If you’ve spent much time searching for affordable hearing aids online, there’s a good chance that you’ve read something about MDHearingAid. The Chicago based brand has sold over 500,000 pairs since 2009 and is a leader in low cost, online hearing aids.
I recently tried MDHearingAid’s self-programmed CORE product to see how MDHearingAid holds up to the competition.
In this review I’ll share the details (with photos) of my experience with MDHearingAid CORE. I’ll also share my take on how MDHearing aid stacks up against other low cost hearing aids like Lexie, Bose and Jabra Enhance.
Some background on MDHearingAid
Dr. Sreekant Cherukuri, a Certified Ear, Nose, and Throat Physician, founded MDHearingAid in 2009. After years of patient care, Dr. Cherukuri started the brand to help make hearing aids more affordable. To do that, he sold directly to the consumer online. Instead of working with audiologists to program each pair, he programmed all devices to work for the most common hearing needs. Later, MDHearingAid introduced CORE which allows hearing aid wearers to customize their hearing aids using a hearing test through the MDHearingAid app and adjusting the devices digitally.
Before I get into the CORE review let’s look at the full MDHearingAid product range. The brand currently offers three different levels of hearing aid.
MDHearingAid offers three levels of products.
The CORE - Reviewed in depth below
Price: $999 / Pair
Overview: CORE offers a smartphone app that allows you to customize your hearing aids from home and allows volume and program changes. You can also adjust your CORE hearing aid volume through buttons on the back of the device. The product provides noise reduction and directional mics but is not rechargeable.
Customization: CORE allows for customized amplification based on a hearing test administered through MDHearingAid’s app.
VOLT+ - Rechargeable but not customizable
Price: $399-$599 (depending on sales)
Overview: The VOLT+ is rechargeable, adds in directional microphones, and is water-resistant. VOLT+ volume is adjusted using buttons on the back of the hearing aid.
Customization: VOLT+ comes with pre-set programming. You can choose between 4 preset programs. Generally, audiologists do not recommend wearing a product that can’t be customized to your hearing loss so I would suggest CORE or another affordable brand like Lexie or Bose if you can afford it.
AIR - Most affordable
Price: $299-$599 (depending on sales)
Overview: The Air is MDHearingAid’s most affordable option. Air hearing aids use directional microphones and reduce background noise but they are not rechargeable or customizable to your hearing loss.
Customization: AIR comes with pre-set programming. You can choose between 4 preset programs. Generally, audiologists do not recommend wearing hearing aids that can’t be customized to your hearing loss so I would suggest CORE or another affordable brand like Lexie or Bose if you can afford it.
Let’s get into the MDHearingAid CORE review
A couple of years ago, I trialed the VOLT+ device from MDHearingAid. There were pros and cons to the product, but one big thing held me back from recommending it widely on this site.
VOLT+ didn’t allow me to customize their amplification to match my hearing loss. Instead, the product used the most common patterns across all hearing aid wearers to decide what sounds should be amplified. I have a somewhat unique hearing loss profile, so this approach didn’t work well for me.
Now I’m back to try the MDHearingAid CORE. Unlike the VOLT+, CORE allows customization based on your hearing loss through the MDHearingAid app.
CORE can be purchased online or over the phone with a credit card. The simple box arrived around 5 days after my order and came with a few accessories, spare batteries and two hearing aids.
I found my new CORE hearing aids in a compact carry case. The devices themselves are around the size of an AirPod and are only offered in a skin-tone color.
The hearing aids use simple buttons to control hearing aid volume. Each ear needs to be adjusted separately. I placed one of the 312 batteries in-ear hearing aid and put them in my ears. The hearing aids were surprisingly discreet and immediately began amplifying sounds around me.
With the hearing aids in my ears, I downloaded the MDHearing app from iTunes and began the setup and customization process. The first few screens asked me for some basic information and requested that I confirm my email.
Once the basic setup was complete I was prompted to connect my CORE hearing aids.
Side note: The first app prompt offered VOLT MAX which I was unable to find on the website (possibly an older product).
Next, the app prompted me to take a 10 minute hearing test through the hearing aids. I was prompted to press the button each time I heard a tone. The results of the hearing test formed my profile and allowed me to customize my hearing aids.
With my hearing test and customization complete, I was guided to the app's homepage. The homepage allowed me to change the volume and select listening programs. The support tab offers several advanced features like “find my device” and “fine tune assistance” with a member of the MDHearing team.
MDHearingAid customer service.
When my hearing aids initially arrived, the left device connected perfectly, but the right device was unresponsive. I chatted with customer service at MDHearingAid.com, and after a short conversation, they put a new device in the mail for me free of charge.
It’s not ideal to unbox a product that doesn’t work, but I was impressed with the MDHearing team’s responsiveness and willingness to make it right.
Sound quality and overall review.
I tested my pair of CORE hearing aids in a range of environments, including driving, at a coffee shop and at home with family. I found that the hearing aids do a great job of amplifying voices and are easy to use. The sound of my wife’s voice was loud and clear, even from across the room.
MDHearingAid CORE is a more affordable product compared to the market and it lacks some of the more sophisticated background noise suppression algorithms in complicated environments.
CORE Pros and Cons
MDHearingAid CORE is a hard working product for less than $1,000. Still not cheap, but far more affordable than many alternatives. A few pros and cons to consider:
CORE hearing aids offer customization and app controls for less than $1,000
CORE hearing aids are easy to use
CORE comes from a large company with real customer service and support
CORE is larger than other behind the ear products and comes in only one color
CORE lacks premium features like Bluetooth streaming and recharging
CORE requires self programming
If you want a further breakdown of MDHearingAids you might enjoy this in-depth review from Dr. Ben Thompson.