It’s a noisy world out there, and if you’ve ever found it hard to hear a conversation in a crowded bar or anywhere else with substantial ambient noise, then Sennheiser’s Conversation Clear Plus wireless earbuds, announced this week as CES 2023, could clear things up for you.
When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made it possible for those with mild to moderate hearing loss to get over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids without a prescription last October, the market responded, with big-name players like Sony, Jabra, and Bose jumping in with products of their own. And while Sennheiser isn’t officially tagging the Conversation Clear Plus earbuds as OTC hearing aids, they use what Sennheiser calls “advanced speech enhancement technology,” developed by one of the world’s biggest hearing aid makers, Sonova (which now owns Sennheiser), with the main purpose of enhancing speech and filtering out noise so you can hear conversations better.
Sonova’s chip, Sennheiser says, is what’s driving the Clear Plus’ “Automatic Scene Detection” feature. When combined with active noise cancellation, the earbuds will detect and analyze the noise level of a given environment and set the speech enhancement level to match, while also blocking out background noise. And like most noise-canceling earbuds on the market, there’s a transparency mode feature Sennheiser is calling Ambient Awareness that lets users set the amount of background noise they want to hear depending on the environment.
The setup comes by way of a companion app, with the earbuds connecting via Bluetooth, but the app also allows for a decent level of customization, including a handful of listening scenarios you can utilize. “Relax” lets you set the level of background noise you want to hear, “Communication” automatically adjusts so you can best hear conversations and calls, and “Streaming” is ideal for when you’re listening to music, podcasts, or movies. Yes, the Clear Plus can double as a set of Bluetooth earbuds, although we have no idea yet as to how they sound. The Conversation Clear Plus’ battery life is nothing to sneer at, with nine hours of listening time and an additional 27 hours from the charging case.
”Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus reflects our customers’ dynamic lives, allowing users to follow every conversation with ease, wherever they are,” says Daniel Holenstein, Sennheiser’s senior product manager. “An independent study showed 95% of users experienced significant speech enhancement in noisy situations when using the product.”
One sticking point with the Conversation Clear Plus might be their hefty $850 price, which rivals that of actual OTC hearing aids from Sony, Jabra, and others. Mind you, that’s still cheaper than full-on hearing aids. The Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus earbuds will be available for preorder on January 5, 2023, and go on sale January 20.
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