Have you ever wanted your earbuds to do more than just play music? Well, you’re in luck because in this video, I’m reviewing the Nuheara IQbuds coming up.

Hi, guys, Cliff Olson, doctor of audiology and founder of Applied Hearing Solutions in Anthem, Arizona. And on this channel, I cover a bunch of hearing-related information to help make you a better informed consumer. So if you’re into that, consider hitting the Subscribe button.

The days of headphones and earbuds only doing one thing is coming to an end, and that is because a lot of companies are starting to create what we call hearable devices which allow you to do more than just play music from your earbuds. And one of the companies leading the charge in the hearable category is Nuheara. In 2016, Nuheara released their IQbuds, which not only let you stream music directly from a Bluetooth device, but it lets you blend that music with the environment around you. Not only that, but you can actually control the background noise in your environment and enhance speech with their devices.

One of the main reasons that I wanted to do a review of the IQbuds is because I’ve had individuals with hearing loss reach out to me and tell me that they’ve been getting benefit with the IQbuds, that it allows them to hear better in noisy environments, and it allows them to amplify speech just enough to give them a little bit better clarity. So naturally, as an audiologist, this piques my interest and so I decided to do a review about it. So let’s go ahead and get to the unboxing.

Open the packaging, here you can see the IQbuds down here, so let’s get them out of there. And here we go. This is the left one here. They have the little indicators right there, and then here is the tip that I’ve been using inside of my ears. And then this silver plate right there is actually a touch sensor that you can use to activate the different features of the IQbuds.

And then right here, we have the charging case. So I’m going to put these guys back in here and we’ll close it up, and those red lights tell you that it’s charging. And now when I open it up, you can see that these are red, which means both of these guys are charging, and you can see that there are two green lights right here, which means that they’re about halfway charged.

See what else we have in here. Have a nice little thank you note from them over there at Nuheara, and we can also follow them on a bunch of their social media platforms, so definitely check that out. Inside here, we have the charging cable, short charging cable. It doesn’t need to be necessarily very long, but it’s very universal, and then in here, it looks like we have a product safety guide. It seems pretty thick, but there’s only one page in there that’s in any given language, maybe two, that has the safety information about their products. And then we have the quick-start guide. This seems thick, but again, there’s a bunch of different languages in here and only about four of those pages are actually dedicated to any given language.

And then the last thing that we have here of high importance, actually, is the different earbud sizes that you can put on your IQbuds. I currently am using the size large oval, but you could use any one of these. They have them in round shape and oval shape. You just want to find one that fits your ear canal size and shape the best. That’s it for the unboxing. Let’s check these guys out.

All right. So let me get these guys in my ears to let you see what they look like. And they don’t have the slimmest profile ever, but they do look pretty cool, nonetheless. You have to make sure that you get them in all the way and create a really good seal in your ear canal so the features of the app actually work well, otherwise, you’ll have other sounds from your outside environment leaking in around the edges of those rubber tips, and it will not give you the experience that you’re looking for.

After spending some time playing around the app, this is what I found. It basically has seven preset programs. All of these programs are designed to function a little bit differently. They all have a little bit different presets, but overall, they allow you to adjust three things– the real world volume, the balance between the real world noise and speech, and it has an equalizer that either cuts out bass or cuts out treble. You can also adjust your personal profile by adjusting the bass and treble presets for the left and right ears respectively, so hypothetically, if you had a high frequency hearing loss in your left ear, you could adjust it to where you got more boost in the treble for that particular ear.

Also, if you have more of a hearing loss in one ear versus the other, you can control the balance between your left and right ears for which ear is going to get more sound. Now, just as a little side note, if you do have an asymmetrical hearing difficulty where one ear is worse than the other, then you should absolutely be going into a hearing care professional to get that checked out.

So I basically wanted to see how these guys function in two different environments, the first one being the gym and the second one being a restaurant. If these devices can function well in those two environments, then basically, they can function well anywhere. All right.

