OPINION: I think we can all agree that our hearing is very important. Like sight, hearing is a means of interacting with others and interpreting the world around us. Without it, our means of deciphering information from what’s around is massively diminished.
At Trusted, we’ve tried to keep an eye on this area of the market as hearing health becomes more of a focus. From time to time we’ve reviewed products that look to offer better listening experiences, whether it’s Sony’s Wireless Handy speaker units or even volume limited kid’s headphones from the likes of Planet Buddies. Manufacturers are constantly broaching the subject, whether it’s Sennheiser with its range of ‘headphones’ to Bose’s SoundControl Hearing Aids, to Apple enabling its AirPods to be used as hearing aids.
In recent weeks, I’ve been trying out a pair of neckband earphones called the Voice Selector Converse from Nuance Hearing, an Israeli based hearing company. They aim to make it easier for those with impaired hearing to be able hear what’s around them, attempting to solve the ‘Cocktail Party effect’ where a person is inundated by sounds coming from every direction and isn’t sure on what to focus on.
The earphones come with a table mic that scans the area around it and picks out the dominant person who’s speaking, with a light that indicates the direction the sound is coming from visible on the mic, making it easier to face that person and hold a conversation. Having had the team all speak at once it’s able to pick out the loudest person consistently.
In short, the headphones work well in elevating other people’s voices. Tonally it’s clear and crisp, with a sharpness that does verge on sibilance at times, whether that’s listening to a TV via a Bluetooth connection or wearing them during the team’s daily Zoom calls with people who aren’t in the office.
Listening to music won’t beat out a pair of dedicated headphones but the performance of the Voice Selector Converse is an acceptable one, as it is watching a TV show like Person of Interest, with good vocal clarity and decent bass levels as well.
The earphones’ noise isolating design naturally blocks out some ambient sounds, like air conditioning, which helps in terms of focus, and it’s sharp and detailed enough to pick up my own voice and movements, as well as hear other people’s sniffles from across a table. Though I guess for some that won’t be too appealing…
With Sennheiser’s TV Clear earbuds, Yamaha’s Listening Care technology, and Android and iOS baking in hearing accessibility features, audio brands and platforms are taking hearing health seriously, and so should we. Hearing ability inevitably wanes as we get older, and if there is a stigma or ignorance about seeking solutions to improving our hearing abilities, then I think those drawbridges/excuses are slowly coming down.
If you need help, options are becoming more readily available, and in the form of Nuance Hearing’s Voice Selector Converse, they work well in a real-world context. We shouldn’t have to listen to music loudly to hear all the details nor should anyone feel isolated because of hearing impairments. We should take care of our hearing better, but if we encounter issues then at least we have a range of devices to help us recover.