Having trouble hearing? Try the Ear Machine iPhone app (free)

Hi Maker Friends,

If you’ve had me in class, you may have noticed me wearing headphones during your lesson. I try to speak up to let the instructors know that I’m not listening to music, I’m listening to them!

The app essentially turns your phone (iPhone for now) into a modified hearing aid. It’s not perfect, but it’s really good at getting people loud enough to hear them by pulling sound through the phone’s microphones into earbuds or headphones.

If people around you seem to be talking nonsense because you’re confusing the sounds they are making, or if you have to turn the tv up too loud, or if you are just plain old frustrated when other people talk, try this. It was referred to me by an audiologist, and I bet she wished she never told me because I haven’t been back :laughing:

I thought it was also for Android but it seems they are only offering it for iPhone for now. If you know of an Android equivalent, please post it. If I find one, I’ll update this post.

Here’s to better communication!

P.S. If you are losing your hearing and actually do need a hearing aid, I am happy to guide you for how to determine if you have the right audiologist, and what features to look for, and where you can go to get an excellent-quality set of hearing aids for a fraction of the cost. I’m not affiliated with any of them, I’ve just had years of experience with this and know how frustrating and isolating it can be not to be able to hear properly.

Feel free to message me privately if you don’t want to reply publicly.


So I have an interesting need for a hearing aid maybe?

So I find myself in scenarios where hearing protection is required nearly all day. At a Gun Range event or at a Fireworks event. While there will be long periods where the hearing protection is not needed, it never fails that I find myself either being surprised by a loud explosion or having to cover my ear with my hands, because I left my hearing protection in the other spot we were standing 20 minutes ago. Is there an awesome solution for this? So I can have clear hearing and the sound is clipped when it gets too loud.

I already have active hearing protection like the options below,

The Howard Leights are nice and give good directional hearing, but the form factor stinks as these are huge and over heat your ears after an hour.

The ear buds are a great keep around option, but the directional hearing is terrible. You quickly lose track of left, right, front and back. It is too disconcerting for long use around people talking to you.

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First of all, @Nick, I’m glad you’re at least making an effort with the hearing protection. A lot of people don’t think they need it until the loss is irreversible.

I saw something on Shark Tank reruns about earplugs that allow flow-through sound and are really small. I think it is called Vibes http://www.discovervibes.com/

This is more for musicians at concerts, (Edit: There’s a section of testimonials for motorcycles, too) but it might be worth testing them out.

Edit: I just ordered them on Amazon, fingers crossed that they will work in the wood shop!

I have a pair of Costco hearing aids which have served very well but are probably approaching their life expectancy. I’m interested in all your suggestions.

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I think Costco is the best value for money. My personal preference is a receiver-in-canal because tubes dry up and stop working every 6 weeks or so.

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Good to know.

Now if there was only a product that I could tune other people out while I am trying to focus on the task at hand. If I’m on the phone & there is too much going on in the background I get frustrated.

My oldest is hearing impaired and is supposed to use the FM system at school.


Hi Holly,
So here are my concerns with the passive ear buds, they are rated at a 15 NRR rating. This is a really low rating for the conditions I find myself in. I started with a set of Howard Leights Sport hearing protection with a 22 NRR rating and they were not enough protection in my mind. As I got rung a few times wearing them while doing large salutes and indoor rifle shooting. So I upgraded to the 30 NRR rated version which are more than double the size. I found this a good rating for what I’m doing, but the size is huge. I then went to the walkers and loved that solution as they are also rated at an 30 NRR. But, I found it headache inducing to not have proper spacial sound. It also makes you too jumpy as your are startled when you are spoken took from a different angle than you expected.

As I’m effectively looking for hearing aids that also work as ear plugs, what are the best features to look for in hearing aids? Should I spend on a molded option or just go with foamies? Do you like the behind the ear options with the sound tube?

I’m thinking about this set, but also wondering if the hearing aid world already has this solved.

Also, the NRR rating don’t seem linear, as moving from a 26 NRR to 30 NRR feels like a much larger move than you would expect.

It isn’t, being based on the decibel scale, which is exponential (or logarithmic, as you prefer).

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I figured that, just didn’t want to look it up on my phone to provide a cited explanation.

Be interested in how those work out since the website suggests that they don’t just perform an across-the-board sound reduction.

SureFire acquired EarPro many years ago who claims to offer passive earplugs that work similar to electronic muffs - I’ve yet to try their offerings.

I’ve got a pair of those and while they’re better than earplugs in terms of environmental awareness, they are indeed lacking when it comes to noise suppression. Pairing with some of the passive/filtering earplugs is something I’ve pondered but never experimented with. Since I no longer routinely operate small engines for lawn maintenance (I use electric tools now) the incentive has largely vanished - although I should go to the range more often.

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A good hearing aid with directional microphone settings can really help with that. It tunes into voices, and the directional mic can focus on where you want to hear.

Also, Bluetooth hearing aids can pump the sound directly into your ears from cell phones.

@Nick, I’ve never done noise suppression, but I used to have a set of Rexton hearing aids that go silent when a sudden loud noise occurs. Your best bet might be to talk to an audiologist familiar with the kind of noise you’re encountering.


It has been over a two years since the last time I dove into this idea. It does seem like many more of the hearing aids out there have hearing protection cut offs now, which is very cool to see. That said, it seems none of the hearing aids are rated in NRR. So getting specifics on that online is very difficult.