So let’s talk about the gym. When I go to the gym, the only things that I want to do is work out and listen to my music. I don’t want to hear sounds around me. I don’t want to have conversations with people. I just want to work out and stay in my own little world listening to my music. So when I used the gym preset program inside of the app, it didn’t really suit my needs. I just needed to go into it, though, and make an adjustment to where I took out all of the surrounding environment sounds. And when I had those in my ears and I made those proper adjustments, I found out that I could hear my music really well and not have to listen to anything else around me.

They definitely provided good sound quality for the type of devices that they are. Anytime that you have Bluetooth devices, it will not provide you as good of sound quality as a wired headphone, but I hate wearing wires when I go work out at the gym, so it was really nice to have devices that just sat inside of my ears.

Everything went pretty well. The devices stayed in my ears really well. I didn’t have to fiddle around with them. They didn’t fall out of my ears, so they did stay in place where I put them very well. The one problem that I say I did have is that the Bluetooth connectivity with my phone isn’t the greatest. Now, if I set the phone down, which is what I typically like to do at the gym, I’ll notice that it cuts in and out a little bit. One of the tricks of getting around this, though, is standing your phone up, at least that’s what works for me. When I stand my phone up, lean it up against my water bottle, something like that, it definitely works a lot better than laying my phone down flat on the ground or on a bench.

Overall at the gym was a very good experience. I would consider it a success working out with the IQbuds. I’m sure that it would work out as well for someone, if you want to go work out with somebody, you can kind of leave the sound augmented in a way where you’re getting your music, but you can also hear some sounds around you so you can still have a conversation with your workout buddy.

OK. So what about a restaurant? Now, a restaurant is probably the toughest listening environment that you will ever find yourself in, because it is extremely noisy. Usually the acoustics are horrible, and you actually want to be able to hear and conversate with people around you. I must say when I went into a restaurant to use these, I went into a relatively noisy environment and I had three adults with me and three children with me, and I was able to actually hear them all really well. In fact, it got to the point when I was wearing the devices in the restaurant mode and making adjustments to where I was blocking out the background noise and amplifying the speech, it got to a point where I actually preferred wearing the IQbuds versus not wearing anything in my ears at all.

Even though I was hearing really well with the IQbuds in a restaurant and better than what I preferred with my own natural hearing ability, I did notice that they became a little uncomfortable when I was eating food and talking and laughing. There was a lot of movement. I, apparently, get a lot of ear movement when I’m talking and laughing, so the devices got relatively uncomfortable during that period of time. But what that allowed me to do is actually take them out periodically and let me compare what I was hearing with the devices in and what I was hearing without them. And ultimately, like I said before, I actually preferred wearing them in terms of the sounds that I was picking up.

Overall, I was actually shocked at how well these devices worked in a restaurant. So field testing was a resounding success with the IQbuds, but as always, if a device provides amplification, I want to be able to measure that amount of amplification, so I went ahead and did real ear measurements, so let’s check it out.

Even though IQbuds aren’t intended to treat hearing loss, I wanted to see how well they would perform with a mild hearing loss prescription, so that’s what I want to be checking here. What you see on the screen is the hearing loss that I entered into the system to get the prescription.

The first thing that I want to do is play sound from a speaker, so I can measure that sound inside of my ear canal. So the sound coming from the speaker is the solid black line and the natural amplification that my ear canal creates is the solid pink line. Any increase in that pink line above that black line is technically amplification that I’m receiving just from my natural ear.

The pink hash mark line is technically the mild hearing loss prescription that I would like that solid pink line to overlap with. So basically, every test that you’re going to see here, I’m looking to see how close the IQbuds get to that hash mark prescriptive target line.

What I want to do now is see how much amplification I will receive by switching the IQbuds into restaurant mode, and any increase in the purple line that you see from that solid pink line is an increase in amplification that I’m receiving. And what you can see here is that I am getting some high-frequency amplification from the IQbuds and I’m getting a reduction in low-frequency amplification. And what you see here is my setting, and the SINC setting is set to accentuate speech over the real world sound, which would be considered background noise. As you can see here, we are starting to get closer to that purple hash mark line in the high frequencies, which would typically give me better speech understanding in a background-noise situation.

