We began writing about hearable devices for people with mild to moderate hearing impairment in 2016, the year that the FDA announced steps to improve consumer access to hearing aids. Several companies pre-announced hearable products, but when the calendar turned to 2017, Nuheara was the only company that delivered on its promise of affordable hearables.

I tested the original Nuheara IQbuds in settings such as massive, echo-y churches, noisy restaurants during lunch hour, and many more. I have moderate to severe hearing loss and was blown away by the way Nuheara’s hearables helped me understand others’ speech. IQbuds have a feature called SINC (Speech In Noise Control) that enables the wearer to control both the relative volumes of “world” noise and the frequencies used in speech. Users can also use a mobile app to adjust the amplification for different sound settings such as Street, Driving, and Restaurant. Nuheara introduced the second generation IQbuds Boost in 2018 with an added hearing self-assessment app called EarID. EarID uses a clinically-validated hearing test that optimizes the earbud settings to match the user’s test results, without needing to visit an audiologist.

This year Nuheara announced its third generation, IQbuds MAX. According to the developers, it re-designed the new generation “from the ground up.” The general concepts of the finished product are unchanged; take the EarID self-test, set your preferences for various sound environments in the app, choose the best-fitting tips from the included selection, learn how to use a few simple tap commands to control the earbuds, and you’re all set. The IQbuds MAX earbuds run for about 8 hours of hearing (or 5 hours listening to streaming audio) between charges and come with a magnetic charging case that holds an additional three full charges for on-the-go recharging. You can also use IQbuds MAX for phone calls via Bluetooth 5.

Of all the new development and design tweaks in the IQbuds MAX, the feature that I most appreciate is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). This hybrid system works in conjunction with the latest update to Nuheara’s SINC and relies on three microphones in each earbud to analyze and process sounds inside and outside the ear to reduce distracting noises. You can turn ANC on or off with a single tap. There’s a dramatic difference in overall sound content when you use the ANC to turn the world “off.” Nuheara also changed the physical design of the IQbuds MAX from the earlier versions. I had no issues with the first generations, but the IQbuds MAX seat quickly, comfortably, and securely in my ears. There’s also a new anti-friction coating that may make a difference in comfort. Whatever, they’re easy to put in and wear.

The first-gen IQbuds were a leap forward from crude amplifying earbuds in their ability to help you control incoming sounds. The IQbuds Boost’s EarID self-testing refined the sound shaping. The IQbuds MAX earbuds take a giant step forward in noise isolation and user comfort. Nuheara sells the IQbuds MAX on its website for $399 for a pair including the magnetic charging case.