I came across Lexie Hearing a while ago, but didn't really consider them much to be honest. Our friend Abram Bailey on Hearing Tracker had a look at them and discussed them last year. Just recently, I have been in contact with the team in HearX, the business behind Lexie Hearing and I spoke to them about the their hearing aids and the system that they are providing to their customers. We have always said on Hearing Aid Know that we are not completely adverse to the online sale of hearing aids. However, we always felt that there were parameters that were critical. It seems that Lexie Hearing work completely within those parameters. I would have to say, they are the best direct to consumer hearing aid business we have come across and here is why.
So Who Are HearX?
HearX Group is an innovative South African company that produces clinical solutions for hearing care. Their premise is that they want to provide affordable access to hearing healthcare using smart digital solutions.
They have done so with some aplomb, and their digital products are used in areas with few resources. They have built everything from hearing loss screeners for schools to video otoscopes that use AI image classification to help diagnose pathologies of the ear. They also offer an excellent online hearing test that many hearing healthcare businesses use in their websites.
The Democratisation of Low-Cost Care
HearX sees its job as the democratisation of low-cost hearing care and now treatment. The introduction of Lumen hearing aids on the Lexie Hearing platform is just the first step in that journey. In all honesty, it is a significant step forward, and they have built a solid foundation. This business understands hearing loss. It understands that not all hearing losses are simple run-of-the-mill affairs, and they need to provide their products safely.
Why Are They Safe?
An integrated part of the process is questions designed to flag issues that may be over and above simple sensorineural hearing loss. They have also incorporated a similar approach to their in-app hearing test. If your hearing falls within any of the more worrying parameters, you get a notification to see a hearing healthcare professional.
That is an excellent start, but they haven’t finished there, using the app they monitor your settings over time. If your loss appears to increase during that time more than it should, they will flag this as a problem and ask you to see a professional.
This is an outstanding approach, and I applaud these guys for taking it. I think that this is pretty much as safe as they can be within online DTC sales constraints.
Delivering an Outstanding Ongoing Experience
HearX believes that your purchase shouldn’t be a one and done deal. They don’t want to take your money and never hear from you again. They will pay you to keep in touch with them through the Lexie Rewards programme (more on that in a minute). For me, this shows their commitment to two things, the first, actual hearing care, the second, a great consumer experience.
A Low-Cost Option
HearX sells a pair of Lumen for $49 per month with a one-time activation fee of $50. The activation fee is refundable during the first 45 days, and you can cancel the subscription at any time. They provide ongoing video call support and new hearing aids every two years if you stick with the program.
The total cost over two years would be $1176 plus the $50 activation fee. The subscription also includes regular care kits, batteries and accessories, to keep your hearing aids in tip-top shape and ongoing loss and damage insurance.
They also offer a way to reduce the cost of subscription from $49 to $41.65 per month by participating in the Lexie Rewards program. The Lexie Rewards programme is fascinating, if you complete activity goals each month, like wearing your hearing aids for 40 hours per week, you work your way towards a 15% discount on your monthly subscription.
They Pay You To Wear Your Damn Hearing Aids!
I like this concept; they are willing to take a hit on your subscription fee if you wear the hearing aids, I mean how cool is that? There is quite a bit of thought behind this programme. HearX knows that wearing your hearing aids consistently will deliver a better experience for you. More than that, it will help you to keep active, and the sound centres of your brain constantly stimulated. They are bribing you to do the right thing.
If you get with the programme, the discount brings the total two-year cost without the activation fee down to about $1000. You can also purchase a pair of Lumens outright via credit card for $799, you will have access to the ongoing support and the Lexie Rewards programme. However, you will need to pay a monthly subscription fee for the extra rewards such as the clean and care packs and the insurance. The details are as follows
The Lexie App
The Lexie App is the centre of the Lexie Hearing experience. The app allows you to personalise the hearing aids based on your unique hearing profile. It also allows you to access customer support and Lexie Rewards. The app also serves as a remote control for the hearing aids, allowing you to change the volume and switch between environmental settings.
