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In this video, I’m doing a detailed review of the IQbuds Boost– coming up. Hi, guys. Dr. CliffAuD here with hearingtracker.com, the leading independent consumer review platform for hearing aids, hearing care providers, and hearing centers. Make sure you don’t miss any of our new videos by clicking the Subscribe button below.

The highly anticipated IQbuds Boost is here, and I have finally gotten around to do a detailed review on this product. Now, they have some really big shoes to fill, because I did a detailed review of the IQbuds, the original IQbuds. That is over on my YouTube channel, Dr. CliffAuD. So make sure that you check that one out as well, because they do have a lot of similarities.

As an audiologist, anytime a product comes out that involves hearing I like to do a detailed review of them to see how they stack up against other type of hearing devices. I can do this by using the same type of measurements that I would use on devices like hearing aids. This allows us to directly compare what the features are and how well they work.

In the case of the IQbuds Boost, the newest thing that came out with them is their ear ID feature, which is essentially a hearing test. On top of that, they have taken this hearing test and actually use an NAL-NL2 prescription that is typically found in hearing aids, and they’re actually using it inside the Boost. So in this review, I want to check out this feature and see how well it works.

But before we get into the review, let’s go ahead and get into the unboxing. All right, so let’s check out the new IQbuds Boost. Nice packaging– let’s get inside here.

And the first thing we have here on top are the new jet black IQbuds and charger case. We’ll come back to that here in a second. They have some product safety information in there, a booklet for that.

They have a nice little thank you note that’s impossible to get out, so a nice little thank you note there. And if you have any questions about this product, you can email their support or give them a chat on their chat feature online. And then it has little instructions here on what you should do when you first get them. You want to make sure you charge them for at least 30 minutes, and then it shows you what the contents are inside of the box. But I’ll show you the rest of those contents right now.

Something that’s new with this generation is the new Comply tips where essentially– are a squishy tip that are made out of foam. And when you put them on the IQbuds inside of your ears, that foam expands to fill up your ear canal nicely. They have some different sizes.

These are small. These are large. They actually come with a size medium on them already.

And then something that is familiar, if you’ve seen the first generation of IQbuds, is the different size ear tips. So they have a variety of different silicone tips here that range from size large oval all the way down to size small, and size large round all the way down to size small. These right here are actually to put on the very tip of the IQbuds to make sure that no earwax gets down in there and plugs up the electronic component. So make sure you don’t throw those little black tips away right there.

And the last thing in the box is a USB charger cable. So we’ll set that over to the side and take a look at the new IQbuds Boost. So they’ve changed their color for this generation, and they’re all black, which I actually prefer. I like all black electronic products.

And as you can see here, they have the Comply tips on there that will squish down. So you can put them inside of your ear. And then once it’s inside of your ear, it will start to expand. And it will expand to its full size and make sure that it seals off your ear canal well. So that’s a nice feature if you want to use that type of a tip. I still prefer to use the actual silicone rubber tips.

But right here, you can see we have different microphone ports– so one on the bottom, one on the top here. Those are important for how the devices filter out noise. And this is also a touch-sensitive plate, so each device actually will use that touch plate to do a variety of different settings changes.

And then, of course, you have the charger kit here. Looks like the same exact charger kit as they had with their previous generations. So it gives you indicator lights of how much charge is left in the case, an indicator lights on if these devices are charged up or not.

And so they just go in there like that. Close it up– ready to go. All right, so let’s see how these guys perform. All right, so now that you know what the hardware looks like let’s go ahead and get into the app.

All right, I’m going to take you through the ear ID feature, otherwise known as the hearing test feature, and test my hearing sensitivity in both ears. The first step in this process is to ensure that you have enough battery life and that your environment is quiet enough to perform the testing. Now, you can see the app on the right-hand side of the screen. And on the left-hand side of the screen, I’m measuring the tones using a probe microphone in my ear along with the IQbuds Boost. This will start to come in more handy as I progress through the evaluation of the IQbuds.

What the IQbuds will do next is we’ll play several tones at 1,000 Hertz and 500 Hertz to determine if you have an adequate seal with the ear tips that you’ve selected. If you have a bad seal, you’ll not be able to hear the sounds. Now, I’ve got a good seal, so we’re ready to go ahead and start the actual your ID hearing test.

Now I a hearing loss in my right ear, so we’re going to see if the ear ID accurately identifies this loss. You can see on the left-hand side of the screen that I am measuring the tones played by the Boost. Testing starts at 1,000 Hertz, then progresses up to 6,000 Hertz, then it goes back to 500 Hertz. It appears to use the typical descending and ascending technique to identify the softest sound that you can hear at the particular frequency.

In an effort to save time, I’m going to go ahead and accelerate the testing sequence. At the completion of testing in both ears, it asked for age and gender, which are both important components to formulating an NAL-NL2 prescription. When we look at the ear ID, the individual bars indicate each frequency tested in each ear. The shorter the bar, the worse the hearing at that frequency.

The ear ID for the right ear has a similar configuration to my hearing test on the left-hand side of the screen. As you can see, the full blue bars on the left-hand side of the ear ID has recognized my normal hearing in that particular ear. Ultimately, the ear ID was approved by the National Acoustics Laboratory for reliability and validity of the test procedure.

As a side note, make sure that if you have a hearing loss in one ear that is identified by the ear ID, make sure that you have your hearing checked out by a hearing care professional, because it could be a sign of a serious medical condition. The good news is that I’ve had mine checked out, and a MRI has indicated that there is not a tumor growing on my auditory nerve in the right ear. Since the ear ID seems to be accurate based on my hearing test results and it has the stamp of approval from the National Acoustics Laboratory, I wanted to go ahead and see if it could actually meet a NAL-NL2 hearing loss prescription for a mild hearing loss in my ear.

