Eargo Plus Online Invisible Hearing Aid Review – 7 Pros and Cons

– So if you’ve ever searched for hearing aid information online, you probably stumbled across Eargo Invisible hearing aids. Well in this video I’m discussing the pros and cons of Eargo hearing aids compared to hearing aids fit in a clinic by an audiologist. Coming up. Hi guys, I’m Cliff Olson,
Doctor of Audiology, and founder of Applied Hearing
Solutions in Anthem, Arizona. And on this channel I cover a bunch of hearing related information to help make you a better informed consumer. So if you’re into that, consider hitting the Subscribe button. You’ve done it, I’ve done it, now we have to live with the consequences. I’m talking about an online
search for hearing aids. And probably just like
me you’re starting to see banner ads like crazy for literally every type of hearing aid that exists. And one of those likely that you’ve seen is the Eargo hearing aids, and they’ve gained a lot of traction, I’ve had a lot of patients asked me about the Eargo hearing devices
in the recent months, so I wanted to go ahead
and do a video on it. Eargo is a direct-to-consumer
hearing aid company that manufactures a really
cool invisible hearing aid designed by an EENT and kinda
looks like a fly fishing lure. The company was started in 2011 and started selling their devices in 2015. They’re really intended for individuals who have a mild to moderate high frequency sensory
neural hearing loss, and their intent is to really get them into ears of individuals who are a little bit younger on the spectrum with hearing loss, and who either don’t have access to a hearing care professional or just flat out don’t wanna go to a hearing care professional. After hearing so much about the Eargo invisible hearing aids, I wanted to order a pair for myself so I could test and review them to see what all the hype is about. Just a fair warning, this is a rather lengthy in-depth review. Let’s do a quick unboxing
so you can see what you get. Alright so let’s do the unboxing. Here we have the Eargo box, very high quality, nicely put together, slide the sleeve off, and when we open this, it has three very distinct sections. We have a literature section, an accessory section, and the charger and hearing aid section. So we’ll start first with
the literature section. It comes with a quick start guide. It is perfect for people who don’t wanna waste a lot of time reading. It has everything you
pretty much need to know. Then you have a larger user manual in here, definitely thicker, a couple of shower stickers so you make sure that you don’t wear them while you’re in the shower, very nice little addition here, and then also some referral cards for you to hand out to friends so they can get a demo unit. It’s non-functioning but they can see how it feels inside of their ears. There you go. Alright so that’s it for
that first section there. And now we’ll go to the accessory section. This tab says pull so we’ll pull on that. Open this up, we have some replacement flexi-fibers in the regular size and the large size, and some extra wax traps here just in case wax tends to plug up these invisible canal devices, you can change out the wax trap, and then it comes with a
pretty standard brush as well. Alright, getting charged up, this is where our charger is or the charger cable, pretty standard charger cable, very universal to be used with other types of electronics as well, and it has a USB connection, and then the adaptor that you can use to plug it into the wall so you don’t need to use a USB port. Pretty standard stuff there. And onto the exciting part which is the actual charging kit that has the devices inside. Now when you get this,
the devices are asleep, so they will be holding
some form of a charge. As soon as you peel the
sticker that they have off the back of this and open it up, that will wake the devices up, and they typically come shipped with some charge in them which is indicated by these lights. And then this pack, not only does this charge the units, but it actually stores some battery, so you can take this on trips with you without taking the cables
that we had over here. So very very neat. Underneath this we see here that it says, “A Clean Ear is a Happy Ear,” alluding to the fact that
you need to make sure you have clean ears before
you use these devices. If you have earwax inside of your ear, it will be very easily
affect these devices, and either make them not work at all, or give you excessive feedback, ’cause that earwax reflects the sound back outside of your ear. So let’s actually take a
look at the devices here. Pretty cool if you ask me. It definitely looks like some form of a fly fishing lure. And in terms of the quality of it, the silicon flexi-fibers appear to be of really good medical grade quality, just based on my initial
perception of them. The body of the hearing
aid doesn’t necessarily give me the impression of
medical grade hearing aid, traditionally what I’m used to seeing. It looks more like a consumer electronic, but it doesn’t look like it’s low quality, it definitely looks like it
