Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Earphones That Tune Themselves to Your Hearing

My hearing has gotten so bad that I need to watch TV with the subtitles on, so I finally had my ears tested. It seems I've lost 50% of my high-frequency hearing, surely due to many years spent standing in front of blaring trumpeters and screaming guitar amps. This is a price musicians pay, sort of like punchy aging boxers.

The audiologist recommended a hearing aid at $7200/pair (minus whatever my health insurance pays), with practical effectiveness unknown. It would primarily help for conversation, rather than for music or TV viewing. At least it's small and subtle; not an ear-filling beige monstrosity.

I've been musing about fiddling with equalizers to try to boost my missing frequencies with music and TV, when out of nowhere I read about a brand new, revolutionary product called Even. These are earbuds that adjust themselves to fill in gaps (i.e. boost frequencies you have trouble with). They're being marketed as a mainstream consumer gadget rather than for people like me, because hearing aids are a highly regulated market (so the company has to tread very carefully in their claims). But I imagine this might be a great quick and dirty solution for listening to music from my iPhone, and for hooking up to the audio output of my TV. I can't wait to try them. My decline has been too gradual to notice, so I'm excited to hear what I've been missing.

If your hearing's even just a little dodgy, this might be something to try. A major bonus is that you can listen softer, because you no longer need to boost the entire volume to hear the missing parts. This will help keep your hearing healthy longer!

Read Walt Mossberg's review, and order from their web site for a $99 introductory price. There's a 30-day money back return policy.

Downside: the next model of iPhone will probably eliminate the standard headphone plug (which these, of course, use), forcing all earphones to use the lightning plug. But that would be a good thing for Even, because 1. their headphones need recharging (else they conk out after nine hours), and the lightning port, unlike the headphone plug, is able to charge, and 2. lightning plug allows for much, much better sound. So if Enter works for me, I'll happily buy another set if they design a lightning version (they say they will; see their FAQ).

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