Until fairly recently, the hearing aid industry was dominated by the “Big Six” manufacturers (GN ReSound, Oticon, Phonak, Signia, Starkey, and Widex), and distributed primarily through store-front clinics. A few attempts have been made to break that model by providing hearing aids that can be purchased online.
Lively is one provider that has gained some traction with online direct-to-consumer sales. Their devices are currently limited to people with mild to moderate hearing loss, but the hearing aids have solid technology and a good online support system.
Lively hearing aids are made by GN ReSound, a company that also manufactures Beltone hearing aids. Unlike Beltone, which offers ReSound’s entire line of hearing aids, Lively only offers receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids. ReSound’s underlying hearing aid technology has been very successful with my patients over almost 30 years, and their accessories do a very good job of mitigating the negative effects of distance, reverberation, and background noise. Read on as I detail my personal experience with Lively hearing aids!
The on-line selection process is a combination of a well-written hearing and lifestyle questionnaire and a basic online hearing test designed by Harvey Abrams, Ph.D. who I know and for whom I have great respect. They also offer the option to upload a scanned audiogram if you prefer.
Did You Know: Did You Know? Lively is one of our top picks for hearing aids in 2022. Visit our list of the best hearing aids to learn more!
I took the online test and received results very similar to what I know my hearing to be. Because I still have very good hearing (knock on wood), I cheated a little and took the test with my iPad speakers instead of my studio-quality insert earphones. I did this to see how sensitive the online test was, and I was impressed. When you use speakers, the room acoustics make certain sounds harder to hear, which is why they prefer you to use earphones. I’ve done this “cheat” before and compared it to insert earphone data, so I’m comfortable saying the Lively test is accurate enough to get you a good initial fit.
Following the test, you can watch a video explaining your results. Lively gets a thumbs up for open captioning the video. The test itself is pretty straightforward, and I imagine that less tech-savvy folks wouldn't have much difficulty with it.
Here are Lively's results from my test:
The results page is not a typical audiogram, but rather a functional descriptor of hearing. I like this because one of the things I spend a lot of time doing in clinical practice is explaining an audiogram graph that doesn't really follow any rules of graphing.
Finally, I can click on a video and Lively’s Head of Audiology explains my results. This is not a truly individualized explanation, but they clearly have several videos based on common patterns of hearing loss. Again, kudos for the open captions.
To ease the pocketbook, Lively is offering their hearing aids at a pretty significant discount compared to buying the ReSound branded version from a local dispenser or audiologist. They also provide financing options, which is great for older adults who can't fork over the full amount up front. Lively's rechargeable bundle currently retails for $1,595 or $52 per month if you go with the financing option. The battery-operated option costs $1,195 or $39 per month. For more pricing information and details on how to get the best deal with Lively, visit our Lively hearing aid pricing guide.
Currently, Lively offers a private-labeled ReSound RIC device in a rechargeable option, called the Lively 2 Plus, or a #312 zinc-air battery-powered model, the Lively 2 Lite. These devices are “Made for iPhone” which means they use Apple’s proprietary version of Bluetooth LE to stream directly to iPhones, iPads, and iPods. There are also a few Android devices that can link up this way, and Lively provides handy compatibility charts on their website.
They have all the features you need, including directional microphones for noise reduction, automatic and manual programs to easily adjust your devices in various settings, feedback control, and enough adjustment channels to allow Lively’s audiologists to match the shape and severity of your loss very well.
Because the devices themselves are ReSound, I can speak with confidence to both the build quality and the appropriateness of the amplifiers for people within the target audience. What’s really nice and somewhat different is that Lively offers three years of online support with a remote audiologist. This was a great idea even before COVID-19, but it's even more useful now for those who still don't want to make the trek to an in-person office.
I downloaded and installed the Lively App which, not surprisingly, is exactly the same as the ReSound/Beltone App. It provides basic volume and program control as well as more advanced features like custom frequency sharing, mixing for accessories, and tinnitus management. You can also adjust your hearing aid settings through the app.
On the hearing aid accessory side, Lively offers ReSound’s most popular wireless devices: the TV Streamer, MultiMic, and Phone Clip.
All of these accessories use the 2.4 GHz wireless platform and allow users to hear and understand speech more accurately in the presence of background noise or when the source, like a TV, is beyond the ideal sweet spot for hearing aids (six feet). These devices are easy to configure and use, and they are, in my clinical experience, quite durable and provide a lot of benefits. I rarely sell only hearing aids, preferring instead to provide “hearing systems” that come with accessories and follow-up care. Because Lively’s prices are quite low for industry and accessory prices are very average (there’s historically very little markup on accessories), I think the company is an excellent option for the budget-conscious user.
If you or a loved one have mild to moderate hearing loss and are thinking about diving in with your first hearing aid, I recommend checking Lively out.
Also, I hope that we continue to see more companies like Lively offering alternatives to the typical brick and mortar hearing aid shop. It's long been a problem that only 20% of people who need hearing aids get them. I've been convinced for some time that it's much less about the technology than the limited purchasing options. Lively and others like them will hopefully provide market data to not only support that theory (I love it when I guess right) but more importantly, encourage more people with early-onset hearing loss to treat it before it erodes their interpersonal relationships and health-related quality of life.