We’ve been covering the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid Act since 2017 when the Senate first approved the law. Despite many would-be market starters, in early 2018, Nuheara’s IQbuds were the first OTC hearables to hit the market for online sales. As of mid-October this year, you can buy OTC hearing aids for mild to medium hearing loss in stores and online without a prescription. On October 12, 2022, Sony Electronics introduced two OTC hearing aid models for the U.S.

Sony developed the CRE-C10 and CRE-E10 self-fitting OTC hearing aids in partnership with WS Audiology (WSA). WSA is a long-established hearing aid manufacturer with headquarters in Denmark and Singapore. The Sony devices both feature easy set-up and discrete use. The CRE-C10 and CRE-E10 are both intended for daily wear. According to the Sony news release, users can personalize the hearing aid settings easily with Sony’s Hearing Control App, available for iOS and Android devices. There’s AI in the fitting process as the hearing aids self-adjust with pre-defined hearing profiles derived from thousands of real-life audiograms. When the user wears the configured hearing aids in daily life, the profile automatically adapts to different sound environments.

The CRE-C10, available for sale now at $1,000 per pair, is the smaller of the two new Sony hearing aids. It is an in-ear-canal device powered by conventional Size 10 zinc air batteries for up to 70 hours of continuous use. The CRE-C10 comes with sleeves in four sizes for the best fit in the user’s ear canal, a pack of six batteries, and tools to clean the hearing aids. Unless someone looks directly in a user’s ear, few people will notice the CRE-C10 hearing aids. There is no Bluetooth connectivity with the CRE-C10 hearing aids, so you cannot use them for smartphone calls or listening to streaming content.,

Sony plans to launch the larger CRE-E10 hearing aids during the winter of 2022-2023 for $1,300 for a pair. The CRE-E10 hearing aids have an earbud design and are more visible than the in-canal CRE-C10s. The CRE-E10’s earbud shape addresses the discreet use challenge because most people will assume they’re conventional earbuds for smartphone calls and streaming media. According to Sony’s CRE-E10 product page, streaming content is available when the hearing aids connect via Bluetooth to iOS devices only. There is no mention of support for phone conversations for either of the new models so it’s best to assume you cannot make or take calls until we learn otherwise. The CRE-E10 hearing aids have permanent, rechargeable batteries that are good for up to 26 hours use. Charging time is not available at this time. The CRE-E10s come with a charging case with power cable, sleeves in four sizes for the best fit, and cleaning tools.

Aside from the fact that you cannot make or take phone calls with the CRE-E10 Bluetooth-connected and rechargeable battery-powered hearing aids, the two new Sony models are a positive sign for OTC hearing aids. I especially appreciate that, despite all its consumer electronics expertise, Sony chose to work with an established hearing company to develop these hearing aids rather than to develop and design them completely in-house. WSA has deep credibility in the hearing aid industry as the manufacturer of multiple hearing aid brands including Signia, Rexton, and Widex. We can certainly expect that Sony will introduce additional models in time, likely with phone call capability.