After downloading the app and pairing your Lumen hearing aids with your smartphone, the Lexie App takes you through a hearing check. During the hearing check, the Lumen hearing aids produce a series of beeps, and you tap a button every time you hear a beep. In this way it finds your threshold at four frequencies.
The hearing test they offer at present is a four-point air conduction test at 500 Hz, 1kHz, 2 kHz and 4kHz. While this is the lowest basis for working out a hearing loss, it isn’t ideal. I asked them why they went with that. They said that they wanted to balance accuracy with attention. That makes sense to me, if the hearing test takes too long, maybe you will get bored.
However, I asked them if they considered a system that offered the base test and a more in-depth test for those who would like a more custom fitting. They said they have and it is in their development pipeline. I like this idea, and I think it will give consumers access to a more custom fitting for their needs.
You can also send an existing audiogram into the support team, and they can set your hearing aids to that audio in the background. They will do it free of charge, and it does offer a route to that more custom fit.
Once finished, the app takes you through the results which you can see above before setting the amplification for your hearing aids.
HearX have presented the results in a non-traditional way, instead of showing you an audiogram, they show you your hearing in comparison to a normal hearing ability. I asked them about this and they said that they felt it was an easily understandable method for the consumer.
From there, you can adjust the volume on the hearing aids, or even have a live video call with one of Lexie’s hearing experts to receive further adjustments to the sound via video-supported remote telecare. The amplification strategy that Lexie use in NAL-NL2 with some changes. I will discuss that in a minute.
The Lexie Lumen Hearing Aids
The Lexie Lumen is thin tube behind-the-ear hearing aid with a rocker switch and push button. It is suitable for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. On these pages, I have said that I think a thin tube BTE is an ideal hearing aid type for direct to consumer sales. They are usually pretty rock solid, and they will provide amplification for most mild to moderate hearing losses with the simple change of a dome.
A thin tube device uses a slim plastic tube to deliver sound to the ear canal. It means that the receiver is in the hearing aid itself and is less exposed to wax or moisture. The thin tube is pretty easy to keep clean as well, simply take it off the hearing aid and push the cleaning wire through and voila. A size 312 battery powers the device which comes in either grey or beige colours.
The hearing aid includes a directional microphone system, a telecoil, and adaptive noise reduction. The inclusion of a telecoil is a fantastic idea. Sometime, in the future, we may well replace Loop systems with something different. However, many of them are around in public buildings, theatres, shops, and churches. The number is steadily increasing in the US because of the advocacy of pressure groups. Loop systems can be a really excellent solution for someone with hearing loss in a public auditorium setting. It allows them to hear clearly what is going on.
Wide Dynamic Range Compression & 16 Channels
The hearing aids offer WDRC across 16 channels. That means that the devices use a widespread compression strategy available in the industry and provide customisation across 16 channels or frequencies. As I said earlier, they use NAL-NL2 as the basis for their amplification strategy, but they have changed it somewhat to reflect the hearing aid type and increase acceptance.
It makes sense to do this as initially; most hearing aid users don’t like full amplification. However, over time, they will become acclimatised and need that maximum amplification. I questioned why they had not just used an acclimatisation strategy that would offer less amplification initially and build to full amplification over time. They are creating such a system right now and are looking at pushing it out in due course to their customers.
A Companion Microphone
There is also an optional remote microphone available for an additional cost. Surprisingly enough, since it does support a remote microphone, the Lumen does not support wireless audio streaming via Bluetooth from Android or iOS devices. Having said that, it is quite a lot of hearing aid for a meager monthly cost.
I like the concepts and deployment here, I really do believe that these are one of the best DTC providers we have seen to date. I am happy to see the steps they have taken to ensure safety and to flag issues to the consumers who have them.
Are these hearing aids for everyone, no probably not. Are these hearing aids comparable to top of the range devices from mainstream brands, no, no they aren't. However, they are an excellent hearing aid for the cost, more than that, they offer an outstanding consumer experience and support route.
Are these hearing aids for everyone, no, they are not. However, for someone who can cope with the technology and is happy to have remote support, they may well be just the ideal thing. I hope to have the hearing aids quite soon to get a handle on how they work, I will let you know.