Olive Pro FI

Olive Pro Wireless Earbuds Crowdfunding Campaign Offers Steep Discounts on New Hearing Aid, Music Listening Combo

Olive Union began shipping its first product, the Olive SmartEar wireless earbuds, in 2017 as assistive hearables. SmartEar was one of a few new earbuds to offer sound amplification to enable users with mild to moderate hearing loss an alternative to hearing aids. The original product is on sale for Black Friday for $199, which reflects a $100 discount off of the list price. However, if you don’t mind waiting until the spring of 2021, you can now order the next generation Olive Pro for the same price through an Indigogo crowdfunding campaign and it will come with a number of new features, including FDA registration as a Class II medical device.

Smart Earbuds with Hearing Personalization

While the Olive Pro earbuds look a lot like an Apple AirPods Pro clone, the company is positioning the product as a hearing aid alternative at a more attractive price point. Apple offers noise amplification in the AirPods Pro which was just updated for iOS 14 with a new type of hearing test to customize the user settings. However, Apple does not market its hearables as hearing aids. That term is reserved for registered medical devices. Olive Union has gone through the process of FDA registration and the Olive Pro models will ship as Class II medical devices.

That feature also includes an app-based hearing test and personalization feature. The app walks users through different tests to optimize the settings and offers individualized control as well. Hearing amplification for the Olive Pro is listed as up to 70 dB HL, a significant step-up from the 50 dB HL maximum in the original product.

The Hearing Aid Alternative

Owen Song, Olive Union founder and CEO said that his mission from the start has been about making hearing aids more accessible to everyday consumers. He told Voicebot in an interview, “In the past, people with hearing loss had very little information about hearing aids. The information was purposefully constricted. Today, the internet is full of information and people start searching online. We now have very smart consumers of hearing aids. They don’t just listen to their audiologist anymore. The consumer demand is shifting.”

Song said he was first introduced to the hearing aid product category when his uncle spent $4,000 on new hearing aids and he realized the manufacturing costs were likely closer to $100. His research into the industry led to the conclusion that the hearing aid market was an “oligopoly worldwide. Price and sales models were the same and only about 20% different throughout the world.”

As he was getting started, he also saw the benefit of what Apple was doing with AirPods. Apple was offering true wireless earbuds with good audio fidelity, smartphone connectivity, and styling that was quickly changing social perceptions about wearing an in-ear device throughout the day. That led him to focus on making a combined solution with features popular in consumer wireless earbuds along with hearing assistance.

Updates for the Olive Pro

After selling the Olive SmartEar for the past three years, the company decided to introduce some changes in addition to the FDA registration. Customer feedback showed users wanted more amplification and better fit. “We intentionally brought the mic further away from the eardrum so we could get better sound amplification. The Earlier model was for universal use in either ear. Now, we have left and right models and they have better fit,” commented Song.

To save cost and boost performance, Olive Union built its own DSP for embedded Bluetooth features. The product specification claims six hours of performance and two additional charges in the included case. Song told Voicebot that there are typically two types of users. The first uses the earbuds for meetings which is typically less than three hours per day. In those cases, the battery life is sufficient. “Others use it all day. Some buy two Olives. It is much cheaper than buying one expensive [hearing aid].” Hearing aids often cost thousands of dollars when purchased through traditional channels.

The new Olive Pro also will include voice assistant support for Apple Siri and Google Assistant. This has been a popular feature addition for newer hearing aids as well and is now a standard feature for wireless earbuds used primarily for audio consumption. All-day users of assistive hearing devices then automatically have all-day access to voice assistants which will make them even more accessible and useful even when users are out in public.

There are currently 16 days remaining in the Olive Pro crowdfunding campaign. The list price is $299 but the company has a Black Friday deal for $199 for one set of earbuds and $349 for two sets. You can learn more here.

You can also learn more about the rise of hearables the impact on voice assistant adoption in Voicebot’s recent report: Hearables Consumer Adoption Report 2020.

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