has been well put together. It has the gold battery
context there on both sides, and then if you can see the clear removal string right there. Let’s see if I can give a little bit better background there so you can see it. And that is designed so you can pull it out of your ear once you get it in. And so I wanna show you the difference between some flexi-fibers. I actually requested that they send me some of their new dome flexi-fibers, and that’s what these are. And let me put up their standard flexi-fibers as well, just to give you some comparison. And then I’m also gonna take a dime and put that in the
palm of my hand as well so you can see the size differences. These are the large flexi-fibers, these are the regular flexi-fibers, and then the front ones here, those are the dome ones, and these are the regular ones. You can see that the dome is a little bit larger on the ones on the front. The intent of the domes
is basically to see if you can get a little
bit more amplification, maybe even in the low frequencies, and to suppress against feedback. And I’ll be able to do a
test while I’m wearing them to see if you get any benefit from those. And that is it for the unboxing. Let’s get back to the review. Alright let’s talk about
the pros and cons of Eargo. We’ll start with the pros first. After my review, there
are seven clear pros that I found with the
company and their products. Pro number one is that the company is actually really easy to deal with. Of course anytime you can
order something online that is super straightforward, I always love ordering
things online, super easy. Once you get done with the order, I was able to submit my hearing test. Now I on purpose submitted an asymmetrical hearing test to them, and that actually prompted them to reach out to me and say, “Hey, “we think that your one ear “that is worse than the other “is actually outside of the fitting range, “so we’re not entirely sure
that you’ll see benefit “with one of our devices in that ear.” So I really appreciated them reaching out to let me know when they thought that their devices weren’t gonna be right for me. I also received a welcome email which prompted me to schedule a welcome phone call with them so they could help walk
me through the process of getting used to my new devices. The person that I spoke
with from their company was very knowledgeable and very helpful, and kind of letting me know what to expect with the devices, and how to get them set up, making sure I got them in my ears okay. A very pleasurable
individual to work with, and I was very pleased with the amount of customer service and the approach that she took to educate me and train me on using the Eargo devices. Reason number two is invisibility. They absolutely are invisible. And I’ll show you it again. I know you saw it on the unboxing. But they’re very small devices, and they make them black for a reason. When you look inside someone’s ear canal, they’re actually just a black hole. And so when you get this into its spot, it actually disappears
into that black hole, so you can’t see it at all,
and is absolutely invisible. I would say they’re very comparable to other custom invisible
in-the-canal hearing aids that you would get from a
traditional hearing aid clinic. Pro number three is that
they’re actually rechargeable, and to my knowledge they’re
the only rechargeable invisible in-the-canal hearing devices that exist in today’s market. And they come with this really cool rechargeable case that gives an indicator of how much battery
life is left in the case and how much battery life is
in the devices themselves. It’s really nice because if you’re going on a
two to three-day trip, you can just have this thing charged up, take this with you, not need
all the cords and cables that you would need to power
your devices otherwise, and you’ll be good for a
weekend or a couple days. And each night that you charge it should give you enough battery life for the entire next day. Reason number four is actually comfort. The devices I found to
be fairly comfortable. It was more so in my right
ear than in my left ear. I don’t know if it’s some kind of ear canal anatomy thing
that I have going on where the device actually
positions better in my right here, perhaps I was rotating it incorrectly in my left ear. I was trying to be as vertical as possible when putting it in but it may have rotated a little bit to where it was pushing
against my ear canal wall. I think comfort really
is going to depend on you and your ear canal shape and size. Those little flexi-fibers
that are on the device, they are actually intended
to suspend the device inside of your ear so that
hard plastic hearing aid portion of the device is not
bumping your ear canal wall which would probably be painful. And they also have different sizes of those flexi-fibers that you saw in the unboxing. I tend to use, even though I have, I would categorize my ears
as being a larger ear canal, I actually used the regular size fibers that I find to be more comfortable. Reason number five is convenience. You don’t have to go in and see a hearing care professional
