As I write this review, Leon Bridges is piping through my IQbuds2 MAX headphones with crystal clear sound quality.
Today I’m at a local coffee shop, and the person to my right and left have no idea that my headphones double as high-powered hearing amplification devices.
A few minutes ago I went to the register to refill my coffee, a few taps on my iPhone screen allowed me switch from active noise canceling to sound amplification matched to my hearing loss.
The barista asked for my order and his voice came through the headphones as if I was having a phone conversation with him.
Are these headphones? Yes. Are they hearing aids? Kind of.
In this review I’ll break down my experience with IQbuds2 MAX and give a few pros and cons any shopper should consider.
First, some background on Nuheara.
The Australian-based company was founded by Justin Miller and David Cannington in 2015. Justin’s lifelong struggle with hearing loss inspired him to create a device that could function as a premium pair of headphones while also augmenting sound for those with hearing loss.
Seven years later, the company has raised more than $20M, and their latest generation of earbuds (IQbuds2 MAX) has won several significant awards, including three honors at CES.
Nuheara is well respected by the hearing health world and boasts legitimate technology and a good app. IQbuds2 MAX are just $399, which is one of the lowest-priced hearing aid products available.
On the flip side, the brand gets average marks for customer service across review sites like Amazon and TrustPilot, and the product is too large and not flexible enough for 8-12 hours of continuous wear.
If you think of Nuheara as headphones with special powers, you’ll likely enjoy your experience. If you think of them as hearing aids, you’ll probably be disappointed.
Unboxing my Nuheara IQBuds2 Max
Nuheara packaging has a premium feel that fits alongside Apple or Samsung. The box is neatly packed with two earbuds inside a sleek, magnetized charging case.
Nuheara earbuds give 5 hours of continuous music listening or 8 hours of sound amplification (without music streaming). The recharging case holds three additional charges.
My IQbuds2 Max arrived with a charge, so I was able to place them directly in my ears and opened the IQBuds app. The app gave simple instructions that allowed me to connect the earbuds to my phone.
Once I was connected, I began the setup. The pairing process was straightforward.
With my phone and app connected the app prompted me to take a hearing test through my new earbuds. For about 10 minutes, I listened for beeps at various frequencies and tapped the screen when I heard something. After the test ended, the app customized my earbuds to my hearing loss.
Nuheara calls this your EarID, and the results customize both the hearing aid features and music listening to match your hearing loss.
Once my hearing test was complete, I began playing with the app controls. The app lets you select from several familiar environments like “driving,” “workout,” and “restaurant.” Each setting has a distinctly different tone and emphasizes different types of sounds. Driving, for example, mutes ambient sounds so that you can hear the person in the car with you.
In each setting, you can adjust the volume of the world around or turn off outside sounds and turn on active noise canceling.
IQBuds2 Max also has a dedicated mode for TV streaming. You can purchase a separate streaming product that allows your partner to listen to the TV aloud while you hear the audio through your IQBuds. The integration works beautifully and makes a huge difference for anyone who regularly watches TV with a partner.
The customizations go further. You can customize your earbuds by selecting the level of clarity (called SINC), bass vs. treble (called world EQ), and directional focus (called focus). Together, all of these controls give you lots of options.
IQbuds2 Max is the swiss army knife of headphones, and it's the best product on the market that combines active noise cancelation and customized hearing-aid-like features.
From my experience, this product shines in the in-between moments.
- Listen to a podcast at the gym without shutting out the world.
- Cancel out airplane noise and then hear the flight attendant clearly without taking your headphones.
- Watch TV with your partner at your own volume.
- Take a work call and still hear the sound of the ocean.