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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

The Eargo Neo - First Impressions

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


We've been hearing (pardon the pun) a lot of buzz about the Eargo Neo. As a hearing aid wearer, I've always been interested in new technology. Since this device has a 45-day return period* I figured I didn't have a lot to lose by giving them a try.

Warning: This is going to be long because I have a lot of background to share. I researched like crazy (as is usual for me) before I made the purchase.

This is a Class 1 FDA-Approved hearing device for mild to moderate hearing loss. This means it can be legally called a hearing aid, unlike the myriad of amplifiers and boosters on the market. The difference is that anyone can order a pair without going through an audiologist. Yep, there are pros and cons to that, and I'll go over those later on.

I ordered a pair off of Amazon (fulfilled by Eargo) and sprung for two-day shipping. They arrived overnight! Joy! Well, almost. I spent the better part of the day stalking tracking the UPS delivery because these require a signature. They finally showed up at 7:30 yesterday evening.

This is the basic equipment:

Eargo1.jpg

That little round box is for storage and charging, just like Air Pods. It also has a Bluetooth chip inside to connect to the phone. The app is fairly basic, but it will allow you to change the program without whacking your ear (more on that in a bit) and will allow their on-staff hearing professionals to send updates through your phone to the devices. 

Also in the box are a USB-C cable and charger, a Quick Start Guide, a microfiber cloth, a cleaning brush, regular and large sized Flexi Palms, and an earwax guard dispenser.

Sadly, there is no Bluetooth streaming, but that's not a common feature on such small devices. How small are they? Here is one next to a quarter for size reference:

Eargo2.jpg

That's fine and dandy, but how does it compare to a regular behind the ear model? Let's take a look:

Eargo3.jpg

Dang, that's small. Of course, hearing aids that fit in the ear canal are getting really tiny, but this was still cool to see.

That "pinecone" thing on the end is called a Flexi Palm. It's made of silicone and is fairly comfortable. They ship fitted with the medium size, but there are larger ones in the box. This allows for an open fit while providing more support for high range hearing assistance. From what I've read, it's not really good for people with more than minimal low-range hearing loss. Most age-related loss is in the high frequencies.

So, how are they working out? Pairing has been an utter failure. The first try produced a serial number mismatch error. I gave it an hour and tried again, and that time the app couldn't even find the charger. Oh, yes, I tried the usual stuff, so I used the app to contact customer support.

They promise a welcome e-mail and phone call, but I figured those would come today. They never arrived, so I initiated a chat when their bot came online. Their bot had a human call me. I think I had the call in ten or 15 minutes. She went through the troubleshooting steps and said she was going to have someone else call me. About ten minutes later the second person called and we went through the steps again. I think that first call was my welcome call, now that I look back on it. Oops. Anyway, after the second call they arranged an appointment for an app specialist to call and go through more troubleshooting steps. 

The call came through at the appointed time, and we got through all the steps and she said it was likely a bad Bluetooth chip. They're sending a new one along with pre-paid return packaging.

As part of the welcome call, the licensed hearing professional is supposed to talk about your hearing needs and make any any initial adjustments. Mine is supposed to be following up later this afternoon, but since she can't make any adjustments they've extended my return period by two weeks.

Then my daily spam report arrived and I discovered several emails from Eargo stuck in my spam filter. They'd started emailing me this morning right about the time I contacted them. Well, that's embarrassing. I didn't think about that because the reply to the email I sent to support last night asking about the charger had come right through. Go figure.

So, how do they work? Well, for the first day, I'm mildly impressed. Voices sound a bit tinny to me, but they can work on that, but it won't be until after the new charger arrives. I did pretty well with the TV last night and I wore them while I did my morning errands. Adjustments will be needed, but right out of the box they ain't bad.

The devices have four programs. I've read that the second two do more noise reduction. I'll be anxious to check that out. Noisy settings have been the bane of my hearing aid experience, and a big reason I wanted to try these. In order to change the program I have to tap on the outside of my ear. This means if you see me whacking myself on the side of the head, it's probably not anything to be concerned about. I'm just adjusting my Eargos. As I said above, the programs can also be changed from the app. Also, the program in each ear can be changed independently. 

At this point you may be asking how they determine what adjustments to make. I kinda wondered if they just didn't roll a D20 and see what came up, but there's more science involved. The devices collect data about what's going on around me. I don't think they're actually recording what's going on. They're too small for that. But that data gets stored in the charger when the hearing aids are docked, and that data can be sent to Eargo. The hearing professionals can analyze and make adjustments based on what they see in the data and from reports from the customer.

At least that's how I think it works. I plan to get more details during my next call. Y'all know me, I'm enough of a geek that I have to know how these things work.

So far the customer service has been excellent, and the reps have been a joy to work with. This company has a bit of an attitude when it comes to dealing with hearing loss and pitching their product. It's a bit snarky, and that's okay. I'm a snarky person, and it's a bit of a fresh attitude. There's a sense of humor, and it shows when dealing with their reps, too.

There are a couple of things to be aware of if you're interested. First, you can order directly from Eargo and get free shipping, or you can order from Amazon and pay an extra $25. They also offer a free, non-working trial pair so you can test the fit.

So, what are the downsides? One possible downside is the price. The Neo is $2,750, but there's a $200 off deal going on right now, and that's also available on Amazon. That's still less than a lot of hearing aids on the market, but more expensive than the low-end models from say, Costco. While it's my understanding that their licensed hearing professionals are audiologists, you're not going to get the same in-depth service you would get at an office. They certainly can't look in your ears with an otoscope and see if they're clogged with earwax. The other downside is that some of their accessories ain't cheap. Don't lose your charger! The warranty is one year.  You'll do better on that front with hearing aids from an audiologist. Like most of the ones you buy from an audiologist, you do get free lifetime support. 

Eargo has two other, somewhat less expensive models, and I suggest you check them out. I went for the Neo partly because of the technology (the noise reduction in particular), but also due to the size. If I'm going to get an in-canal device, I might as well get one that's tiny.

Am I going to keep them? Well, I have several killer tests planned over the next month or so. There will be crowded restaurants, my bowling league, and FenCon next month. I'll be really impressed if I can hear better in those situations. The acid test, of course, will be how well I hear my husband. I hear all the low frequencies, but not the higher ones, and it sounds to me like he's mumbling. We shall see - or more accurately, hear - what happens.

And finally, the standard disclaimer. I purchased these and receive no compensation from Eargo. This is how I roll. If I haven't purchased any item I review, then I've probably borrowed it from a friend. This site takes no advertising. But if you want to throw a couple of bucks my way, I won't complain. There's a link!

*A restocking fee applies, but apparently not through Amazon. But you do pay for shipping on Amazon.

Filed under: Hearing   Eargo         
8/16/2019 2:12:27 PM
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