to get these devices. All you have to do is go
online, submit your order there, or you can actually call
them and submit your order. You don’t need to really even
have a hearing test done, you’ll still get the devices. The only thing you have
to do is sign a waiver basically waiving them of
any liability medically from you using their devices, and then you get them two days later. When I did my order, I
got them in two days, and that is without
spending any extra money for the expedited shipping. So their shipping is super quick. Reason number six is noise reduction. Noise reduction is actually something that is very common in hearing aids today, whether you’re spending a lot
of money on a hearing aid, or spending not very much money at all, and it doesn’t necessarily help you hear better in a noisy situation or understand speech better
in a noisy situation, but what it does is it lowers the amount of amplification given off by the device to make that noise a little
bit more tolerable for you. And so I actually wanted
to test these devices and see how well the
noise reduction worked. And I’m gonna show you
that test right now. Alright so this is the
noise reduction test that I recorded when
wearing the Eargo device. And basically what you’re looking at here is the purple curve is when we first turned
on the noise source. So that’s where the amplification was before the noise reduction kicked in. And then the red line shows
the lowering of that noise or rather of the
amplification of that noise to make it more tolerable. And after a certain period of time, it basically steadies out
to where it indicates to us that you get an estimate of
how much noise reduction, and it appears to be reducing
the noise by four decibels. So it clearly does work in terms of the noise
reduction for these devices. Pro number seven is the low initial cost. For just $2,000 you can
get the two devices, the charger kit, and any email or phone support that you would need. And you can also finance it anywhere from 12 to 24 months which keeps your payments pretty low, and it really puts it on par with options that you would have from a value-based option
at any audiology clinic. Alright guys that’s it for the pros, let’s start getting in to the cons. And just like the pros, I found seven distinct cons with Eargo. Con number one is that they don’t require a proper hearing evaluation. Now I specifically sent in
an asymmetrical hearing loss which showed that my left
ear was worse than my right, so I could see how they would recommend that I get that taken care of. And while they did call me and say, “Hey, we think your left ear “is outside of our fitting range. “We don’t think that you’ll get benefit “from the device in that ear,” the phone call really
should have been about, “Hey, we see you have an asymmetry, “have you been checked out by an EENT “to make sure that it’s not something like “earwax or fluid behind your eardrum, “or a tumor on your auditory nerve.” And while you are releasing
any kind of liability on their end by signing
the medical clearance, I think that it would be
prudent to have the company recommend when they see
something that could be caused by a medical condition to
actually get get it checked out. The other problem I see with not requiring a proper hearing evaluation is that they never have otoscopy or a visualization of their ear canal and eardrum ever performed, so you’re not sure if
there’s earwax blocking the ear canals to where
it would prevent you from A, hearing, or B, being
able to use their device. They just in their
packaging kind of allude to this idea of “A Clean
Ear is a Happy Ear,” and to make sure that you
give your ears a cleaning before you put the devices in, but in my experience, when patients think about
cleaning their ears, they’re using Q-tips which can A, either push earwax back further inside of your ear canal, or, you can even get something as severe as a ruptured eardrum if you put that Q-tip in too far. Con number two is that
they only sell in pairs. So if you only have a
hearing loss in one ear, you still have to buy two devices. When I submitted by hearing test, while they did call me and say, “Hey we don’t think
that you’ll get benefit “from a device in your left ear,” I basically returned the email saying, “Well then can you just send me one?” And they said no, it’s either you buy two or you get nothing at all. Con number three is the long-term cost. Eargo devices only come
with a one-year warranty. Now if you’re inside of
that one-year warranty and something happens
with one of your devices or both of your devices, you can call the company and they will send you replacement units, and then you will ship back your units that you currently
have that aren’t working which is really nice from that standpoint if it’s inside of that
one-year warranty period. Once you start getting outside
of that warranty period, you can’t even get the devices repaired. You are completely on
your own at that point. So theoretically you could
