Disclaimer: I purchased all three PSAPs and am not getting anything for these reviews.
I’m trying to find hearing aids that will help me, whose lost a bit of my ability to hear high pitches, hear bird songs like a 17 year old without the enormous cost of a true hearing aid. In trying out the efficacy of using Nuheara IQbuds Boost, Soundworld Solutions CS50+, and the Etymotic Beans to help hear birds, I ran several tests with the three pairs of Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPS). In test one I sat in the back yard while my daughter Alia played bird songs on an iPhone at progressively quieter volumes. I raised my hand whenever I heard the song. When I stopped raising my hand, she recorded the volume (number of little bars designating volume on the screen). The backyard had lots of bird song as ambient noise, so it seemed like a decent test in real-world conditions. We tried a few different songs, focusing on higher pitched species. Data are below. Note that lower numbers are quieter and therefore better results. The Etymotic Beans have a low and a high setting and so I tried both. The other two were set on what I thought worked the best for hearing birds.
I also did a trial where Alia played the bird song on the porch and I walked toward the porch from far away and recorded the distance in meters where I began to hear the song. So, big numbers are good in this trial. They mean I could hear the call from far away. I tried a couple new species here.
There are some interesting patterns here. One is that overall, there isn’t a big difference among the three. They all help a lot with most species. The bean did slightly better overall, but I doubt that is a real difference considering the sources of potential error. More interesting is the difference among them in which species they are best at. The beans don’t do very well with Creepers, but do great with the higher pitched blackpolls. They also don’t do as well with Clay colored sparrows. Lastly, none of them do well with the trill in a savannah sparrow song. I could hear the chips that precede the trill, but not the trill itself. I first noticed this in the field wearing beans. My young friend with amazing ears could hear the savannah easily, but I couldn’t even with the beans until I got closer. It seemed as though most other species I could hear as well as him.
So, in conclusion, they all appear to help a lot with most species. The Bean wins overall, but there is variation among them in what species they do best at hearing. I would base your choice on other factors.
Top of page photo by Randy Patrick
David Benson Ph.D.
White-tailed Ptarmigan researcher and National Park Service Ranger Naturalist in GNP since 1995. "The Bird Ranger"