Orka Hearing Aid Review - Precision at a Friendly Price

February 15, 2023
Blake Cadwell
Written by
Blake Cadwell
Soundly Staff
Reviewed by
Soundly Staff
Orka hearing aid review

Launching a prescription-level hearing aid from scratch is like building a new car brand. Tesla and Rivian have proven that it's possible, but the odds are stacked against you.

New brands are rare because five big companies set the standard for the industry with hundreds or thousands of employees and millions in R&D each year. It's tough to match.

Orka Health is not owned by one of the big guys, and unlike some OTC upstarts, they are intent on building quality products that go toe-toe with prescription devices in features and sophistication.  

Orka's independence and backing from the likes of Tencent and Sequoia Capital give the brand freedom to try some new things. The company's co-founders come from Apple, Siemens, and Facebook and are no strangers to technology.

After nearly four years in relatively quiet R&D, Orka has now opened up in the U.S. Last month, I had a chance to try the product.

In this review, I'll share my unboxing along with everything I’ve learned about the company and their ambitions.  

Let's get into it!

Who is Orka?

Orka was founded in Menlo Park in 2018 after CEO Ben Sun watched his grandmother struggle with her hearing aids. Ben was working as a product design engineer at Apple where he worked on Apple Pencil and Butterfly Keyboard.

Ben soon convinced hearing aid wearer and Stanford graduate Xinke, Facebook AI developer Chauncey, and Siemens Healthcare researcher Linkai to join him in rebuilding hearing aids from the ground up.

Ben and his team built the first Orka prototype in his California apartment and used it to raise funds from some tech players like Sequoia Capital and Tencent.

Orka founding team

Today the Orka team is 70+ with a strong group of technical and product developers and a growing number of audiologists and hearing health professionals.

Ben's co-founder Xinke is a long-time hearing aid wearer, and her experience shapes the user experience at Orka. When I asked their team why Orka isn't planning to sell OTC, Xinke referenced her history of life-changing relationships with audiologists.

She and the Orka team want that professional relationship to  stay front and center as they build a forward-thinking company.

How the Orka Process Works

Orka hearing aids are not available at local clinics. Instead the company has opted for Telehealth care.

Interested customers are paired with a hearing specialist who walks them through the entire process. The specialist guides the new wearer through a remote onboarding session and ongoing follow-up.

For self-starters, Orka has a comprehensive onboarding tutorial in the Orka App where users can set up Bluetooth, take a hearing test and schedule a fine-tuning session with Orka’s audiologists.

Customers will order Orka hearing aids online and work with a remote audiologist to program them for their hearing loss. I sent an existing hearing test to my Orka specialist who pre-loaded my audiogram into the devices before they arrived. Real-time programming can also be done during a remote care session using the app.

If you don't have a recent hearing test available, you can take an onboard hearing test inside Orka's app with the hearing aids placed in your ears.

From there, you can access remote care through the app when needed. At one point in this review, I had issues pairing my phone through Bluetooth and used the app to submit a ticket and resolve the issue. The process is convenient for anyone who doesn't prefer time spent in the clinic.

Orka's Underlying Technology

Orka chip inside hearing aids

The user controls for Orka hearing aids are pretty minimal, with a toggle for Bluetooth streaming mode, volume controls, and an "enhanced" setting for reduced background noise.

App screenshots of the Orka Health app

The "enhanced" background noise setting is one of the most comfortable sound experiences I've had with hearing aids. The setting keeps traffic, fans, and music at bay while emphasizing speech clarity. It's impressive.  

Under the hood, Orka does many of the same things that the market leaders do. Microphones scan the room to develop a model of the environment, and an onboard processor sorts out background noise and amplifies speech.

One big difference between Orka and other hearing aids is the computer chip inside. Unlike leaders like Phonak and Signa, Orka uses a general chip instead of a specialized chip.

A little bit of backstory here.

Specialized chips are popular in hearing aids because they prioritize ONLY the features a hearing aid needs, and that focus saves battery power. The downside is that specialized chips typically have a slower innovation cycle.

On the other hand, General Chips are used in Airpods, smartphones, etc. These chips are constantly getting smarter and faster.

Orka is one of the only hearing aids on the market to use a general chip. The downside is that Orka hearing aids only last about 12 hours per charge. That's enough for many people, but not for everyone.

Orka hearing aids in charging case

To offset the power challenge, Orka made its charging case with a 10-minute charge-boost option that gets you another 90 minutes of hearing support.

In the long run, Orka is betting that battery life will become less of an issue as batteries get better, and they hope using more powerful chips will unlock new features for the product.

My Orka Unboxing

Photo of the writer unboxing Orka hearing aids

My Orka hearing aids came in a sleek package. I found my new Orka One hearing aids nested inside the box alongside a user manual and some accessories. The hearing aids came with charged batteries, so I could get started immediately.

Orka charging case

I downloaded the Orka Health app and paired the devices. Before ordering the devices, I shared my audiogram with the specialists at Orka so the hearing aids were already fitted to match my hearing loss.

Orka onboarding app experience

If you decide not to go through the pre-programming process, you can customize your hearing aids through the app by taking an onboard hearing test or uploading a picture of your audiogram.

Within a few minutes, my Orka hearing aids were in my ears, and I was hearing well. The sound quality is smooth and natural. I made dinner with my wife and daughter and noticed the high-volume sounds like plates bumping together were moderated while voices were prioritized. So far, so good.

Orka user manual

After an hour or two, I began to feel some pressure in my ears and decided to try an alternate ear-tip size. I chose a smaller tip and immediately felt more comfortable. I recommend trying multiple tip sizes to match your preference and ear canal.

Various Orka domes

I've since worn my Orka hearing aids in many environments, from busy public spaces to quiet home environments and an Uber ride.

I'm impressed.

Orka hearing aids go toe to toe with prescription devices in their sound quality and background noise management.

Orka One is a bit larger than other behind-the-ear style hearing aids, but the devices also have a sleek design.

Pricing and Home Try On

After a week of wear, I feel that Orka competes with some of the best products on the market. That's impressive, given their early market status and $1,180 price point.

One noteworthy feature offered by Orka is their free home try-on. Orka will send you a pair of hearing aids for no money down (you do need to enter a credit card). You have 21 days to decide whether to keep the devices or ship them back. The offer takes free returns to a new level, and I like it!

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Pros and Cons

Orka One hearing aids with their recharging case

I'm impressed by this new hearing aid and I'd be surprised if they aren't major players in the category a few years from now. That said, Orka is a young company and isn't right for everyone.


  • Competitive price
  • Free home try on
  • Beautiful design
  • Convenient and tech-forward remote care
  • Impressive underlying technology and noise management


  • Shorter battery life
  • Slightly larger form factor
  • Orka is a new company. Expect some learning along the way.

If you are an early adopter or want to save money but still get a high-quality product, Orka's is a compelling option. If you prefer to work with a local doctor in person or like only tried and true options, give this one a few years. My guess is that they'll be here for the long term.

–The Soundly team

Frequently asked questions

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