Audien Hearing Atom One Hearing Aid Review: Über-Cheap and Too Basic

Audien Hearing Atom One Hearing Aid Review: Über-Cheap and Too Basic

What the Atom One does do is make things louder—and by default, it makes all the things louder. Tuning is fairly blunt: A lone button on the back of each aid lets you cycle through five volume levels. Since the aids don’t talk to one another, each has to be controlled individually. The units also include three environmental modes that are designed respectively for conversation, noisy environments, and in-vehicle operation. To cycle through these—again, separately for each ear—you hold down the button on the back of each unit for a few seconds and wait for a lower frequency tone to alert you to which mode it has engaged.

If you’re prone to fiddling with hearing aids, you’ll probably accidentally hit the control button more than you’d like, inadvertently changing the volume and requiring you to cycle back through the five levels again to return to the volume you want. This is a bit of a pain, but a little hassle is perhaps to be expected at this price level.

As for performance, the amplification effect is, to put things plainly, rather blunt. Around the house, when at max volume, it sounded like everyone was screaming, and even the slightest sound was deafening. Typing this review with the aids in was nerve-racking, even at more moderate volumes, like tiny firecrackers popping beneath my fingers. My voice became an echoing boom from the heavens that drowned out everything else.

Eventually, I found better luck in more intimate environments at lower volume settings and was able to see some value in hearing television audio and one-on-one conversations with a modest amount of added clarity—but in busy, noisy environments, the Atom One couldn’t keep up. In a bowling alley test, the aids were effectively useless no matter how I configured them.

Ugly Hiss

In all mode settings and at all volumes, there’s ample background hiss that makes it feel a bit like you’re sitting on an airplane. I found it more difficult to concentrate with them in my ears even if I was in a silent room. Combined with the booming reports of keyboard taps, footsteps, and crinkling wrappers, I found the Atom One to be significantly more nerve-racking than I’d like. (Which is none at all.)

On aesthetics, I wouldn’t call the Atom One ugly—the mostly in-ear design is at least less obtrusive than behind-the-ear models—but the beige color palate doesn’t feel very modern. Perhaps this is something Walmart requested, but a more modern white or black earbud-like design would probably go over better with most wearers.

Photograph: Audien Hearing

Christopher Null

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