The overall experience with the JVC EH-Z1500 hearing aids was positive. The impressive Sound Quality demonstrated enhanced auditory perceptions across various daily sounds, showcasing the device's potential to address specific hearing disorders. The Design was marked by comfort and thoughtful packaging, while the Ease of Use received a perfect 10 out of 10, making it accessible even for less tech-savvy users. The price is affordable in comparison to prescription hearing aids, but other OTC hearing aids with a similar price point have additional features.
- EASE OF USE
- SOUND QUALITY
Get personalized and affordable sound solutions with JVC EH-Z1500 self-fitting OTC hearing aids.
About six months ago, my 97-year old grandmother consented to getting hearing aids. For several years now, we’ve all noticed that having conversations with her was increasingly difficult and within the past year, we noticed that she was becoming more and more reclusive at family gatherings. My mom finally had a conversation with her and asked if she would be interested in looking into having her hearing tested for the purpose of getting some sort of assistive device. To our surprise, my grandma said, “Yes!”
Making that decision is the first in a long line of steps to getting a hearing aid. Fortunately, there are many new types of OTC hearing aids, which make assistive technology more affordable and accessible to those who cannot acquire the prescription hearing aids. Since they started becoming avaialble, more manufacturers are hitting the shelves with their own OTC hearing aids. JVC released their Self-fitting OTC Hearing Aids (model EH-Z1500) in December 2023 and they seemed as though they might be a great option for my grandmother, who is having some difficulty getting hearing aids through her insurance.
About JVC EH-Z1500 Self-fitting OTC Hearing Aids
The JVC EH-Z1500 Self-fitting OTC Hearing Aids are Bluetooth-app controlled behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids. These are the company’s first self-fitting over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid. The release of this device is a culmination of a project between JVC, Minneapolis-based hearing aid maker Intricon, and software developer Tuned Ltd, which is headquartered in Israel. These hearing aids can be easily set up, adjusted, and personalized for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. The closest technological competitor is the Lexie Lumen, which does not feature the Tuned app. This app takes users on through the hearing aid setup process, powered by what the company says is the world’s first patented AI Hearing Assistant.
- You must be 18 years or older to purchase this product.
- Designed for perceived mild to moderate hearing loss.
- FDA-Cleared Tuned App
- Advanced Hearing Assistant
- 312 Battery Powered (18 Included)
- Wind Noise Suppression
- App Device Support for Settings and Volume Control
- Nano Coating for Moisture Protection (IP67)
- Live remote support
- Case for Storage
- Brush and Wire for Maintenance
- Free AI-powered TUNED app (available for Apple® and Android™ mobile devices) offers self-fitting assessment and post-assessment sound adjustments\
- world volume adjustment sets how much sound is amplified
- app offers personalized, hearing health-focused goals
- built-in artificial intelligence chatbot developed in collaboration with audiologists
Pricing & Availability
The JVC EHZ1500 Hearing Aids have a list price of $999.99 for one pair. At the time of publishing, they are available at a discounted price of $799.99 at jvcshop.com.
Before I dig into the details of the JVC hearing aids, I want to preface that this type of hearing aid is designed for someone who has mild to moderate hearing loss. While they are remarkable devices that will help to significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with hearing loss, they do have their limitations. Hearing aids can can effectively amplify sounds, making them more audible and improving the overall quality of life for users. However, it’s essential to recognize that a hearing aid cannot fully restore or replicate a person’s natural hearing abilities. What is lost due to hearing impairment remains irrecoverable, and while hearing aids significantly improve communication, they do not provide a complete restoration of original hearing capabilities.
With that in mind, I also want to address the difference between mild-to-moderate hearing loss and more severe hearing impairments. The distinction between mild to moderate hearing loss and more severe hearing impairments lies in the degree of hearing difficulty experienced by individuals across different ranges of sound frequencies. Mild to moderate hearing loss typically implies challenges in hearing softer sounds, whispers, or conversational speech, especially in noisy environments.
On the other hand, more severe hearing impairments indicate a greater difficulty in hearing both soft and moderately loud sounds across various frequencies. In this case, individuals may struggle to comprehend normal conversation without the use of hearing aids or other assistive devices. Severe hearing loss may impact daily communication, making it necessary for individuals to rely more heavily on visual cues, such as lip reading or sign language. The severity of hearing impairment can significantly influence the choice of intervention, with more severe cases often requiring more advanced amplification or cochlear implant solutions to address the broader spectrum of hearing challenges. Because hearing aids are not one-size-fits-all, it is always recommended that a user go through a hearing test prior to acquiring an assistive device.
