6 People Share Their Initial Thoughts After Trialing The Jabra Enhance Plus

04/01/2022 | Hearing Aids, Industry News, Patient Resources, Technology

The new Jabra Enhance Plus is what we term here at the office the “non-hearing aid hearing aid” because while the device has hearing aid technology, it looks and acts just like a regular earbud.

I first learned about the Jabra Enhance Plus 18 months ago in a tech talk related to over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. This was driven by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report that was published in 2016 and was rejuvenated by Biden’s executive order.

The order was to the FDA to develop regulations and labeling on a new classification of non-prescription hearing aids that would be available to purchase by consumers without professional engagement. The purpose was to introduce lower-cost entry to hearing aids for consumers.

The Jabra Enhance Plus

I love learning about new technology, particularly technology that is designed to help people hear and connect to their families, friends, and community.

This is opening a whole new pipeline of devices from manufacturers of consumer electronics to manufacturers of medical devices to get into the lucrative market of entry-level amplification.

  • Bose had launched their new “hearing aid,” which was a terrible flop – it didn’t have rechargeability, it had a ton of feedback (whistling), and it didn’t even have basic streaming features.
  • Signia launched a product.
  • Apple AirPods added a transparency mode and developed an app to “test” your hearing to apply mild gain to your AirPods Pros.
  • ReSound’s research team partnered with GN’s consumer electronic group that makes Jabra products to develop a hybrid hearing aid/consumer electronic sometimes referred to as a hearable, a PSAP (Personal Sound Amplifier), or an OTC hearing aid. This partnership has now developed the Jabra Enhance Plus.

Other companies have come out with products that they are marketing as hearing aids, and the FDA has been playing Whac-A-Mole with these illegally labeled products. Whatever you may call their device, it is an electronic device that is not programmed by a licensed hearing healthcare professional.

Audiology & Hearing Aid Associates’ Pilot Study

Six of us recently embarked on a ten-day journey exploring the Jabra Enhance Plus because what better way is there to learn about a product than to wear it yourself and ask others to join you for the drive?

We evaluated the Jabra Enhance Plus product before it was released commercially to the public. Here are our stories.

Beth

One of our Hear for the Holidays winners. She is an art teacher and has been noticing increasing difficulty hearing in a noisy, active classroom. She has normal peripheral hearing.

Beth wore the Jabra Enhance Plus for about an hour a day, primarily while exercising.

  • Pros: She loved the quality of the streaming for phone calls and listening to audiobooks.
  • Cons:
    • She tried the devices in a restaurant while with friends but really struggled to adapt to her own voice.
    • She thought that it was actually harder to focus on the voices she wanted to hear over some of the other sounds being amplified.
    • She really didn’t find them helpful in the classroom like she had hoped, but she admitted that she only tried them once in that setting.

Linda

Has a mild hearing loss. She is cost conscious and is not emotionally ready to need prescription hearing aids.

Linda wore the Jabra Enhance Plus for 5 to 6 hours a day, mostly while watching TV.

  • Pros:
    • She loved how much easier it was to hear the dialogue on TV.
    • She also enjoyed hearing her husband more easily while they were having conversations.
    • She had little difficulty connecting the devices to her app. The most difficult part of the connection that Linda had was remembering her Apple password.
    • She was really impressed with the product and the price.

Jan

Has normal hearing. She shies away from new technology until she can trust it. She is an audiology assistant who orients people to new devices and helps support people with a hearing loss navigate their technology.

I have enjoyed being part of this new technology test.

  • Pros:
    • I am not totally comfortable with new technology but found the setup for Jabra to be easy.
    • The charging was easy.
    • The hearing test was relatively easy.
    • I have normal hearing, therefore I did not experience a lot of amplification.
    • I found the app was user friendly.
  • Cons:
    • After day 2, I did experience right ear canal discomfort and was not able to wear the device for a few days. I feel if the device was a little bit smaller, it would be more comfortable for me. After a few days, I didn’t notice it as much.
    • Sounds seemed muffled.
    • My own voice sounded hollow.

I would recommend these to someone who has a mild to moderate hearing loss who cannot afford hearing aids.

