Upgraded IQbuds and two brand-new IQ products make up the Nuheara intelligent hearables suite introduced at CES 2018 in Las Vegas this week. The latest products are LiveIQ active noise-cancellation earbuds and IQbuds Boost, the latter boasting even higher levels of personalization than the original IQbuds.
Nuheara earbuds don’t replace audiologist-prescribed hearing aids for people with profound hearing loss. IQbuds serve the massive number of people who could use help with hearing but don’t believe they need to see an audiologist.
Both U.S. political parties supported the 2017 Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act. The act was written to help what was described as a vastly underserved population. Of an estimated 30 million people with a significant hearing loss in the United States, 80 percent did not seek help due to previously required medical exams and the high cost of prescription hearing aids, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Nuheara’s wireless earbuds are fine for audio and phone calls but go much further. Its products simultaneously amplify the sounds users want to hear while lowering the volume of unwanted audio. IQbuds and the new IQbuds Boost use personalized profiles to control which sounds are amplified and which are cut back. For example, Nuheara algorithms can be configured to lower restaurant background noise while boosting speech so you have a better chance of understanding conversation at your table.
When Digital Trends reviewed the first IQbuds upon their release in early 2017, we were impressed by the hearable’s speech optimization, music streaming, and customizable sound characteristics. We were particularly pleased with the IQbuds’ 5.5-hours of battery life per charge. The closest competitor at the time, Doppler Labs’ Here One, lasted only 3 hours. Doppler Labs has since ceased operation.
The IQbuds were among the first truly wireless earbuds that promise to help people understand speech. They’re very good for listening to music and for hands-free phone calls, but their best feature is voice augmentation.
In October 2017, Nuheara issued a firmware and software update that cut wind noise and increased the battery life of the original IQbuds. The IQbuds hardware refresh announced at CES 2018 promises 20 hours of on-the-go Bluetooth streaming and 40 hours of voice processing, up from the original 16 and 32 hours, respectively. On-the-go battery life takes into account recharging the IQbuds three times in the included portable charging case. The IQbuds list price remains $300.
IQbuds Boost, the first of Nuheara’s new intelligent hearable products, increase the potential to help people with minimal to moderate hearing loss. Nuheara incorporated an international hearing calibration standard in IQbuds Boost. Previously used solely by audiologists to calibrate expensive prescription hearing aids, the NAL-NL2 protocol is now part of Nuheara’s proprietary Ear ID process.
Using Ear ID to evaluate their own hearing, customers create a personalized profile. This profile is used along with IQbuds Boost’s configurable environment settings. As with the original IQbuds, users can control the balance between speech and environmental sound, including emphasizing or diminishing high and low frequencies. IQbuds Boost adds a customized user hearing profile based on a standard that works in conjunction with the manual user sound settings.
Pricing has not been set for the IQbuds Boost, which are scheduled to launch for sale to consumers by April 2018. When they are available, we’ll check them out to see to what extent the IQbuds Boost improve on the original IQbuds’ already impressive performance.
The second new product in Nuheara’s intelligent hearables suite is LiveIQ, which is also launching in 2018. LiveIQ is not a hearing assistive product, so you won’t use LiveIQ to hear what other people are saying, but you can use them to control your audio environment. LiveIQ intelligent wireless earbuds have Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) that uses industry standard noise-cancellation technology in conjunction with portions of the Nuheara’s environment processing and hearing intelligence software. LiveIQ pre-orders will be available early in the year. The expected but not final price will be under $200. Delivery is expected in summer 2018.