Bose is dipping into hearing aids for the first time, and they promise a big change in how you buy the assistive audio equipment. The company has introduced SoundControl wearables that it says are the first FDA-cleared hearing aids sold directly to customers. You don't have to visit a doctor, get a prescription or otherwise talk to an expert to buy and use them.
Not surprisingly, the aids take advantage of Bose's experience with personal audio. They center around a CustomTune feature in the companion mobile app that personalizes volume levels, tone, treble and bass for your ears within 30 minutes. You can magnify quiet sounds to avoid strain, or highlight vocal frequencies to better hear the people around you. A Focus feature lets you concentrate on specific areas, such as the front when you're in conversations or all around you when you're strolling through the park.
You can still schedule free video appointments if you'd like help, Bose added.
You can expect a familiar, lightweight (0.1oz) behind-the-ear design that uses the same zinc-air batteries you'd typically buy for other hearing aids. Bose expects about four days of use with a typical 14 hours per day. They're resistant to rain and other "light exposure" to water. And no, they don't play music or handle calls — they're very much focused on hearing improvements.
Bose will start selling SoundControl in Massachusetts, Montana, the Carolinas and Texas on May 18th for $850. More states are coming, the company said. That's not a trivial expense, but it may be justifiable if you'd rather not travel across town (especially during a pandemic) to regain your hearing.
The audio giant's entry into hearing aids isn't completely surprising. Jabra's parent GN Group is a hearing aid manufacturer and has rolled a hearing test into recent earbuds. Sennheiser, meanwhile, just sold its consumer audio business to a hearing aid specialist. The market for audio assistance has been heating up for a while, and Bose is entering right as the field about to get particularly competitive.