Lucid bulks up OTC hearing aid offerings with background noise-minimizing tech

It’s been almost a year since the FDA’s over-the-counter hearing aid rule took effect, and in that time, several companies have rushed to fill the newly created market with devices spanning a variety of price points, fit options and high-tech features.

The latest addition to the roster comes from Lucid Hearing, which unveiled the “highest premium option” in its OTC line of hearing aids this week. The Tala in-ear devices look like standard wireless earbuds, but are meant to be used by people with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Lucid will first roll out the Tala hearing aids for purchase on its own website and at Best Buy stores around the U.S., according to a company announcement, before expanding into other retailers over the course of the coming months. As Lucid’s top-of-the-line OTC devices, with a price of $1,300, they’ll take the place of the in-ear Fio system, which had previously sold for $1,700 upon their debut last fall but have since been marked down to $1,000.

That “premium” branding comes from the addition of Lucid’s new Precision Directional Listening (PDL) system to the Tala hearing aids.

The PDL technology uses Lucid’s signal-processing algorithms and directional microphones to simultaneously enhance speech and other sounds coming from the direction a wearer is facing, while suppressing potentially distracting background noises.

“We’ve positioned Tala’s microphones in such a way to optimize the hearing function so that we get the best directional performance through PDL,” Bennett Griffin, Lucid’s executive VP of research and development, said in the announcement. “These benefits are especially important in situations where individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss are struggling the most, like in noisy restaurants or in meetings, and they’re trying to make sure they really understand what people are saying.”

Though Tala is Lucid’s first hearing aid system to be equipped with PDL, the company said it plans to add the technology to future products, including those meant to address more severe cases of hearing loss—which, according to the FDA’s ruling, still require prescriptions.

Beyond the newly added noise-minimizing technology, the Tala hearing aids include other consumer electronic-like features, such as a moisture-resistant coating and a pocket-sized recharging case. They can also be customized to a wearer’s own hearing needs: Once connected to the Lucid Hearing smartphone app, users can select a preset hearing profile for each device or manually tweak sound levels as needed.

Plus, not only do the devices look like earbuds, but they can function like them, too: Wearers can stream their own music and other audio through the hearing aids via Bluetooth.

And, if a user ever decides to switch from the self-guided OTC track to a doctor-monitored prescription path for their hearing aids, they can stick with the Tala system, which can be upgraded with custom programming.

“Lucid Hearing operates on a vertically integrated model, from R&D all the way through to our customer-facing hearing clinics, and we’ve intentionally built a technology stack that allows us to seamlessly upgrade a premium OTC hearing aid to a prescription-level solution if at some point the customer wants to take that next step,” Griffin said.