I also tried to complete a measure to see how much of the real-world sound that the IQbuds could block out, and it actually blocked out so much that it gave me a warning saying that there wasn’t enough sound coming in through the microphone tube in order to continue the evaluation.

This is where I was really impressed with the IQbuds. Basically, if we go into the personal profile and increase the amount of treble coming from the devices, I can get that amount of amplification in the high frequencies, which we know to give clarity and speech. We can get it pretty close to that prescriptive hash mark line, and that’s with devices that are not hearing aids. Ultimately, we’re not meeting that prescriptive target, but I would venture to say that anyone who has a mild high-frequency hearing loss would see some benefit using the IQbuds.

I also wanted to check out the noise reduction feature inside the IQbuds, so what I’m doing is I’m playing some noise into the IQbuds from a speaker as I’m measuring the sound inside of my ears. And what we would expect to see is the solid red line get lower and lower further away from that solid purple line, and that indicates to us what the noise reduction is, and these things reduce that noise a lot. It has a 16 decibel noise reduction from what I measured in the test.

Overall for a pair of hearable devices, I was really impressed by the real ear measurement that I got from these devices, as well as the noise reduction that these devices have.

As you can see, IQbuds are not typical earbuds and even though they don’t meet prescriptions for mild to moderate cases of hearing loss, they definitely provide boosts in different areas to allow you to get more amplification in certain areas versus others, which could lend well to individuals who do have some level of hearing impairment, or who just want to enhance their natural hearing in different environments.

So overall what do I think about the Nuheara IQbuds? Basically, I am a huge fan of them. I didn’t necessarily think that I was going to like them as much, but ultimately, they do exactly what they said they were going to do. They can augment the sound that you’re getting, whether it’s music and blending that with your surrounding environment, whether you’re eliminating background noise and amplifying speech in a restaurant setting. It does all of these things and it does it better than I thought that they would do.

On the other hand these devices, were not perfect, so like I mentioned before, the Bluetooth connectivity was somewhat of an issue, comfort is a little bit of an issue for me. I would not be able to wear them all day comfortably. And then the other thing is is that when you wear devices inside of your ears and you create a really good seal with the buds that they send along with you with those little rubber silicone tips, they actually create the occlusion effect. Now, the occlusion effect is basically when you put your fingers in your ears and you close off your ear canals and you talk and you hear your voice really loud to yourself. That is what you experience when you wear these devices and you’re talking.

Now, when you do get some level of transparency in the sound that you’re speaking in through the microphones, it takes care of a little bit of that, but, ultimately, I had people mention to me, Cliff, you’re not speaking as loudly as you normally do, so I was basically self-regulating. I thought I was talking really loud and in reality, I wasn’t.

So here’s the big question– would I recommend the IQbuds for someone? And if you’re a type of individual who wants to do more than just listen to music from your devices and you want something that is completely wireless, then I highly recommend using the IQbuds.

I’m not sure the IQbuds would be a good option to treat a hearing loss. I generally recommend that you go to a hearing care professional to get proper evaluation and treatment, if you do have a hearing loss, but if you just aren’t comfortable going that route yet, maybe using the IQbuds would be a good stepping stone to get you there.

Nuheara has announced that they are going to be releasing their IQbuds Boost, which are actually going to be testing your hearing inside of their app and calibrating your devices for your personal hearing profile. This means that if you do have some level of hearing deficit, it will make up for that inside of the app, and I am super excited to review that product, as well.

If you would like to try a pair of IQbuds, I went ahead and linked them in the description below so you can order a pair for yourself.

That’s it for this video. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section below. If you like the video, please share it, and if you want to see more videos just like this, go ahead and hit that Subscribe button. I’ll see you next time.

April 20th, 2019