There are several classes of hearing aids that are designed to help with different levels of hearing challenges. There are OTC hearing aids that come with pre-programmed modes that a user can select, there are ones like the JVC hearing aids that are worn behind the ear and are compatible with an app. This gives them the ability to be fine-tuned for a person’s specific hearing abilities. And then there are more advanced prescription-grade hearing aids that provide the highest level of hearing assistance without needing an implanted device.
To understand what an OTC hearing aid can provide, I pulled this information from fda.gov.
A hearing aid is a medical device that is intended to help with hearing loss and is worn behind or within the ear canal. The FDA regulates all hearing aids to ensure safety and effectiveness for consumers.
OTC Hearing Aids:
- Are air-conduction hearing aids that do not require implantation or other surgical intervention. They bring amplified sound into the ear canal. Sound then moves through the eardrum and three tiny bones in the middle ear to reach the inner ear, where it’s processed and sent to the brain.
- Are intended for use by people 18 years of age and older to help with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss.
- Allow users to control the device settings and customize the device to the user’s hearing needs, through tools, tests, or software.
- May use wireless technology or may include tests for self-assessment of hearing loss.
- Are available to consumers over-the-counter without the supervision, involvement, or prescription of a licensed health care professional. You can buy OTC hearing aids that meet the FDA’s requirements in a store or online.
Within the OTC hearing aid category, consumers 18 years of age and older with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss may have the following device options:
- Legacy (traditional) and wireless hearing aids which include basic features like volume control and preset programs.
- Self-fitting hearing aids with or without a wireless feature that have greater customization through technology such as hearing tests, software, and smartphone apps.
Note: A prescription hearing aid is any hearing aid that is not an OTC hearing aid. Prescription hearing aids are only available through a licensed hearing health care professional who can program the device to your unique level of hearing loss. These devices may be appropriate for all levels of hearing loss and for all ages based on the indications for use.
The JVC EH-Z1500 Self-fitting OTC Hearing Aids come in a simple, but imformative retail-style box. There is an image of the device on the cover and basic information included such as “powered by Tuned” and “Bluetooth app controlled.” This is an important feature to call out as a smartphone is required for someone to use these hearing aids. There are some OTC hearing aids that do not require a smartphone, but are enhanced by a companion app.
When you first open the box, you’ll find the quick start guide laying on top of the kit. Once you pull the guide out, you’ll see the rest of the kit as outlined below. These hearing aids are not rechargeable, but JVC includes several pairs of p312 batteries, which can be purchased at most pharmacies or online through Amazon. One of the nice things about purchasing through Amazon is that they offer a discount when you subscribe to repeat deliveries of the batteries.
One of the nice things I noticed about this kit was that there was a set of domes and tubes pre-installed on the hearing aids. Those can be tricky to deal with so it was nice to be able to start with a set. Another nice accessory that comes with the hearing aids is its storage case. I cannot stress how fragile the tubes can be and having a dedicated case for the devices is essential to long-term care.
In addition to the quick start guide, JVC included a full user manual in print, which is refreshing to see. The manual is only in English, but I’m sure other languages may be available online.
In the Box:
- Left and right behind-the-ear hearing aids
- 4 Pairs of left and right tubes (1 pair installed)
- 1 Pair of tulip dome ear tips (installed)
- 3 Pairs of open ear tips
- 3 Pairs of double dome ear tips
- 3 Packs of six #312 batteries
- Cleaning brush
- 4″ Tube clearing wire
- Storage case
- User Manual
- Quick Start Guide
Another preface I want to address is that I helped get these set up and make sure they were working properly before passing them off to my grandmother since she is not technologically proficient.
The first step in getting the hearing aids set up is to download the app. You are instructed to type “tuned hearing” into your app store’s search bar in order to find it. It is the first app the appears in the Apple App Store and it is a free download. Once you get the app installed, you walk through a series of agreements and start up screens to verify your identity and that you understand that these hearing aids are designed for adults that have some hearing loss.
Once you get past the initial start up, you are instructed, step-by-step on how to power on and connect your hearing aids to the app. This involves inserting the batteries into each ear piece. Closing the battery door powers them on. The app will then go through a step to connect to the hearing aids. There is a great series of videos that helps the user figure out how to put the hearing aids on and make sure that they are working properly. They can feel a little strange at first, but if you have worn ear buds before, they feel similar to that.
The app walks you through a very quick hearing evaluation where you rate several environmental experiences such as talking to people in a room where the is background noise. Then tones are played through the hearing aids to help determine what your hearing profile will be through the app. It’s a quick process that is easy to get through and even someone who isn’t accustomed to using apps and smartphones could easily walk through it.
As I mentioned, I wanted to help get these set up for my grandmother so I actually walked through the set up process and tested them out before I gave them to her to try so we could get her opinion, too. When I evaluate products, I try to focus on three main areas – Design, Ease of Use, and Price. In the case with this device, I think this type of evaluation is critical to anyone looking for OTC hearing aids. In addition to those standard areas, I also included Sound Quality for evaluation on these hearing aids.
