The Olive Union Pro 2 in 1 is one of the most exciting hearing aids I’ve seen in a long time. Not because it’s amazing, but because it solves a common problem. You see, most bluetooth hearing aids allow you to regulate your hearing aids from your smartphone. Then there are bluetooth devices that allow you to play music directly into your ear. Frustratingly, these functions had never been combined to my knowledge.
Up to now. The Olive Union Pro 2 in 1 is aptly named, because it offers you earbuds and direct-to-customer hearing aids in one device. Sounds like a union made to last. But sometimes, combining two separate good devices means you end up with one mediocre device. How well does the Olive work as a hearing aid? And how good of an earbud is it?
In this review for the Olive Union Pro, you’ll find the answer to these questions and then some. As always, I’ve captured the highlights of the review in a visual summary that takes 30 seconds to scan. You find the summary at the bottom of this page. For an overview of all these 30-second reviews, visit my website where all hearing aids are ranked.
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Key features of the Olive Union Pro 2 in 1
It’s hard to miss the key feature of the Olive Union Pro: it combines music earbuds with hearing aids. Aesthetically, you’d call them earbuds with a hearing aid function. Behind the scenes, however, it’s the other way around. The Olive is a hearing aid first, and a pair of earbuds second. You have to switch between the two modes (which makes sense, because the rest of the world does, too).
Another key feature is that the Olive is rechargeable. It comes in a neat charging case. Pop the little earbuds in the charging case and you’ll get 18 hours of use for every case charged (more on that later). As we’ve seen in similar models, you charge the case once, which in turn charges the earbuds.
Who is this hearing amplifier for?
The smartest thing about the Olive is that it combines two Bluetooth functionalities: regulating your hearing aids and listening to music from your phone. That first function isn’t new; there are plenty of hearing aids that allow you to adjust your volume and settings on your phone. They usually come with a warning, though, that you can’t play music using the Bluetooth functionality.
The Olive is made for people who always wished they could. It’s also popular among people who don’t like the hearing aid stigma and can pretend they’re listening to music in public. I feel that’s a shame, but I understand getting hearing aids can be a big step. It’s better to get hearing aids and acknowledge the stigma than not get any at all.
How well does the Olive Union Pro 2 in 1 work?
As a music listening device, the Olive Union Pro 2 in 1 works like a charm. They have many of the same options as the fancy Apple iPods Pro, while offering app support that helps you adjust the volume and the equalizer. Pretty neat. The app also feels extensive when it comes to controlling the hearing aid part of the Olive. There are three listening modes, and you set up the device using a hearing test in the app.
Performance-wise, the Olive reminds me of cheap models from a few years ago: they work alright, until you need a higher volume, at which point the chance of feedback gets too high. If you’re buying $300 hearing aids, you can get a quality that far exceeds that of the Olive Union.
What’s not to like about the Olive Union Pro 2 in 1?
The Olive was introduced as a crowdfunding campaign, where people donate small amounts of money to manufacture a product. It seems that most of the money went to the marketing department. This would explain why the Olive Union is introduced as the world’s greatest device, but fails to consider the facts. That alone doesn’t mean the Olive is terrible, it just means you can’t trust the information they give you. That’s something not to like.
One of the clearest examples is the Olive’s battery life. The battery is rechargeable by first charging the charging case, and then popping the device in the case (a setup similar as the OneBridge). Olive promises you 18 hours of use. This is only true if you charge the device after about five hours. With that logic, my car has a 1,000 mile radius on one tank, as long as I top it off regularly. Not good, Olive.
Then there’s the hearing aid side of things. It simply doesn’t live up to expectations or the standard of quality we’ve come to expect.
Hearing amplifiers that are good alternatives
The Olive was introduced to solve a well-known problem: Bluetooth hearing aids usually don’t allow you to use bluetooth for music or speech. Since the introduction of the Olive, other hearing aids have joined this trend, such as the Angel BT.
Alternatively, there are some hearing aids that offer a much better listening experience for a similar price. If you like the Bluetooth functionality to adjust your hearing aids, the ZVOX VB20 or Otofonix Groove might offer a good alternative.
Should you buy the Olive Union Pro 2 in 1?
No, unless you’re willing to try a pair of basic quality hearing aids and hope you can suffer through them while you listen to music. The Olive was made to solve a real problem, but unfortunately doesn’t offer a real solution. If Olive diverts some money away from the copywriting marketing geniuses and towards the R&D department, it could live up to the wonderful promises it makes. Up until then, you’re better of buying a real pair of hearing aids and a good over-the-ear headphone to listen to music.