The Olive SmartEar Plus is the second Olive Union model. The first model, the Olive Union, didn’t just give this company its name, but was one of the first hearing aids for streaming music. It was also started with a crowdfunding campaign, just like its newer models. The SmartEar Plus is the second model from this young company, and offers plenty of improvements on the technical side of aiding your hearing.
That doesn’t mean everything has changed. You can still use the Olive SmartEar Plus to stream music or other audio from your phone straight to your hearing aids, and the Bluetooth functionality still lets you control the hearing aids from your phone. But the SmartEar really offers a lot in comparison to the earlier model. Olive has really upgraded the hearing aid part of the equation. The Olive Union was a hearing aid with a gimmick, but in practice it turned out to be a wireless headphone with a little bit of hearing aid. The SmartEar has the technology to truly offer both.
How this new one works in practice, you’ll read below in this Olive SmartEar review. I’ll discuss the main features of the Olive SmartEar, list some possible downsides, and give you a buying recommendation after I’ve gone through some alternatives for this model. As always, I’ll end with a visual review, which summarizes everything you’ve read before (or you can skip to the end here).
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The Olive SmartEar’s main feature is that it combines a normal hearing aid with high-tech earbuds. That means the SmartEar looks like you’d simply listen to music from your phone, but under the hood there’s also a fully functioning hearing aid. This concept isn’t new anymore. The Olive Union, the first model by this company, was one of the first to introduce streaming functionalities to hearing aids, but nowadays you’ve got plenty of choice (more on that later).
Another key feature for the SmartEar is an important departure from its earlier model. The Olive Union combined two devices, but left you with a fine way to stream music and a disappointing hearing aid. It’s that last issue that the SmartEar addresses. This model comes with the benefits of Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids: a self-fitting feature, ways to control the sound from your smartphone, and better sound quality than before.
Where the SmartEar excels is in its battery life. A full battery gives you seven hours of streaming, which edges the competition at the moment. At the same time, this is an area in hearing aids where technology develops rapidly. The impressive seven hours of streaming could be outdated by tomorrow.
Lastly, the design stands out. Following a wider trend in hearing aids, these hearing aids look like regular wireless earbuds.
Who is this hearing aid for?
The origin story and the design of the SmartEar make this a hipper hearing aid than most. The first version was funded as a crowdfunding project and also looked like a pair of earbuds. Behind the hip details of the Olive, the SmartEar is clearly aimed at people who want to stream music to their hearing aids. This isn’t a revolutionary feature anymore, but the Olive SmartEar arguably does it better than its competitors.
How well does the Olive SmartEar work?
Other than the main features, the SmartEar offers all the bells and whistles we expect: noise reduction, feedback cancellation, and three different listening modes. You set up the Olive SmartEar with your smartphone with the self-test. After your hearing aids are set up, you can still adjust volume and sound settings through the app.
To combat the sticker shock some readers might experience, Olive offers two ways to take it easy: a trial period and monthly payments. The trial period costs $29 for two weeks. After that time you decide to either send them back or keep them and pay the rest. Monthly payments allow you to split the bill into indefinite $89 payment. Especially the trial period seems a bit short – it usually takes around four weeks to get used to new hearing aids.
What’s not to like about the Olive SmartEar?
The price. It technically shouldn’t even be allowed on this website, since it’s just over $1,000. And although the Olive SmartEar is better than every competitor in this league, you might wonder if the better battery life and better all round quality is worth the price difference (of up to $700).
According to feedback from other users, the music quality isn’t top notch. If I’m honest, I doubt that’s a primary concern for most buyers. If you need the hearing aid part of the earbud, there probably is some loss of quality when you’re listening to music either way.
Alternatives for the Olive SmartEar hearing aids
The Olive Union, the previous hearing aid from this company, was a revolutionary device. It was the first non-prescription hearing aid that let you stream music and other audio to your hearing aids. This function is no longer revolutionary, but commonplace in prescription hearing aids.
Other OTC hearing aids are quick to follow. Right now, the BT Omni and BT-Pods are two other devices that offer the same functionality. And these hearing aids deliver the same key features as the Olive SmartEar for a lot less – $329 and $229 respectively. This price doesn’t give you the quality of the Olive SmartEar, but it means that there are budget options available.
A more middle of the road option is the Lucid Hearing Engage, which costs around $800 for the rechargeable model or $600 for conventional batteries. For a much better hearing aid that costs a little less (but doesn’t offer streaming), the Lexie B2 Bose is the best choice.
Should you buy the Olive SmartEar hearing aids?
It depends. If you’re looking for the best device that allows you to listen to the audio from your smartphone through your hearing aids, then yes. Just know what you’re getting. If you’re looking for the single best hearing aid, you should consider other devices. The Lexie by Bose and MDHearing VOLT MAX miss the audio streaming feature, but offer better allround hearing aids. If you’re looking to stream music, there are better earbuds out there, too.
However, if you want the best quality that combines both, the Olive SmartEar is your best bet.
At the time of writing, the Olive SmartEar Plus costs just over $1000. However, the company offers a payment plan for $89 a month for 12 months (total price $1068).
On Amazon, there is a SmartEar that seems related, and very well could be (Olive has Korean roots). It’s hard to tell the precise difference, but the SmartEat does give you only one device.