Lively hearing aids review
Can you get legitimate medical care online? Well, it depends on the type of care you need.
This year has seen an upsurge in online healthcare, and now, many of us are wondering just how much of our medical needs can be taken care of virtually.
For example, if you can skip a visit to the optometrist by buying standard reading glasses online, can you skip a visit to the audiologist and get hearing aids online that will meet your needs?
We took a look at Lively, a company that allows you to buy hearing aids online without the need to drive to a doctor's office, to see if their online test can help you order personalized hearing aids.
Healthcare going virtual
At one point, picking up a pair of over-the-counter glasses so you could comfortably read a book seemed outlandish. Now, when things get blurry, many aging individuals who have no other vision problems simply visit a local pharmacy or go online to pick out a pair of reading glasses. That practice has become the norm.
The same thing is happening with braces. You can take a mold of your teeth and order a set of progressive aligners to straighten your bite without ever stepping into an orthodontist's office.
Next on the list is hearing aids. With Lively's approach, it's possible for certain individuals with hearing loss to be able to hear more clearly once again without a prescription and at a lower cost.
Lively is still a fairly new company. The official launch was Jan. 23, 2019, and OTC hearing aids certainly haven't been around as long as reading glasses or even braces -- but the convenience is certainly appealing.
What are Lively hearing aids?
Lively hearing aids are behind-the-ear hearing aids that are designed to work for individuals with mild to moderate bilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in both ears).
They can be controlled with Lively's app, which is available for both Apple and Android smart devices. The app pairs your smart device with the hearing aids via Bluetooth so you can either manually fine-tune the individual settings or select a convenient preset such as office environment, restaurant, or another typical situation.
Since these devices are designed to be worn in both ears, they can also be used to stream music, listen to audio, and make calls from your smartphone. Lively hearing aids feature directional microphones, which are meant to help the wearer focus on speech even when they are in noisy environments. They can employ noise-blocking technology to help reduce the distraction caused by tinnitus.
These hearing aids are not as fine-tuned to the individual as traditional prescription hearing aids, for which the audiology testing process involves up-to-date, complex medical technology. Rather, there's an at-home online hearing test that determines whether or not you might need a hearing aid, meaning there's room for error or the possibility that something might be missed.
Our tester reported that their hearing was improved when wearing Lively's hearing aids compared to not. But one big concern is that hearing loss is extremely individualized, so it's impossible to know how helpful Lively hearing aids will be in your particular case until you try them. Lively will only work for those with low to moderate hearing loss.
How does the online hearing test work?
The hearing assessment that Lively employs is a simple test that targets four specific tones at a variety of volumes. The test needs to be performed in a quiet, isolated space, such as your bedroom. All you need is a smartphone, a tablet, or a computer that can connect to the internet and a pair of headphones. According to Lively, neither the style nor the quality of the headphones will affect the outcome of the test.
The specific frequencies and hearing thresholds that Lively tests are ones that all fall within the range of human speech. If you have any difficulty passing this hearing test, chances are that you also have difficulty understanding the dialogue in a movie or you have trouble following a conversation in a noisy environment. One of Lively's audiologists reviews your test results, outlines them for you, and explains the impact your impairment could have on understanding speech.
It is important to point out that the online test is limited and does not include bone conduction, middle ear muscle reflex, tympanometry, or other tests that you might receive during an in-person ear exam. However, if the Lively audiologist detects any red flags in your test results, the company may suggest an alternative course of action.
What does the audiologist do with my test results?
The Lively audiologist will explain if and how a hearing aid could benefit you. They will then create an individualized hearing profile that will be used to program and personalize your Lively hearing aid. However, as mentioned before, this virtual hearing test is not as accurate or extensive as an in-person test, so there is room for error.
How much do Lively hearing aids cost?
Prescription hearing aids can cost as much as $6,000 or more for a single device. The Lively Bundle is $2,250.
This bundle is available with a 100-day money-back guarantee, and it includes two hearing aids with rechargeable batteries (30 hours with three hours of charge), a case, the app, three years of follow-up care with a Lively audiologist, a limited three-year warranty, and three years of loss and damage protection (with a $195 deductible that can only be used once). Alternatively, if you'd like to save some money upfront, the non-rechargeable model comes with a year's supply of batteries and costs $1,850, and you will have to purchase new batteries after the first year.
Our tester was concerned about the time limit on follow-up care with a Lively audiologist, as hearing loss is a lifelong issue and you will need to seek ongoing medical attention after the three years of care from Lively has expired. This might mean that Lively is just a temporary fix until you can upgrade to a prescription hearing aid.
Note: Insurance coverage for hearing aids can be very limited and vary greatly from plan to plan. It is always best to check with your carrier to see if you may be entitled to any reimbursement.
Lively hearing aid pros
Lively hearing aids currently offer the best value on the market for an OTC Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP). These types of models differ from higher tech devices, which require much closer monitoring by audiologists, though this means that you aren't receiving the same level of personalized care. The process can be done completely in the comfort of your own home. The quality of the Lively product and the level of the service that is offered are available at roughly 50 percent below the average costs.
Lively hearing aid cons
The success achieved with Lively's product will be dependent on the individual's specific situation. The more advanced and personalized the technology, the better the hearing aids will allow you to hear speech over background noise, so if you have significant hearing loss, then Lively may not be the answer.
Lively's hearing aids are a convenient and affordable option for people with low to moderate hearing loss, but they're not ever going to be as good as the more expensive, highly personalized hearing aids you'd get with a prescription. All in all, this online process for ordering hearing aids is about as good as it could be considering the lack of medical equipment and in-person consultation, but you shouldn't expect Lively to be a perfect stand-in for traditional hearing aids.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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