Over my nearly 30 years of clinical practice, all hearing aids have been dispensed under the same sales model, directly from a provider’s office. One drawback of this model is the time and commitment it takes to get to the provider’s office.
Eargo has jumped into the hearing aid scene and met the needs of many seniors by providing hearing aids that don't require a trip to the provider's office. A true disrupter in the hearing aid space, Eargo puts the entire process online. You can take a hearing loss test and start the process of getting a hearing aid whenever and wherever you want.
For this year’s review, I took Eargo’s online hearing test, spoke with their head audiologist for about an hour, and had several interactions with their support staff. I found a lot of what Eargo is doing to be very helpful and innovative, and they were kind enough to provide us with samples of their product for this review.
Keep in mind, Eargo is not for people with severe hearing loss or people who need Hearing Assistive
Technologies1 like telecoil. But, as you’ll see below, they have done a nice job focusing their product on first-time users with early-onset hearing loss. I give Eargo's prices and convenience a thumbs-up. Let’s start by going through Eargo’s online hearing test!
Because Eargo has defined their niche very well, they can easily recommend which of several “stock” settings will work for you. With a combination of an online hearing test and extensive interactive interviews, their remote hearing care professionals select the configuration most likely to meet your needs and ship the hearing aids and charger to you. You can adjust them further once you receive them.
For their mid- and top-tier products, a smartphone app allows for even fuller sound customization. If you’d rather have an expert assist you, Eargo offers the option to remotely program the devices in a “telemedicine” format. This live or “synchronous” type of telehealth is, in my experience, also different from the typical manufacturer.
Quick Tip: If you're new to hearing aids and hearing tests, you're not alone! Visit our 2021 hearing aid buyer's guide to learn everything you need to know before purchasing a pair of hearing aids.
During my conversation with their in-house folks, I pressed them about what happens if a person is not quite right for the predetermined configurations. They were quite clear that they only want to fit individuals who will succeed and refer those falling outside of their lane to a partner audiologist for a more traditional hearing evaluation. If someone is on the fence, they may require a copy of a traditional hearing test before making a final determination of candidacy.
Shortly after my conversations with the Eargo audiology team, they were kind enough to send me a pair of Neo HiFi hearing aids to try out. The pre-delivery communication was very good, including a suggestion to have my ears cleaned so that wax wouldn’t interfere with the fitting. I also received shipping updates and a delivery confirmation.
The packaging is well designed and efficient. One of my pet peeves is over-boxing. Eargo’s box is just big enough to hold all the components and documentation.
The build quality of the charger and devices themselves is not only a rugged feeling but well designed in terms of both ergonomics and visual design. They look cool and modern. The devices themselves are very small, but the Right/Left markers are very large and clear, which is great for seniors who may have vision loss. In my nearly 30 years of fitting hearing aids, one of the most common issues with new users is getting them in their ears correctly so this is a big help.
Once I unboxed the Eargos, I downloaded and installed their smartphone app (I use an Android device, but it’s also available for Apple devices). Below are a few screenshots to give you the idea of how the app looks. Overall, I found the app to be intuitive, clean in its design, and most importantly, functional. I was able to connect and set up the hearing aids in under 10 minutes.
The app can also be used to have one of Eargo’s online audiologists further fine tune your hearing aids if, after wearing them for a few weeks, you're still having trouble. This is, in my opinion, a very good balance of support and independence. I always strive for my patients to take ownership of their hearing loss rehabilitation. If I’m the only one who can adjust their devices, I find many wearers are less “bought in” because all the good and bad is on me, the dispenser.
|Setup begins with the standard acceptance of terms and conditions. I actually read them and found them reasonable. If you want, you can check out the app features, or jump right in and connect the charger. This creates a link between your app and the charger, which in turn, communicates with the hearing aids.||When the charger is found, it displays blue lights. This is a helpful verification that you’re connected to the correct charger in case there are multiple users in the house.||This screen starts you on your way to configuring your hearing aids.|
|Here’s a sample of the info screens detailing different functions of the Eargos. Again I like the clean design.||Next, you can try out each present and adjust as needed. Based on the discussions I had with Eargo, the majority of folks with early-onset hearing loss will find one that works and be able to adjust the tone control to sound acceptable.||After you’ve adjusted everything to your liking, place the devices into the charger and save the update. You’ll get the following confirmation screen. And that’s it.|
This process can also be used to have one of Eargo's on-line audiologists further fine-tune your devices if, after wearing them for a few weeks, you still have trouble. This is, in my opinion, a very good balance of support and independence. I always strive for my patients to take ownership of their hearing loss rehabilitation. If I'm the only one who can adjust their devices, I find many are less “bought-in” because all the good and bad are on me, the dispenser.