Now, I could actually validate this prescription by using real ear measurement or real ear verification. This is a process that you typically use on hearing aids to make sure that those hearing aids are programmed correctly to that particular hearing loss prescription. So I’m going to go ahead and take that exact same process and apply it to the IQbuds Boost. In order to perform this procedure on the IQbuds Boost, I need to use the probe microphone to accurately select a mild hearing loss configuration using the ear ID. This is where the left side of the screen comes into play.

As you can see, I’m measuring the pure tones at each frequency in order to program the ear ID for a mild high-frequency hearing loss of 40 decibel thresholds at 2,000 Hertz up through 6,000 Hertz. I also measured a flat 40 decibel hearing loss in the left ear, but for the purpose of this review, I’m only verifying the right ear prescription. Now that I know that I’ve accurately entered in a 40 decibel hearing loss from 2,000 Hertz to 6,000 Hertz in the ear ID, it should be able to replicate this in a NAL-NL2 prescription, and that’s what I’m actually going to be verifying using real ear measurement.

First, let me explain what we’re verifying. Using a probe microphone in my ear along with the IQbuds Boost, I’m going to see if the sound coming out of the IQbuds matches the NAL-NL2 prescription, which is the purple hash mark line. We essentially want the solid purple line, which is the amplified sound of the IQbuds, to overlap the hash mark line as closely as possible. As you can see, we get close, but we still aren’t meeting that prescription in the high frequencies, which is where the hearing loss was indicated in the ear ID testing. I tried making some adjustments to SINC and to World EQ, but ultimately it had little effect on if I was able to match the NAL-NL2 prescriptive targets.

Overall, the IQbuds Boost did a pretty good job of approximating these targets even though it wasn’t able to meet them exactly, at least not in my ears. And that’s the thing, is that everybody’s ears are a little bit different. And IQbuds Boost runs into the same problem that hearing aids run into when they’re not custom programmed appropriately to a hearing loss prescription. If you’re not meeting those prescriptive targets, you are essentially leaving benefit on the table.

All right, so we’ve checked out the ear ID feature, which is really cool. And we’ve checked out the IQbuds Boost’s ability to meet a NAL-NL2 prescription. But what I want to talk about right now is a new feature that the IQbuds Boost is going to have called Focus.

Hearing aids have the ability to actually use directionality with their dual microphones to identify speech sources and orient the microphones in a particular direction. This is actually what the IQbuds Boosts are going to be able to do when they have this new feature release in mid-July of 2018. This is a screenshot of the new feature, which indicates the orientation of the microphones when switching on the Focus feature.

As you can see by the shaded blue region, the focus feature primarily will amplify sounds in front of you instead of all around you. This feature will allow you to reduce the amount of background noise that’s amplified in the devices and allow you to focus on the speech that’s in front of you. And if this feature works half as well as it does in a traditional hearing aid, it could be a game changer for the Boost.

Now, this is actually going to come through as an update in mid-July, like I mentioned before. It won’t be available for the original IQbuds. It’s only available for the IQbuds Boost.

All right, so now that we have the detailed evaluation of the review out of the way, let’s go ahead and talk about the overall performance of the IQbuds Boost. And I feel like the performance of the Boost is very similar to the original IQbuds. I personally couldn’t tell much of a difference by actually going through the ear ID and having the NAL-NL2 prescription. I feel like the sound quality in both of them is still good. I just couldn’t tell much of a difference between the two.

With the Boost, you’re still able to blend the real world sound with the streaming sound, which is a feature that a lot of people liked in the original IQbuds. You also can still adjust the base and the treble of these devices a little bit. You can also use the touch sensors on the devices and adjust them accordingly to what you like. So you don’t actually have to pull your phone out every time if you want to make an adjustment, which definitely adds to the convenience factor.

At the end of the day, you’re still getting a really high-quality Bluetooth device that gives you a pretty good sound quality considering you are at the mercy of whatever Bluetooth device you’re connecting with. However, as much as I like the new IQbuds Boost, there are still a few things that you should be aware of. And number one is that they’ve gotten rid of the personal profile.

The personal profile in the original IQbuds was a really great feature that allowed you to adjust the base, and the treble, and the balance between ears much more substantially. Now, they got rid of this feature to use the ear ID, so there’s definitely a trade-off there. But I would have loved to see the personal profile still be in the Boost.

Number two, you won’t get the same sound quality as you would from music as using an over-the-ear wired headphone. This is largely outweighed though by the fact that you can amplify speech, and you don’t have to wear something clunky around your ears. Number three is that the ear tips are relatively comfortable, but they’re not something that I was able to wear for longer than about three hours at a time. These ear tips are completely occluding, meaning they block off your entire ear canal, and then you also run into this aspect of the occlusion effect.

The occlusion effect is essentially when you block off your ear canals and you talk, you perceive your own voice to be extremely booming and loud to yourself. And this is OK for a short period of time, but eventually it just gets annoying if you end up having conversations with people. And at the end of the day, it’s something you don’t really acclimate to.

And number four is, despite new hearers’ use of hearing aid features inside of their IQbuds Boost, they will still explicitly tell you that their devices are not intended to treat hearing loss. In fact, a new hearer will actually tell you that if you have a hearing loss you should actually go to a hearing care provider, get your hearing professionally evaluated, and get treated accordingly. That being said, if you’re looking for a high-quality set of wireless Bluetooth earbuds, or you have a mild hearing loss that you’re just not ready to seek treatment out for yet, or you’re just looking for a little bit of a boost, than the IQbuds Boost might be exactly what you’re looking for.

That’s it for this video. Hopefully you found it informative. And if you want to see more videos just like this one, make sure you hit that Subscribe button. I’ll see you next time.

October 31st, 2019