be spending $2,000 every year if you continue to have mechanical
issues with your devices. And then this goes back to the last point, if your right ear breaks, you can’t just get another right ear, you have to buy two new devices. This is in comparison to the traditional hearing aid world where
when you buy devices, you get anywhere from a one
to a three-year warranty, you can continuously extend that warranty up to usually around six
to seven years or so. And so the cost that you
actually end up spending over the course of a
traditional hearing aid’s life can be substantially lower
than what you would spend over the course of using Eargo over that same amount of time. Another point on top of that is that you’re not actually getting continuing maintenance on your invisible
in-the-canal hearing aids, and for my patients who wear
invisible in-the-canal devices, they come in anywhere from
two to four times a year to make sure that they get professional preventative maintenance
done on those devices, and for me to verify that those devices are still meeting their
manufacturer’s specifications, which means they don’t have to be dead, but if they’re having some
kind of mechanical malfunction, or they’re sounding distorted, or they’re not actually able to reach the amount of amplification that I initially programmed for them, I’m able to identify it and fix it before it becomes a larger problem. Con number four is that
the extra accessories are actually pretty expensive. If you find yourself in a position where you need an extra charger, you’re gonna spend $400 to get it. If you need some extra flexi-fibers,
you’re gonna spend $40. And if you need extra wax traps, you’re gonna spend 25 bucks. Con number five is they only really have a limited fitting range. So if you have a low
frequency hearing loss, you’re not a good candidate for these. If you have beyond or moderate hearing loss in the high frequencies, you’re also not a good
candidate for these. And despite what their marketing says, you’re not gonna achieve any kind of meaningful amplification
out to 7,000 hertz. In their defense other manufacturers say that you can get amplification
out past 7,000 hertz. I’m telling your right now it is an impossibility with the traditional hearing aid technology that exists today. The company actually
recently came out with dome flexi-fibers which
I’ll show you right here, little bit larger. And I wanted to see if
those had any impact in the amount of amplification
the devices gave off. And based on the graph that you see here, it had no noticeable difference in any kind of amplification, any boost in the low frequencies, or any boost in the high frequencies. It may give a little bit
of feedback suppression, but that was something I was
unable to verify as well. Con number six is that they
are not custom programmable. This is the largest problem with direct-to-consumer hearing aids where you never actually have to see a hearing care provider. This is the same exact
problem from any hearing aid that you would buy online
that doesn’t require you to go in and see a hearing
care professional first. It’s really important to understand that for hearing aids to
work and to work well, they need to be custom programmed to your hearing loss prescription. The only way to do this is
to custom program a device while you’re wearing it and
while taking measurements from inside of your ear canal. We call this real ear verification. Since all Eargo devices come pre-programmed the exact same way, I wanted to do real ear verification on myself while wearing the devices to see if they’re actually capable of meeting a hearing loss prescription. So let me orient you with
what we’re looking at here. On the right-hand side of your screen, that is the left ear measurement. And on the left-hand side of your screen, that is the right ear measurement. The goal is to get the amount of sound coming out of the Eargo devices to overlap with our prescription line which is the hash mark
line that you can see on both sides of the screen. It’s important to note that the ear you’re seeing
being measured right now is for a mild to moderately
severe hearing loss which is within the specifications
that Eargo looks for to see if you would be able to achieve benefit with their devices. And then a more typical mild to moderate high frequency hearing
loss in the right ear. And the purple lines
that you’re looking at is the amount of sound coming out of the Eargo devices as being measured in my ear canal. And we would really like to see those overlapping as much as possible which would indicate that we are meeting the prescription for the hearing loss that I have entered into the system. Okay so that first curve
that we did in purple was for the first volume setting. We are now measuring the second volume setting right now. So a little bit louder. We would expect to see that solid red line
climb a little bit higher and closer to that prescriptive hash mark line that we have right now that is indicated by the color red. It’s staying in the same position. It’s just overlapping the purple color that we were measuring from