Sound Quality (9 out of 10)
Even though my main goal with exploring the JVC EH-Z1500 hearing aids was to determine if they were a good fit for my grandmother, I do have to admit that as I’ve gotten older, my hearing, which is typically very good, has diminished. I’ve noticed that I have trouble understanding some words when people say them to me the first time. I can hear it, but my brain takes a moment to compute what the word was. This is actually a hearing loss disorder called auditory neuropathy. And it’s something that can be improved with the use of hearing aids.
So, I thought taking the JVC hearing aids for a test drive before handing them off to grandma wasn’t a bad idea. The sounds I experience on a typical day include music, typing, computer system sounds, dogs barking, and typical house noises. When I got the hearing aids set up and working, I noticed right away that it sort of felt like I had super hearing. Everything seemed enhanced — especially sounds like keyboard typing. As I turned the volume up and down on the hearing aids, I could hear a steady stream of ambient air noise. I wouldn’t call it static, but it was a distortion of the nature sounds I was hearing. I don’t consider this a flaw because I don’t think most people would hear it.
Since speech was one of my targets, I turned on a podcast to see how it sounded with and without the hearing aids. I was surprised at how the people talking sounded enhanced and better than with just my natural hearing. Regular music sounded about the same, but when I put on the soundtrack for The Charlie Brown Christmas, which is all instrumental and mostly higher end pitches, I could discern a higher ‘ping’ with some notes that were played.
After I got them set up for my grandma, she was impressed with all the things she was hearing. She knew that her hearing had steadily gotten worse over the years, but didn’t know how much she was missing until she put these hearing aids in. She and I were able to have an actual conversation for the first time in years because she could actually make out what I was saying instead of hearing a blob of words.
Design (9 out of 10)
Overall, the design is dictacted by function. Most BTE hearing aids have the same basic design. I can say that the JVC EH-Z1500 aids were comfortable to wear and after the initial break-in period, I didn’t even notice them much. In fact, I could feel the dome inserted in my ear more than I could the feel the receiver sitting behind my ear. Comfort-wise, I’d give them a solid 8 and that’s only because I’ve always been sensitive to in-ear headphones. My grandmother thought the same thing I did – that they were barely noticeable and she didn’t mind the domes at all.
The battery doors on these devices are always a little hard to get open, but they do latch shut securely. Even though it’s not really a design feature, I was very impressed with the package that was included with these hearing aids. It felt very complete.
Ease of Use (10 out of 10)
Since I knew these were going to my 97-year old grandmother, I tried to look at these through her eyes as I set them up. She doesn’t use a cell phone on a regular basis and likes very simple features on her television. She still uses a landline phone and doesn’t have internet. She reads physical books and plays cards and puts puzzles together. She’s incredibly intelligent, but just hasn’t felt the need to incorporate technology into her life.
These hearing aids were a huge leap for her as she rejected the idea of them for a very long time. That said, I walked her through the hearing test and showed her how to access all the features on the app. I want to give MAJOR kudos to the designers of the app and set-up process. It’s so easy to follow that she didn’t have any issue with getting the hearing aids set up for her use.
We discovered that while some of the features are limited without a cellular or WiFi connection, you can still use the app to control the hearing aids without it. So, these became a great solution for her needs. What we did was get a smartphone for her use and we connect it to one of our smartphones when we visit her in case there are updates that need to be made. It’s not the best option, but it works for her — and could work for other people in similar situations.
Price (7 out of 10)
Even though JVC currently offers these hearing aids at a discounted price, I am basing this part of the review off their list price of $1,000. I compared the JVC EH-Z1500 to a few other OTC options and listed them below.
|Jabra Enhance Select
|$1,195 – $1,995
|Lexie B2 Plus (Bose)
Each of these options are offered direct-to-consumer and do not require any prescription in order to purchase them. As noted above, the Lexie Lumen are probably the closest competitor in terms of feature-set, but if you look at other OTC hearing aids that are app-enabled such as the Jabra Enhance Select products or the Lexie B2 Plus, you get additional services and features for a similar price point. Because of that, I would rate the price a little lower than the other areas. The user still gets a high-quality product and it’s a far better price to pay than out-of-pocket prescription hearing aid costs.
The JVC EH-Z1500 hearing aids prove to be a compelling option for those seeking an OTC solution, combining functional design, excellent sound quality, and user-friendly features at a relatively affordable price point. Overall, my time with them was a positive experience and my grandmother is also a fan. If you find yourself seeking a hearing aid solution and need to work with an OTC option, look into the JVC hearing aids.