The VOLT by MDHearingAid is a solid performer at a fraction of the price of the high-end hearing aids. It features a convenient onboard lithium-ion battery that you can use a common microUSB cable to charge and lasts 18-22 hours on a single charge. Doctor designed and Audiologist tested.
Hearing loss is a reality that many of us will experience in our lifetime. We don’t truly understand the impact hearing loss will have on our lives while we are in our twenties clubbing and going to concerts but I promise you that you will miss your hearing once it’s gone.
Hearing loss is in many cases is irreversible and until someone can come up with a radical stem cell regrowth and integration of your ear drums and nerves, a hearing aid or surgery (for certain types of loss) is your only recourse. The problem is that prices for good performance range anywhere from roughly $1k to $3k. That’s per ear! The Volt hearing aid from MDHearingAid offers great performance at a reasonable price. The VOLT is engineered for Mild to Moderately-Severe Hearing Loss.
Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid
You should always seek out an Audiologist to have your hearing tested but the VOLT requires no prescription or sit down for fitting. There are many degrees of hearing loss, only you can determine if they work for you. Our test subject is a 73 year-old male with hereditary hearing loss, age and prolonged exposure to loud noise were also contributing factors. Our test subject wears a hearing aid daily and for the entire day. Communicating with him without a hearing aid is extremely difficult.
MDHearing Aid has provided us with a VOLT as a courtesy so that we could provide you with a real world test of the unit. We have only received a single unit, right ear. That said, we are unable to comment on the experience with dual VOLTs one for each ear.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are two main types of hearing loss, Conductive and Sensorineural. The former is typically caused by a damage or an obstruction to the middle or outer ear from heavy trauma, blockages, malformations. The latter and more common type of hearing loss is generally caused by auditory nerve damage or damage to the tiny hair-like cells within the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss often times is a result of aging, disease or extremely loud noise for prolonged periods.
According to experts the consensus dictates that extended exposure to noise levels of just 85dB can cause permanent hearing damage or loss. A crowded restaurant can commonly reach 90dB. So if a crowded restaurant over dinner can potentially harm your hearing, just think what a night at a dance club or standing in front of a speaker at a concert might do to you.
What’s in the box and Specs
The VOLT comes pre-charged and includes a micro-USB Charger, wall plug, High-Volume Kit, Cleaning tool & Carry case. There’s no assembly required (unless you need some fine tuning for fit) and you can plug and play. An LED on the Program Button indicates Blue for charging and Green for fully charged. We recommend that you still do the initial charge to top it off prior to use for maximum battery life and try the different Comfort Tips and Tubing.
Out of the box the VOLT comes attached with the Thin Tubing and Open Comfort Tip that will work for most users. If you need more performance you can swap it out for the 13Plus Tubing and Closed Comfort Tip which has a larger diameter tubing to increase the volume. The Cleaning Kit includes a Brush, Magnet and wire to keep the tubing free of dust and obstructions. For those of you comparing or interested in technical specs:
MAX OSPL90 – 125 dBSPL
HF Average OSPL90 -116 dBSPL
HFA Full-on-gain – 40 dBSPL
THD@ – 500 Hz 1.0% , 800 Hz 0.3% , 1600 Hz 0.7%
EQUIV INPUT NOISE – 20 dB
The ear pieces are left and right specific but the only difference seems to be the tubing. Aside from the direction the tubing bends it also has a small cut out to expose the upper directional microphone outward from your left or right ear.
Features and Usage
First and foremost the Volt features a rechargeable lithium-ion battery so you don’t have to deal with those tiny little hearing aid batteries. The design is a common behind the ear design; it’s comfortable but if you wear glasses you might need to finagle the fit a little. Ergonomically we find the VOLT very comfortable. It’s hardly noticeable and hides behind the ear.
A Program Button lets you select from four optimized sound profiles depending on your situation: Presets include Everyday, High Frequency, Restaurant and Groups. Each presetting provides an audible confirmation 1,2,3,4 beeps.
- Everyday optimizes for Hearing high and low pitched sounds.
- High Frequency is for High pitched sounds: nature sounds or high octave music.
