Audicus is an exciting and relatively new company in hearing aids (founded in 2012), and an important one for several reasons. Hearing aids are expensive and Audicus is focused on accessible pricing and creative financing options. Audicus also provides a fully online shopping experience through pre-programming and shipping to your home.
Audicus's “buy it now” prices are comparatively low ($499 to 899 each ear). In addition, Audicus offers a very interesting and creative monthly “membership” that not only spreads the price tag out but also provides support, accessories like wax guards and allows you to upgrade to new hearing aids every 18 months. At a maximum of $59 per ear per month, better hearing is now comparable to a cell phone or decent Internet access.
I should mention that Audicus's technology is backed by Unitron. For this review, Audicus was kind enough to send me some demo aids, and I found them identical to the well-built, nicely styled Unitron aids I've fit for years (more on this later). Like other private label devices, I expect them to perform and last exactly like their brand name counterparts. For this review, I'll also describe the online buying process, hearing test, and my experience with the Audicus customer service team and web site.
One last note before diving in. Audicus has a small network of brick and mortar stores (NYC, Denver, and Southern California), but due to COVID-19, only the Denver store is open at the time of this review (August 2020).
Audicus offers a smartphone app hearing test as well as being able to accept a scan of a traditional test. I found the app-based test to be quick and based on their results, acceptably accurate. Their inside folks indicated that they use standard fitting algorithms (NAL-NL1 and NAL-NL2). These formulae were explicitly designed to balance the optimal audibility of important speech sounds with listening comfort.
Their online process also includes a questionnaire about age, activity, and hearing aid use history. Your answers help Audicus optimize the initial fitting. This process mirrors what I do in the clinic quite well.
The Dia II is the “entry level” product currently priced at $499 per ear for one-time purchase or $39 per month per ear with financing. It is listed for mild to moderate hearing loss. It's a “slim tube” BTE which means that the small tube connecting the body of the hearing aid to the ear tip (dome) will need regular cleaning and occasional replacement. It has all the features anyone would need including several adjustment channels, directional microphones and an automatic “scene analyzer” which attempts to extract speech from noise. The Dia II operates on #312 zinc-air batteries and is compatible with the Classic Remote and has a telecoil. More on that in a bit.
In the middle of the Audicus lineup is the Clara at $699 each or $49 per ear per month. Also a RIC style, this model offers a wider range, up to severe, and the option of rechargeable batteries. It has two microphones which provide directionality and some degree of background noise abatement. The device is set for automatic processing, but additional manual programs are available and accessible via the Classic or Bluetooth Remote. This is important especially if you need to hear well in noisy settings or want to use the telecoil. Both of these situations will require a special program that you'll want to activate manually. Like the Dia, the Clara can use the Classic Remote and the Bluetooth remote and dock.
The top tier product from Audicus currently is the Wave at $899 per ear or $59 per month per ear. This is a great example of the power of being part of the Sonova family. A few years ago, Phonak developed a way to directly stream to both iOS and Android devices. Based on what I'm seeing here, this tech has been made available in the Wave. This RIC covers mild to severe losses and is compatible with the TV Connector rather than the Bluetooth Dock.
The Wave can be powered by a 312 zinc-air battery or a sealed Lithium Ion rechargeable. The rechargeable Wave has a telecoil.
Audicus has two families of accessories: Near-field (Dia II and Clara) and 2.4 GHz “AirStream” (Wave). They also offer a standalone remote control, which is handy if you have dexterity issues or want additional programs. They also offer two TV streamers and a Bluetooth re-broadcaster. These devices are made by Sonova and function identically to their Phonak and Unitron counterparts. As such, I'm very comfortable recommending them based on over a decade of success with their “cousins.”
|The Classic Remote allows for volume and program adjustment for the Dia II and Clara devices. It communicates to the hearing aids using Near-Field wireless and can be helpful for those with dexterity issues, those needing to access manual programs like telecoil or those in assistive living who may need help controlling their hearing aids. It's fairly inexpensive at $199 and is available online from Audicus.|
|The Remote Bluetooth and Dock at $349 provides Bluetooth rebroadcasting which allows you to pair the remote to your smartphone, tablet or PC then stream audio to your Clara hearing aid. The Bluetooth Dock connects to audio sources like your TV via analog or digital connections then streams to the remote which then talk to the hearing aids via Near-Field wireless. The range of the Dock is about 30 feet.
In addition, the remote provides access to volume and program adjustments. Additional Bluetooth Docks are available at $149 each.
|TV Connector at $200 streams audio signals to the Wave hearing aids without the need for a rebroadcaster. This uses the same 2.4 GHz AirStream technology that allows the Wave to stream directly to your smartphone or tablet. It accepts both analog and digital inputs and has a range of about 50 feet.|
In the days of COVID-19 having access to well-made hearing aids and accessories via the mail is very important. Having a lineup that covers the vast majority of folks at prices well below the going rate is even better. Their flexible payment options, ongoing upgrades via their memberships, and extensive on-line supplies store show me that they are plugged into the Baby Boomer and Generation -X mindset.
Having interacted with the company quite a bit while researching this piece, and being very familiar with the technology under the hood, I'm quite comfortable recommending Audicus as an option for folks with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Even though the specs indicate that the Clara and Wave can produce output at levels sufficient for a severe loss on the audiogram, I'd need to see how they function in the real world for folks with more severe background noise and reverberation issues to recommend them for that population. The exception to that caveat depends on the flexibility and response of their telecoil. If they can be set to meet ANSI specification for hearing loops,2 patients with severe loss could use them in looped environments or with a personal ALD and neck loop with good results. See our piece on accessories and HAT for more on that.
All in all, I'd have to say Audicus should be on your “check it out” list for hearing aids. I hope that companies like Audicus that challenge the traditional models will make hearing aids more convenient and accessible and that they will continue to lower the barriers to entry for hearing help.
As a practicing audiologist since the 1990’s, Brad Ingrao, AuD has fitted thousands of hearing aids to seniors and people of all ages. Brad is the Official Audiologist for the International Committee on Sports for the Deaf and a well-known speaker. Dr…. Learn More About Brad Ingrao