid in their portfolio. The High Frequency Average (HFA) gain is 26 dB with a 50 dB SPL input. This makes the hearing aid suitable for mild to moderately-severe high-frequency hearing losses. It includes 4 different sound profiles which are essentially volume changes but also includes noise reduction, feedback control and voice indicators for program number notification. Program changes are made by double tapping the ear with a flat, open hand.
Eargo Max does not have an accompanying smart phone app or any available remote control, so this is the only way to change the programs (volume). The pressure change created by moving your hand is sensed by the hearing aids and allows for the program change. There is not a physical button to press on the hearing instruments. Although there is no app and limited control of the device, there is still support which can be found online via a library of video tutorials or you can online chat or call and speak to an Eargo professional to help troubleshoot or setup your devices. Eargo Max has a standard 1-year warranty.
This device, introduced in 2019 provides more noise reduction than its predecessor and a better feedback control but provides the same level of gain (HFA of 26 dB with a 50 dB SPL input). It also has the added advantage of an app where you can choose preferred listening settings such as meeting, TV or crowd and have those loaded into one of the 4 listening programs. Keep in mind that if you place a “crowd” program into slot 3, you will have to remember that program 3 is for crowds. That is, the device’s voice alerts will just say “program 3” and not “crowd program”, for example. You can also choose to disable programs that you aren’t using so that you’re not toggling through programs to get to the one you really want to use.
Unlike most hearing aids on the market, the app does not connect directly to the Eargo hearing aids; rather it connects to the charger. So, in order for you to implement any changes the hearing aids have to be placed into the charger. Choosing a program number while wearing the hearing aids is still achieved via the double tapping of the ear. Eargo Neo has a standard 1-year warranty.
Eargo Neo HiFi
This device, introduced in 2020 also provides HFA gain of 26 dB but the company notes “increased frequency bandwidth” compared to previous generations as well as an improved feedback control and a wind noise algorithm. They again redesigned the eartips using “tetrapalms” which may again help improve comfort and sound quality for the Eargo Neo HiFi.
A smart phone app is again available where you can choose listening settings and disable programs but you can also modify bass and treble. However, again there is no program change via the app so the ear double tap is still required to change programs. Eargo Neo HiFi has a standard 1-year warranty.
Why you should consider Eargo
- Cost-effective hearing loss solution with a range of models at different price points.
- 45-day trial period with full refund if hearing aids are returned.
- Cosmetically appealing CIC design; black coloring helps to hide the instrument within the shadows of the ear canal.
- Traditional hearing test not required increasing accessibility to hearing healthcare.
- In-office visits not required for adjustments which can be advantageous to those with transportation or mobility issues and during challenges like we’ve recently seen with the pandemic.
- Robust online and personalized professional support via phone call, online chat, or remote care.
- Professional support for the life of the hearing aids.
- Rechargeable devices for ease of use and good battery life on a single charge (up to 16 hours). Portable charging case will provide daily recharges for up to a week.
- Large print left/right indicators on the hearing aids make it easy to know which device is for which ear.
- Available free, non-working sample aid to test the fit of the instruments.
- Multiple listening programs available and personalization available with greater flexibility in the higher price point hearing aids.
Potential negatives of Eargo
- Hearing aids are sold in pairs, so if you have a unilateral loss, this hearing aid may not be ideal.
- Not suitable for more significant hearing loss such as seen with flat hearing losses (hearing loss across frequency range) or more severe to profound hearing losses.
- Not appropriate for young children.
- While the price point is attractive, more sophisticated, professionally fit hearing aids are also available at a similar price or even for less.
- Although you can provide a professional audiological exam to Eargo for program selection of the instruments, fine tuning is much more limited than with traditional hearing aids. The online hearing test (or in situ test via Sound Match in the Eargo 5) evaluates a narrow range of hearing frequencies and there is no understanding of how well you perceive speech in quiet and in noise, or your loudness tolerance across frequencies.
- Linear amplification may not provide the best comfort or audibility for all patients.
- Not a custom fit, so the hearing aids may be physically uncomfortable for some people. Eargo notes a higher return rate than that seen with traditional hearing aids and it is likely that the fit plays a factor here. However, a free fit trial with a non-working device is available.
- Although more closed domes are available, the eartips are not custom and are meant to provide a more “open” fit. Open fits provide more comfort for your own voice but they are also more prone to feedback and low frequency gain will be limited.
- Other than the Eargo 5, properly positioning the hearing aids in the charger may be problematic for some. However, this is true of other rechargeable hearing aids as well.
- No connectivity/streaming of audio from your devices such mobile phone, TV, tablet, etc.
- No remote control or accessories available except with Eargo 5 where the app acts as a remote.
- No tinnitus features
- No telecoil availability
- No accessories for TV, computer or other devices.
Eargo compared to traditional medical model
While Eargo’s direct-to-consumer model does have the potential to improve access to hearing healthcare, it is possible to find in-person care at a similar price point or, for even less. And for many, depending on the quality of care delivered, in-person care will likely lead to better hearing outcomes.
A professional hearing test is not required to order and fit any Eargo device. Even if one is provided to Eargo, or the online or in-app test is conducted, limited information is utilized for fitting the hearing aid. In other words, only a handful of tones are tested and used to determine the initial settings of the hearing aids.
Compare this with a full spectrum of sound tested by an HCP. The HCP will not only test your response to tones across the frequency range, but also test your speech understanding in quiet and possibly also in noise. In addition, the HCP will examine your ears, discuss your health history, hearing concerns, and lifestyle and listening needs.
All of this information is used to help the HCP guide you to an appropriate amplification choice including the possible use of accessories such as a remote microphone or TV connector. The HCP may even see that you may be a candidate for other technology such as a cochlear implant and/or may refer you to other professionals such as an Ear-Nose-Throat (ENT) physician if needed.
The recommended protocol when fitting hearing aids is to test your hearing aids while on your ear and match to a well-researched prescription target. The hearing aids can then be adjusted to match target and can be further programmed over time to maximize both your comfort and hearing performance. Unless you take your Eargo devices into a local audiologist, real-ear measurements and target matching simply isn’t possible. And, even if you do attempt to match targets, the limited tonal controls and lack of digital compression would likely make matching target impossible.
If we look more closely at the cost of the Eargo 5 device, we see that the current cost is $2950 for a pair. Eargo devices, as the article notes, do not provide many of the standard features of modern digital hearing aids such as multi-channel compression, Bluetooth connectivity, and variable directionality. As such Eargo devices would be considered more entry-level technology.
We recently researched the cost of a mid-level rechargeable hearing aid in north Florida and found a pair from the leading manufacturer at the cost of $2798. These hearing aids are sold through an HCP, are rechargeable and include a 3- year warranty and 1 year of unlimited in-office visits. Similarly, Costco pricing for their Kirkland signature brand, a high-end level of technology, is $1399 a pair. Both of these examples show that in-person care can be found at a lower price point while providing a higher level of technology.
So, while there are certainly advantages to the Eargo devices, mainly the ease of ordering the hearing aids and their cosmetic appeal, other more sophisticated options that provide professional in-person support may be preferred especially when cost is no longer a factor. Put another way, in-person care from a professional may be preferred to ensure that you are getting the most from your hearing healthcare investment.
Eargo hearing aids offer a direct-to-consumer approach to hearing healthcare and may serve as a good entry-point for hearing aids for those with mild to moderately-severe high-frequency hearing loss. However, as with all products, there are pros and cons, and Eargo’s novel delivery model may present additional challenges for some.