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Bose debuts $850 SoundControl Hearing Aids

While they can't be used for streaming music or taking calls, Bose says it's developed the first FDA-cleared, direct-to-consumer hearing aids for adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss.

The BoseSound Control Hearing Aids will initially be available in five states -- Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas -- with nationwide availability to follow. 

Those shopping for hearing aids know that they can cost a lot of money -- well over $2,000 and sometimes much more for premium models. Now Bose is aiming to disrupt that market with its new $850 SoundControl Hearing Aids, which will be available directly from Bose starting May 18. They won't require a doctor's visit, hearing test or prescription. Instead, Bose says its new Bose Hear app for iOS and Android will allow you to set up and customize SoundControl Hearing Aids from home in less than an hour with "audiologist-quality results." Alas, you can't use them to stream Bluetooth audio or make calls.

Other companies like Zvox have created low-cost personal sound amplification products, or PSAPs -- its VoiceBud VB20 amplifiers cost about $300 for a pair -- but in order to call a product a "hearing aid," you need FDA clearance, which is a notch below FDA approval. As hearing aid regulation has evolved during the pandemic, plenty of new products have been falling into the PSAP gray zone. 

For instance, Vivtone says its $500 Pro20 model is FDA-cleared and "medical grade" but then refers to the product as both a "hearing aid" and "hearing amplifier" on its Amazon product page and its website, the latter of which includes typos like "me_di_cal-grade." (A quick search of the FDA website did not turn up any search results for Vivtone Pro20 or Vivtone, but the Bose SoundControl Hearing Aids are there.) Previously, Bose dabbled in hearing amplification with its experimental $500 Hearphones, which were discontinued in 2020. 

Bose's SoundControl Hearing Aids look similar to other behind-the-ear, receiver-in-canal designed hearing aids and come with three sizes of open and closed dome eartips. Bose says each hearing aid weighs 3 grams and contains two microphones, one tiny speaker and a standard 312 zinc-air battery. A battery lasts up to four days when used for 14 hours a day and eight batteries are included in total. They're water-resistant "to survive light exposure to rain or water."


The hearing aids in their included case.


Bose says the CustomTune technology that's incorporated into the Bose Hear app offers hundreds of options for fine-tuning from just two simple controls: "World Volume can be turned up to amplify quiet sounds more than loud ones so listening is more comfortable, while Treble/Bass can adjust tone to accentuate or diminish certain vocal frequencies."

A Focus feature allows you to focus on sound that's directly in front of you (for restaurant conversations, for example) and presets for activities and places can be named and stored in Modes for easy retrieval. Directional audio features are pretty standard on medical-grade hearing aids, many of which now have companion apps for iOS and Android to customize your settings, although they still require an audiologist for initial tuning. 


The Bose Hear app.


The SoundControl Hearing Aids come with a 90-day risk-free trial as well as dedicated support, including one-on-one video appointments with Bose Hear Product Experts to get personalized help and guidance. Note that at launch they will initially be available in five states -- Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas -- with nationwide availability to follow. They are eligible for FSA and HSA reimbursement.