volume setting number one. And you can see that on the left ear, we are still far away from
our prescriptive targets, and on the right ear, we’re getting a little bit closer but still off. And we’re measuring the
third volume setting here which will be represented
by the turquoise line. As you can see you’re getting of course more amplification on this third volume setting, getting closer to that prescriptive line that is staying exactly the same which is for a mild to
moderately severe hearing loss. And on the right ear,
that turquoise line is actually starting to over amplify a little bit in those mid frequencies while still being under amplified
for the high frequencies. And we’re now measuring
the loudest volume setting which is volume setting number four which is represented by
the solid green line. We would expect it of course
again to continue to rise and get closer to that
prescriptive target line, and we can see we’re
starting to meet targets a little bit in those mid frequencies ’cause we’re getting some overlap there. And on the right ear here,
we can see that we are still over amplifying
in the mid frequencies, and not quite meeting our
targets in the high frequencies. As we look at this,
it’s important to notice that we get a substantial roll off in the amount of amplification after around 3,000 hertz. So as you can see the Eargo devices didn’t meet the prescription for that typical high
frequency hearing loss, at least not while I
was wearing the devices. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that you wouldn’t get some benefit out of the Eargo devices, it wouldn’t be programmed to give you the ideal amount of amplification. So I wanted to take a
quick second to compare the amplification that you
would get from a custom device that is programmed
while you’re wearing it. And as you can see here
the solid purple line is darn near overlapping exactly the hash mark line which indicates that we are meeting the prescription for the hearing loss very nicely, and which is where we would expect to get maximum benefit
from hearing devices. What I’m showing you here on this screen is the differences in being able to meet the target prescription for custom hearing aids on top, and Eargo hearing aids on the bottom. And as you can see for average level speech targets which is the hash mark line, purple hash mark on top, green hash mark on bottom, for the exact same targets, we’re able to meet those
targets much better with the custom programmed hearing aid versus an Eargo hearing
aid that really doesn’t custom match anything on that
hearing loss prescription. Reason number seven is that there’s no standard outcome measures. This is something that is very important when you’re trying to identify how much benefit someone is getting, and to see if the devices are actually meeting their needs or not. When you don’t do this, it’s essentially the equivalent of saying,
well, how does that sound? Which is not a verifiable pre-imposed measure of
how well you’re hearing. Now to be fair this is something that the company could easily employ, they could get some very
simple questionnaires that are proven to be valid and reliable, and ask patients beforehand and after their 45-day fitting period to determine actually on a
subjective measurement scale how much improvement
they’re actually seeing. Alright guys that’s it for the cons. What I wanna do now is
kinda go into some of my overall thoughts about the
company and their products. Overall I was really
impressed with the company. I think that that was something that was really a breath of fresh air. I didn’t get this feeling like they were just
trying to sell something, I really got the impression that they are really focused on the patient experience through the journey of
using their devices. They had some really good
videos that they emailed to make sure that you knew how to properly insert them, clean them, so on so forth. I thought that was really nice. The people I interacted with at the company were absolutely terrific, people who I would probably hang out with at a convention or something like that. So I was really pleased with the company as a whole from the people perspective. After speaking with Eargo, I truly feel like they
believe their Achilles’ heel is this lack of in-person
contact with the end consumer. It’s really hard in the hearing care space to be using best practices on patients when you don’t have any
physical contact with them. What it really comes down
to is at the end of the day, you need to make the decision for yourself if the pros outweighed the
cons of using Eargo devices. And if that answer is yes, then you might wanna give Eargo a try. That’s it for this video. If you have any questions, leave them in the Comment section below. If you liked the video, go
ahead and give it a thumbs up. And if you wanna see more
videos just like this one, go ahead and hit the Subscribe button. I’ll see you next time.


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