I’m not sure I’m willing to risk the money on the Bluetooth Walkers in ear plugs,

or the 3m Peltor TEP-200s

But, both of these options are far less expensive than the Kirkland hearing aid at $1600.

So it may be an issue of budget rather than feature. That said I would spend the big bucks if I knew it would be a 1 or 2 time purchase and protect my hearing.

@Holliday way are the features you find most attractive in hearing aids, also do you have any suggestions for local audiologists that are knowledgeable of the market?

@Nick you have two distinct needs, it seems. One is for the range where you need to protect your ears, and the other is for hearing improvement. I’m sure they are not mutually exclusive, but I haven’t done enough research to know.

As for a good audiologist, they are so hit or miss. I’ve had two of them locally ask me what I want, and proceeded to completely ignore what I asked for. I did not appreciate them wasting my time when they could’ve just said, “Our brand doesn’t do that.” That’s what I want to help people avoid.

Features I’d like to have are programs for quiet, noise, and restaurants
Bluetooth with phone that can be controlled by user
Receiver in the canal (NOT plain tubes)
Manual override volume control
Independent left and right volume control
Directional microphone control in the app

In short, most hearing aids are fully automatic, which is fine for someone who is lucky enough to have a hearing profile that matches the program. I’ve had audiologist after audiologist try to tell me it works automatically - but they don’t have hearing loss and I find it a poor customer experience when this happens.

Costco has all of those things in different models, and because they stock so many brands, they don’t pay lip service to asking you what you want, they can actually deliver it.


My wife and I both wear aids. My wife has otosclerosis and has had all the bones replaced surgically but still is very impaired. We used Dr Teresa Harris and we’re both happy with her service . She spent a lot of time programming them the way we wanted. Costco is probably a lot cheaper but if you are looking for a local audiologist her Business is at
Input Hearing Systems

4801 Spring Valley Rd

Suite 40

Farmers Branch, TX 75244

[() Input Hearing Systems

[(469) 701-1358]


I have to disagree with the assertion that in-the-canal aides are the best. They are very likely the best for YOU, but can also be an exercise in frustration for someone else.

I have a high frequency hearing loss; better than average hearing in the very low frequencies (which is kind of a curse), normal hearing from there to the mid-range of speech, but then it plummets to a severe to profound loss. I cannot hear the top keys on a piano. Most things that chirp are beyond me. For example, several years back, I was in my office working on my computer with my back to the door. Two fire Marshall’s came in and asked what I was doing. I replied “working?” They said “This is a fire drill. Didn’t you hear the alarm?” I told them no. And we won’t get into the fact that none of my coworkers bothered to tell me… in any case, I got my very own strobe light alarm installed in my office. Yay for ADA.

Anyway, I need POWER. And that means behind-the-ear aides.

Hearing aids are $$$. And the software/hardware required for appropriate fitting isn’t cheap either. Therefore, most “office in a strip shopping center” audiologists will only rep a single manufacturer. But, not all hearing aides or assistive devices are equal. And my personal opinion is that when you see full page newspaper ads extolling a miraculous hearing solution or “invitations” to test some groovy new aide, they only want your money. Not to help you hear better.

Me, I use the Callier Center for hearing tests and aides. It’s just been the best fit for me, long term. I’d like to make a plug for a one-week seminar that one of the professors at the UTD Callier campus coordinates, called SIARC (Summer Intensive Assistive and Rehabilitative Conference). There’s some info posted on this page:
In a nutshell, participants are paired with doctoral audiology students and/or graduate Speech Pathology students. For the students, they learn to recognize that there is a PERSON behind the audiogram, and that listening to what they struggle with can provide clues for better solutions to try or adjustments to be made to the programming of the aids. For the participants, it’s a week to get to try some different technologies and also learn how to advocate for themselves by better describing problems they are encountering with a given program.

I acquired a new pair of hearing aides early last fall. What’s kind of amazing to me is that these are the first digital aides I’ve had that actually do what I need them to do. If I wear them in the woodshop, I can hear what an instructor tells me surprisingly well. But I wouldn’t describe them as hearing protection devices. And I don’t think they are ever intended to be. They are more about helping regain some of the what’s missing, so you can participate in life instead of feeling isolated.


Hi @jrkriehn. I’m very glad you found what works for you. @Nick asked me about the features I personally want, not necessarily what works for others.

To clarify, I am not advocating an in-the-canal hearing aid, I’m suggesting a behind the ear model with a -receiver- in the canal. It’s more powerful for me to have the electronic amplifier directly in my ear canal vs. the traditional hollow sound tubes because it is louder and doesn’t require me to remember to have the plastic tubes replaced. My audiologist said the tubes start to harden and sound can’t travel through them as well as when they’re new.

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Thanks for sharing,

I know what I’m asking for is not main stream yet. But, as I’ve followed the development of hearing protection, noise cancelling headphones, isolation phone ear pieces, in ear monitor headphones, and hearing aids, I’ve noticed these markets getting closer and closer to merging. I’m sure at some point in the near future all of these products will become one as the shared hardware and similar needs are combined.

I’m definitely early, but at the same time hopeful a solution will come out of this to help all that want it and also the combined market share will bring the costs at scale way down.

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Now if only they’d devise some sort of in-ear-esque ear buds/earplugs that sealed well without extracting staggering amounts of ear wax.