What is the OverHear?
If you find that you struggle to make out words clearly during a conversation, or while watching movies or TV, OverHear’s makers claim the device can give you instant ‘super hearing,’ allowing you to hear things like a pin dropping from across the room, or someone whispering from up to 100 feet away.
Based on what we learned in the commercial, the new device’s new technology enables it to amplify vocals while canceling out distracting background noise in the process, allowing you to focus on hearing what’s important.
They claim that the OverHear is perfect for the movie theater, where it can help you hear every word being said; on a hike, allowing you to pick up the faintest sounds (like a bird rustling in a tree) with ease, or while watching your favorite show at home, even with the volume turned down low.
Before we dive deeper to understand how the product works and whether or not it can really deliver on these claims, let’s briefly zoom in and understand why you might be looking for something like this in the first place.
What Causes Hearing Loss & How Might Hearing Aids Help?
According to the Mayo Clinic, roughly 25 percent of individuals aged 55 to 64 in the US have some amount of hearing loss–-a number that increases to nearly 50 percent after 65.
There are a number of different forms hearing loss can take, the most common of which is age-related sensorineural hearing loss. This condition is most often the result of gradual changes in the middle ear (especially related to hair cell death), as well as a combination of repeated exposure to loud noises, viruses and other types of disease, certain medications, and heredity.
While the Mayo Clinic points out that there’s currently no cure for age-related hearing loss, the treatment option doctors will typically recommend first is a hearing aid. The National Institutes of Health reports that these electronic devices are worn in or behind the ear, and use a built-in microphone and speaker to “magnify sound vibrations entering the ear” and then “convert them into neural signals that are passed along to the brain.”
Question: What’s the Difference Between a Hearing Aid & a PSAP?
However, it’s important to point out that not all of these devices are created equally. In other words, there could be a big performance difference between an inexpensive device you purchase online, and something recommended by your primary care physician. How so?
Without going into unnecessary detail, hearing aids are designed to improve impaired hearing and automatically adjust (distortion, gain, amplifying only certain sounds based on their characteristics, etc.) in the real world to deliver sound that’s as close to natural as possible.
The Listen 2 Life Hearing Center adds that “hearing aids are programmed to make speech easier to hear and decipher. Plus, an audiologist can make adjustments to the hearing aid to optimize your ability to hear. You get the benefit of “customization.”
On the other hand, devices like OverHear are known as personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), which the Food and Drug Administration tells us are “not intended to make up for impaired hearing. Instead, they are intended for non-hearing-impaired consumers to amplify sounds in the environment for a number of reasons, such as for recreational activities.”
This is because, especially in lower-priced models, PSAPs typically amplify all sounds—not just those that can help you hear.
Knowing this, what can you realistically expect from the OverHear? Should you give it a shot, or are you better off visiting with your doctor first? Let’s refocus on the product to learn more about what it can do for you in practice.
What Do We Know About How OverHear Works?
In order to understand if OverHear really can help you hear a whisper from 100 feet away, we’ll need to know a few things. For starters, hearing aids measure their amplification power in terms of decibel gain, which essentially describes how much louder it is able to output the sounds that its microphone takes in. We didn’t encounter any information about this on the website as of this writing, so we reached out to customer service for clarification.
After speaking with multiple agents, very few of them seemed to know the product existed in the first place. One initially told us that it wasn’t available anymore, but then went on to say that he wasn’t sure. Despite this, it did in fact still seem to be available for purchase on the website and through the dedicated sales line listed.
Throughout our calls, OverHear customer service was unable to tell us anything about how powerful the product is, or how it is powered (whether disposable batteries or a rechargeable internal supply). This is important, because you’ll need to know whether or not you’ll need to keep spare batteries around for when it runs dry, if it uses disposables.
They were also unable to explain anything about the noise reduction technology described in the commercial, or whether the headphones themselves use active or passive noise cancellation.
Furthermore, headphones can vary in terms of fit as well from person to person, so this is another factor to consider, as it appears that only one size is included with the product, though the reps we spoke were unable to confirm this.
All of these are ways to differentiate one hearing aid product from the next, and without knowing any of it, it is all but impossible to judge the effectiveness or quality of the OverHear as a whole without purchasing it first.
OverHear Pricing & Return Information
As of the time of our research, the Pro Edition OverHear model was sold exclusively online and over the phone using the automated sales line listed on the website:
Single Offer: $19.99 + free S&H
Double Offer: $19.99 + free S&H + $9.99 fee
The terms list that each order includes a 30-day money back guarantee, minus any shipping and handling charges. To initiate a return, you’ll need to contact customer service at 855-668-1655. You’ll be responsible for paying any required return shipping fees.
Choosing the Best Hearing Amplifier for You
If you’re experiencing mild to moderate hearing loss and it’s impacting your day-to-day life, it goes without saying that the first person you should talk with is your doctor. They can run the appropriate tests and recommend products (OverHear or otherwise) based on your specific diagnosis.
If they recommend a PSAP, when deciding which model is best for you, according to EverydayHearing.com’s Best PSAP Hearing Devices guide, price might be a good place to start: “Although a PSAP may be a low-cost hearing device,” they emphasize, “it is important to remember that the lower you go in cost may also mean the lower you go in performance.”
Specifically, in the (somewhat limited) clinical testing related to these personal devices, it appears that “low-range (<$100) PSAP devices performed poorer on real-ear measurements than high-end (>$100) PSAP hearing devices did. This goes back to the “you get what you pay for” principle.”
From there, they recommend looking for models with:
“a good frequency response that includes small differences in the output of low frequencies versus high frequencies,
includes updated digital sound processing including noise reduction and/or directionality,
has a good design and overall fit for the user,
is easy to use with a clear instruction manual,
and has a positive user rating and reviews”
How does all of this line up for OverHear?
Our Verdict: Is the OverHear Worth a Purchase?
At just $19.99, OverHear’s low price might cause you to daydream about hearing perfectly in just about any scenario, but without forking over hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars for a higher-end PSAP or hearing aid.
But during out research, we didn’t encounter any evidence on the product’s website illustrating how the device does this, or how powerful it actually is (something commonly listed in dB gain with competing products).
In addition, customer service was unable to tell us anything else about the product’s headphones, noise cancelation, power source, or additional features like frequency response, fit and design, and digital sound processing functionality, meaning that, all told, there is still much we don’t know about the device. On top of this, you’ll have to pay to ship the device back to the manufacturer if it doesn’t meet your needs, and you’ll also lose any fees associated with the BOGO offer.
Bringing all of this together, without this important additional information and without trying OverHear ourselves, we think it’s especially important that you speak with your doctor before making any PSAP or hearing aid purchases.