On October 15, 2020, I received an email from the Hearing Review, a news site covering all things hearing related, which cheered on a strong recovery of hearing aid sales in recent months.1 This is good news for people who sell hearing aids, and it's also exciting for those who need them. In the last few years, I've noticed more options popping up on the market to allow people who need hearing aids to purchase them in more convenient and affordable ways. New technology, features, and online hearing aids have made it easier than ever before for seniors to find a hearing solution customized to their specific needs.
As we look at the hardware options out there, there aren't many significant differences, especially when looking across the same technology levels of the “Big Six” international manufacturers. I recently had the opportunity to speak at length with the CEO of Embrace Hearing, Tim Wright, who provided a refreshing perspective on hearing aid technology and the current market. According to Embrace, getting hearing aids is much less about technology and almost entirely about customer experience. This is where Embrace Hearing strives to set itself apart.
Unlike traditional hearing aid companies that sell their products through in-person hearing clinics, Embrace sells their hearing aids directly to consumers on their website. Rather than going into an office, Embrace uploads your most recent audiogram results from a hearing clinic into their system to get you fitted for your hearing aids. If you haven't had an audiogram recently, they offer an online test users can take; however, per Mr. Wright, they really prefer to use a more comprehensive test from an audiologist for the highest accuracy. This puts them ahead of most other top online hearing aid providers in terms of having an Audiologist custom program your hearing aids to the results of your test.
Embrace can't perform Real Ear Measurements (REM), which is the preferred “best practice” for the industry. To be fair, less than 30 percent of traditional face-to-face fittings include this measurement, so I don't really ding them too hard for that.
Embrace's current product line features technology manufactured by Sonova and Signia, including two RIC (Receiver-In-Canal) and one universal-fit CIC (Completely-In-Canal) device ranging in price from $599 to $1299 per ear. These products are suitable for mild to severe hearing loss, and all products have a 45-day return option. Let's take a look at Embrace's three hearing aid families below!
Embrace's X-Series hearing aids are based on the Phonak Marvel chip and include integrated Bluetooth streaming for both iOS and Android devices. That means they're a solid option for those who want to stream sound from their phone, like music, videos, or phone calls, straight to their hearing aids. Prices range from $899 to $1299 each, and they are available in standard Zinc-Air or Lithium Ion Rechargeable systems.
X-Series hearing aids are compatible with Embrace's TV Streamer ($199) to improve speech understanding from the television, particularly in large reverberant rooms. In addition to buttons on the hearing aids, a smartphone app is included to provide a remote control for these devices, so you can easily adjust settings throughout your day. All X-series devices have a three-year warranty, which is one of the most extended warranties in the industry.
The A-Series is built on a Unitron Moxi platform and provides excellent hearing at a lower price. These devices come in three technology levels designed for different levels of listening complexity. Whether you spend most of your time in noisy environments, quiet ones, or a mix of both, there's a model for your needs. A-Series hearing aids range in price from $599 to $1099 each. There are both disposable battery and rechargeable options available.
These devices are compatible with a standalone remote control for those who don't want to control their devices with a smartphone, a remote plus Bluetooth re-broadcaster, and a TV streamer. All A-Series devices carry a two-year warranty.
For those who want an in-the-ear solution, the C-Series offers two technology levels of the Signia/Rexton CIC. This is designed to fit most ears with a range of user-selectable silicone sleeves for the best fit. Both models use #10 Zinc-Air batteries and are compatible with a free smartphone app and the “Standard Remote.” C-Series hearing aids range in price from $949 to $1249 each and have a three-year warranty.
Embrace's online sales model allows them to offer return policies, warranties, and technology similar to more traditional brick-and-mortar brands at a discount of around 50 percent. Readers of our other reviews will see that from a “hardware” perspective, Embrace sells higher end models than other “white label” manufacturers like Lively and Audicus.
The thing that sets Embrace apart is their “concierge” approach to hearing care. According to the company, when you send in your audiogram, an Embrace audiologist will not only program your hearing aids, but they'll also be your point of contact for any future needs. If you have questions or need your hearing aids adjusted, your audiologist will be there to assist you. This personalized approach is similar to the relationship you hopefully develop with a more traditional brick-and-mortar clinic but offers the advantage of 24/7 support.
Embrace has a nicely laid out website with several detailed “how-to” videos, covering all the main topics of “hearing aid orientation” usually covered at a face-to-face fitting. These are well-shot videos, but one important thing to note is that I didn't see any way to enable closed captions. For a visual learner like myself, this was no problem, but I can imagine some folks would really need the closed captions. However, if you're looking for visual content, these videos address many common questions and concerns you may have.
As we continue to navigate COVID-19 restrictions, online companies like Embrace are an excellent option for new and experienced users. Given that they use well-proven technology from reputable manufacturers, I have no qualms about giving them the thumbs up for consideration.
From a technology standpoint, I would like to see at least one remote microphone offered, but I was very pleased that all of their RIC devices have telecoils. Overall, Embrace is an excellent option for most folks with mild to severe hearing loss who want personalized attention and seniors who can't or aren't comfortable with face-to-face care at this time.
Hearing Review. (2020). Hearing aid sales.
Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt
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