L​ess expensive than a typical hearing aid

Long ago I used to have incredibly good hearing but, like many of you, I’ve gone to many car races, driven countless miles at highway speeds with the windows open and enjoyed listening to loud music on car audio systems all of my adult life. Unfortunately, listening to those loud noises has left me with permanently impaired hearing.

J​an wearing heavy-duty hearing protection (ear muffs) while covering Red Bull Global Rallycross

My hearing is not terrible, but it is bad enough that I have trouble discerning speech on the radio while driving my Miata (even with the top up), and when I sit too far away from the T.V. at home. To compensate for that, I crank the volume way up, making my hearing even worse. Likewise, I often have to ask people to repeat themselves when they speak to me.

A few months ago, my neighbor in the house next to mine told me that my T.V. was so loud that it was waking up his little children in the middle of the night, when they had to go to school the next day. I felt terrible about that and I immediately took steps to make sure that did not happen again. I turned the volume for the T.V. down so low that I needed to turn on the closed captioning to not miss some of the dialog. I also started regularly using a Bluetooth speaker than plugs into my entertainment system’s Bose audio.

When I cover auto races for my column I wear hearing protection, usually in the form of seriously heavy-duty noise-reducing earmuffs. Noisy internal combustion engines made me especially appreciate the Formula E alternative — an electric formula car racing series.

To address my hearing impairment, I asked the Wear & Hear company to send me a review sample of their BeHear ACCESS personalized hearing amplifier.

B​eHear ACCESS Personalized Hearing Amplifier

This device is intended for people who have mild to moderate hearing loss. In addition to the rechargeable headset (good for up to 13 hours of use), charging cradle and cord, and a carrying pouch, it includes three different sizes of ear hooks and nine different sizes of ear tips to assure a good fit.

T​his is what is inside the BeHear ACCESS box
N​eckband with connectors for charging cradle and direct connection of charging cable

Unlike traditional hearing aids, BeHear is very reasonably priced at $349 on the Wear & Hear website:

Hearing amplification uses for this Bluetooth stereo headset include live conversations, mobile phone calls, playing music, streamed audio, watching television, going to movies and concerts, enjoying the great outdoors and assistive listening functionality (“built-in Telecoil receivers ensure best possible hearing in locales equipped with hearing loop technology”).

More than just a simple sound amplifier, BeHear ACCESS utilizes a dedicated, downloadable, free smartphone app that enables you to self-administer a “personal hearing assessment for automatic adjustment of the sound in each of the operational modes (ambient hearing, phone calls and audio play).” Those parameters are applied to your personal BeHear ACCESS, to fine-tune the amplified sound for your specific hearing. Many reviewers say that the app’s test results are very close to what they were told by professional audiologists. Furthermore, these profiles can be modified in real time.

You can control BeHear ACCESS from the app or directly, using the controls on each of the two control boxes that are suspended from the neck band.

Features include personal sound amplification, to provide dynamic, compressed amplification of ambient sounds; EasyListen™, to slow down speech dynamically during phone conversations; hearing enhancement functions, including noise reduction, echo cancellation and more; and ListenThrough™, to “pass through” important ambient sounds during music playback.

There are six distinctly different, user-selectable hearing profiles: Indoor, Outdoor, Crowd, Live Music, Telecoil (Exclusive) and Telecoil (Transparent), as well as fine sound tuning capabilities.

You’ll find comprehensive “Quick Start” instructions in the box, and a library of video tutorials on the Wear & Hear website.

I listened to several tunes from my iPhone’s music library and the sound was crystal clear. I was able to hear my T.V. while it was playing at a low volume level, suitable for my neighbors’ peace and quiet, as well as that of any post-COVID-19 house guests that I might entertain. I quickly grew accustomed to hearing the amplified sounds of my routine activities, such as walking around my house and working in the kitchen.

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Jan Wagner

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