Donna

Has a slight to mild hearing loss; she is a classic “borderline” hearing aid candidate.

Donna wore the devices for 10 – 12 hours every day for ten days.

  • Pros:
    • She loved how much better she heard in group settings and in conversations with friends and family.
    • She found them easy to use.
  • Cons:
    • After a long day, she did notice that her ears would get a little sore.

It’s important to note here that the Jabra Enhance Plus is not made for all day use, so prolonged wear will typically cause discomfort.

Donna thought maybe a smaller prescription hearing aid would be better for her long term, but she thought these self-fitting hearing aids were great. She would definitely consider buying them and even had several of her friends ask where they could buy them.

Tom

Has tinnitus and wears hearing aids. He loves his hearing aids but is always curious about new technology.

Tom was not as happy as Donna after his ten days with the devices. He much preferred his own prescription hearing aids.

  • Pros:
  • Cons:
    • His biggest issue was that he got whistling from them when he turned them up loud enough to hear the TV.
    • He struggled the most with pairing the devices, which may have been because he used his Bluetooth a lot for other things and the Jabra devices did not seem to respond well to intermittent connectivity.

In Tom’s case, he was simply curious to try the technology – but we would not recommend the Jabra Enhance Plus to those who already use prescription hearing aids since they would have an inadequate result with them in comparison.

Erika

Has a slight asymmetric noise notch hearing loss. She is an audiologist.

I wore the device for ten days.

  • Pros:
    • The size and fit.
    • It doesn’t look anything like a hearing aid; it is like a small button Bluetooth or wireless earbud.
    • There is nothing hanging out of the ear to catch on masks.
    • The green, faded yellow, and red indicator lights on the device and the charger are intuitive ways to alert to battery life.
    • The little charging case holds a charge even when it is not plugged in.
    • It is easily portable and fits great in a pocket of my purse, so I can have them with me all the time.
    • The streaming is pretty seamless. It was easy to switch to a call while streaming.
    • The app controls are deceivingly simple. It seems like there should be more, but it is really just the volume up and down.
    • They were a lot more comfortable to wear while reclining and listening to streaming audio than other wireless earbuds that I have used.
    • They enhanced listening when I was watching TV.
  • Cons:
    • The built-in personalization didn’t seem to customize the sound; the filter setting was something I wanted to change frequently, but it is a buried feature in the app.
    • The fit was sort of uncomfortable in one ear, and the selection of domes was not adequate. They moved a lot in my ears with talking.
    • The occlusion effect for my own body noises was significant. I struggled in noisy situations to hear other people over my own body sounds.
    • My voice sounded too far away on the other end of a phone call.
    • The sound quality for phone calls and streaming audio was inferior to that of other wireless earbuds that I use.
    • They don’t connect to my computer, so going between Zoom meetings and phone calls or other activities was cumbersome, and I had to switch devices.

My overall assessment is that there is a place in the consumer electronic world for these cute little hearing enhancers, but they will not yet replace my wireless earbuds.

I look forward to future software updates that will hopefully improve and expand usability (like connecting to my PC for Zoom calls).

Our Conclusion

Now that our pilot study is over, we can see that while the Jabra Enhance Plus is a great choice for some, it is not a good choice for others.

All our users found setup and charging easy. We also loved the streaming feature. Some of us found phone calls, conversations with friends, and TV watching much easier; others did not, saying the wrong sounds were amplified. The price is more affordable.

All in all, the Jabra Enhance Plus is a great addition to the hearing market, and it will be very useful to our patients with a mild to moderate hearing loss who are not ready to wear prescription hearing aids yet.

If you would like to know more about this device or others, contact us to see if you might be a good candidate for them. We love sharing any knowledge we have that will help you on your hearing journey.

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Erika Shakespeare CCC-A

Erika Shakespeare, CCC-A, specializes in pediatric and adult diagnostics and amplification. Working with adults to help manage tinnitus and hearing loss since 2002, she is an expert in both of these areas. Additionally, she is a pediatric audiology mentor and educator for pediatric audiologists across the country and is one of the most respected experts on pediatric audiology.

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