Eargo's approach will likely be best for younger folks (under 65) who have grown up with technology and tend to be more DIY (Do It Yourself) than the generation before. That said, it appears that Eargo provides enough support for even those folks if their hearing loss is within the fitting range.
The Eargo comes in four levels of technology, all built into rechargeable, in-the-ear style hearing aids.
Money-Saving Tip: If you're a part of the medical community, a first responder, teacher, veteran, active military member, or family of an active military member, you can receive 10 percent off the Eargo 5 or Eargo Neo HiFi.
The Eargo Max is designed to be an affordable, “entry-level” device at $1,500 per pair. It is ideal for older adults with mild to moderate, mostly high-frequency hearing loss. Because it was designed for this type of loss, there is very little low frequency (bass) response. This seems like a negative, but in my opinion, it’s OK. As long as the pre-fitting interview and test correctly identify the client’s hearing loss shape, there is no reason that this frequency response will be a limiting factor. That said, the major downside to this hard limit is that it doesn’t allow for any significant changes in hearing over time. If we look at the typical trajectory of hearing loss, where low and mid-speech frequency (500 Hz to 2000 Hz) changes faster for males than higher frequencies, this may limit the useful life of the Eargo Max.1
The Eargo Neo is the “mid-range” product in the lineup, priced at $2,000 per pair. The physical form factor is essentially the same, but the digital amplifier is newer and allows for more fine-tuning and compatibility with the Eargo mobile app.
The next level up is the Neo HiFi which will cost you $2,500. Like the Neo, it uses the newer internal circuit and is compatible with the mobile app, but it offers a wider frequency response, allowing it to fit people with more hearing loss in the very high frequencies.
Eargo's latest, top-tier product is the Eargo 5. Like the Neo and Neo HiFi, it is compatible with the mobile app, so adjusting your hearing aids on the go is a breeze. The higher price at $2,950 for a pair, will get you Eargo's latest Sound Match technology, redesigned ear tips, and quicker charging.
Not For You?: Eargo isn't ideal for seniors with severe or profound hearing loss. If you need more advanced hearing support, check out our list of the best hearing aids in 2021 for more options.
The new Sound Match technology helps users fine tune and customize their devices in various sound environments. Plus, this is Eargo's smallest rechargeable hearing aid ever made, so it provides the most discretion.
Extra Flexi Palms, chargers, and wax guards are all available to be purchased as accessories on the Eargo website.
Every Eargo customer is paired with a personal hearing professional who will provide you with lifetime support. You will receive a welcome call when you first get your hearing aid so that all hearing aid functions can be explained to you. You can also reach out to this person for however long you have the hearing aid. Consultations and hearing checks are done remotely from the safety of your home.
There are video tutorials available online 24/7 as well as a customer service line that is staffed Monday-Friday from 9 AM – 9 PM EST.
All hearing aids come with a 45-day return policy if you're not 100 percent satisfied. This is longer than most manufacturer’s 30-day return option. Depending on the model you purchase, the hearing aids come with a one- or two-year warranty that will cover any manufacturer defects.
Buyer’s Tip: If you are a federal employee, you may be eligible for Eargo hearing aids through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB program).
Eargo is a very interesting “disruptive” technology in hearing aids. While not the first “stock” in the ear hearing aid, their ability to provide an acoustically non-occluding “open” fit, rechargeability, and synchronous remote programming make it a product to at least look at.
Eargo has done a good job in my opinion of focusing their product features and configurations to the majority of first-time users with early-onset hearing loss.
I give them a thumbs up for price and convenience. I like that their online test was speech-based and used background noise, and it appears that the initial issues with the test have been corrected. They appear to have good folks on the support side; they were very helpful and patient with me during my inquiries. Remember that Eargo is not appropriate for more severe hearing loss or older adults who rely on Hearing Assistive Technologies like telecoils, remote microphones, and media streaming. Eargo is certainly worth looking at if you’re in the early stages of hearing loss. Check out my interview with Jeff Hoyt on that below.
The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 88, 813. (1990). Age changes in pure‐tone hearing thresholds in a longitudinal study of normal human aging.