- Restaurant balances output for 1-on-1 conversations or reducing noise in restaurants.
- Groups is ideal for restaurant settings where you are conversing with 3-5 people with lots of background noise.
The only drawback is that you’ll need to re-set your choice of preset each time you turn the unit off and on again. It will always begin on setting 1 when turned on. Total runtime varies from 18-22 hours depending on your volume levels and usage. Figure approx 20 hours continuous use and about 8 hours total charge time from dead.
Since we only have a single unit to test, it’s difficult to determine fully what it’s like with a VOLT in each ear. Our experience is a good one but given that we are experiencing two different levels of detail, right ear with the VOLT and the left with none we cannot be conclusive. We can however speculate that the experience would be better with dual devices.
Dual Directional Microphones
The VOLT utilizes 2 onboard directional microphones to provide focused sound and an analog Volume dial makes it simple and familiar to use. One directional mic is located directly above the Volume dial while the second is located at the top of the VOLT where the tubing attaches. The two microphones work in tandem but the 2nd mic makes it easy to deal with phone calls too. You’ll want to turn down the volume prior to making a phone call until you find your sweet spot for max volume with no feedback. Feedback can happen as with any microphone if you place something too close to it.
Using the VOLT is simple and intuitive so you don’t have to spend too much time fiddling and more time engaging in conversation. Behind the scenes VOLT’s proprietary MDSound audio processing provides accuracy of sound and incorporates Wide Dynamic Range Compression which increases soft sounds while dampening louder ones. Advanced Feedback Cancellation combats that incessant whistling sound that can be present with many hearing aids, irritating your experience. Extended Frequency Layered Noise Reduction effectively reduces ambient noise so you aren’t drowned out by tertiary noise.
You’ll want to stay on top of your cleaning ritual as daily use can cause buildup of moisture, dust, dead skin or ear wax in the tubing that can impede the VOLT from operating optimally.
Tips and Tube Configurations
There are four possible physical configurations for varied outputs through a combination of the tips and tubing. Out of the box the VOLT uses the compatible for most open Comfort Tip with Thin Tubing. Closed Tip with Thin Tubing, Open Tip with 13Plus Tubing and Closed Comfort Tip with 13Plus Tubing for maximum volume output.
Swapping out the different pieces is quick and easy to do. The Tubing and Comfort Tip separate with just a pull as the tubing has some ridges to secure it in place and remain air tight. The tubing can be removed from the VOLT by spinning it, righty tighty, lefty loosey. MDHearingAid recommends you try them out for a 21 day period to fully digest how they work for you. If you require more fine tuning for fit you can utilize the optional ear hook attachment which you’ll need to cut to size.
MDHearingAid recommends that you clean your ear tubes daily and replace the Comfort Tips and Tubing every three months. An obstructed tube or Comfort tip is the most common reason for any degradation in performance. Replacement Tips and Tube kits run $16.95 to $30.50
Warranty, Returns, Support
MDHearingAid offers stellar 24 hour customer support for your VOLT. You are able to get a full refund but will need to navigate some red tape. You need to work out a return within 45 days, but not before 21 days have passed. MDHearingAid wants you to test them out fully before you send them back which makes sense. However if you become complacent you might miss your window.
In order to initiate a return you’ll need to go through an RMA process and if you don’t you’ll only be refunded 80% -100% depending on if you followed the RMA instructions. So if you do find you need to return them, speak to customer service first.
They also offer a 100% protection plan for 1-year MDShield if purchased within 90 days of the VOLT, this protects you from incidental breakage from water or pet damage but not from product loss. The MDHearingAid website states it’s Open 24 Hours but that’s only for new sales calls. For customer support you can reach someone M-F 8:30 to 4:30 CST.
The VOLT rechargeable hearing aid is a solid performer and the onboard Lithium-ion battery makes it very convenient. Your mileage may vary but in our case, the VOLT worked better than our existing hearing aid with improved focus and detail of sound in varied situations. The product is simple to use with intuitive controls and works very well. We were impressed with the performance of the device.
Volt Rechargeable Hearing Aid $549.99 or $1,049.99 for a pair