Whether you’re struggling to hear your grandson say, “I love you,” or just can’t seem to connect with your favorite people anymore, the social isolation—and other health consequences—of hearing loss can be devastating.
Of course, a quality set of hearing aids can treat most hearing difficulties, but who can afford to spend the average price of $4,600 a pair?
Fortunately, budget-conscious patients can treat their hearing loss for less—by choosing an affordable, direct-to-consumer hearing aid. The problem is, not all direct-to-consumer hearing aids are the same. Some are excellent, while others are (for lack of a better word) complete and utter scams.
Take Audien Hearing, for example. Audien (also known as Budget Hearing Aids) claims to sell “high-quality hearing aids for less than $100 a pair.” However, when you dig a little deeper into the backstory of this brand, all you find is a laundry list of stomach-churning legal claims, Better Business Bureau notices to discontinue, name-changing cover-ups, and too many disappointed customers to count.
In this article, we take a deep dive into the deceptive world of Audien—so you can learn from the mistakes of others (before you waste your money and time).
Please use the following links to navigate the article:
- What is Audien Hearing?
- Are Audien Hearing Aids Real?
- What’s the Difference Between PSAPs and Real Hearing Aids?
- Audien Hearing Customer Reviews
- Legal Claims, BBB Notices, and Deceptive Marketing Allegations
- Final Thoughts on Audien Hearing
What Is Audien Hearing?
Audien Hearing is an American company based out of Scottsdale, Arizona. The Audien Hearing website names its founder as Arthur Garber.
Allegedly, Garber started the company in 2016 after his grandmother developed hearing loss and couldn’t afford to purchase aids. However, aside from a photograph on the website of a young man who could be the founder—and a woman who could be his grandmother—the foundation story is unverifiable.
As for its success as a hearing device seller, Audien claims to have sold 200,000+ of its “best cheap hearing aids.” Also, the company website states:
Our hearing aids aren’t just effective—they’re comfortable and convenient, too. Audien hearing aids come from an FDA-registered facility, meaning you can rest assured you’re getting a safe product.”
Unfortunately, the above quote and the rest of the advertising on www.audienhearing.com is suspect. That's because Audien Hearing products are not FDA-registered. In fact, they are not even real hearing aids.
Are Audien Hearing Aids Real?
The devices that Audien sells are not real, FDA-registered hearing aids. In truth, Audien is simply repackaging cheap “Personal Sound Amplification Products” (PSAPs) and claiming they are hearing aids.
Unfortunately, Audien does not sell any devices that have gone through the FDA’s strict hearing aid registration process.
Moreover, if you compare one of the rechargeable PSAP devices that Audien sells for $249 a pair to one of the PSAP devices that Alibaba sells for $20 to $30 a pair, you’re not going to see any significant differences in looks, performance, or technology.
The main differences you’ll find are: (1) the Audien device is dramatically more expensive, and (2) the Audien device is deceptively marketed by saying it comes from an “FDA-registered facility.” This makes it appear like Audien devices are FDA-registered hearing aids when they are not.
What’s the Difference Between PSAPs and Hearing Aids?
In order to call a hearing device a “hearing aid,” the manufacturer needs to go through a lengthy registration process with the FDA—to ensure the device meets all of the FDA hearing aid requirements. If a manufacturer fails to meet these requirements—or fails to go through the FDA’s hearing aid registration process—the manufacturer cannot lawfully refer to the device as a hearing aid.
Instead, the device is called a PSAP (personal sound amplification product). Confusingly, the PSAPs from Audien Hearing look a lot like hearing aids, but they do not provide hearing loss treatment. Nor do they target the specific sound frequencies involved in hearing loss.
Audien Hearing PSAPs simply amplify ALL of the sounds around you—creating a confusing jumble of noise. In many cases, PSAPs make your hearing and understanding worse.
On Amazon, Alibaba, and other online retail websites, PSAPs cost anywhere between $20 and $150 a pair—and they go by the widest variety of names such as:
- Smart Hearing Amplifiers
- Rechargeable Sound Aids
- Sound Amplifier Aids
- Hearing Amplifier Aids
- Hearing Aids Amplifiers
- Digital Hearing Amplifiers
- Personal Sound Amplification Products
- Sometimes they are even falsely marketed as “Hearing Aids”, despite FDA regulations forbidding it
Unfortunately, the PSAP listening experience is usually awkward, tinny, jarring, and stress-inducing even in quiet conditions. As many Audien customers attest in their reviews, this is the best that Audien Hearing products provide—a confusing, jumble of low-quality noise.
It’s safe to say that the expressions, “If it looks too good to be true,” and “don’t buy any wooden nickels” seem to fit the bill when it comes to the Audien name.
Customer Reviews of Audien Hearing
Here is what customers are saying about Audien Hearing products:
- “Complete garbage, one didn't work at all, the other squealed if you turned it past half volume, the sound was tinny and crackled at higher frequencies. Couldn't even get the silly support people to understand the problem, they appeared to be working off a limited screen of problems and answers. The last call I sat on hold for over 10 minutes, only to be told they were closed.” –Troy Hendrickson, February 2022
- “Don’t waste your money! Not comfortable at all. Irritating, squealing feedback on any volume setting above the minimum. Read the fine print on returns!! I didn't as I was so accustomed to Amazon policy on returns. They will only replace damaged or defective product. Also, my SPAM folder is getting tons of spam emails since this company got my email address.” –T. Fye, January 2022
- “Trash. They have been scamming for years. Don't waste your time on this trash. If you want better hearing get real hearing aids. These scammed have been ripping people off for years and people continue to fall for their sales pitch. If it sounds too good to be true.......” –Michael Van Buskirk, November 2021
- “Worst hearing aid. Doesn't work at all. It doesn't do the basic thing it is supposed to do. My parents were not able to hear any better using this product. It doesn't have volume control or ON/off button but that's not the problem. Need to carry charging case all the time.” –Prasanna, April 2022
- “Junk like the rest. Never answer their phones took 8 hours to talk to a person,, First set failed within two weeks. They replaced them and convinced me to buy an extended warranty. What a joke. The second set failed in the warranty period and they require you to send them back at your expense. remember, they were still under warranty and had extended warranty. told them to stuff it and canceled extended wear. they kept charging me for an extended warranty. took me 4 months to get it all straightened out and get credited. SAVE YOUR MONEY THESE ARE NO BETTER THAN THE $29.00 specials.” –Larry H., January 2022
Legal Claims, BBB Notices, and Deceptive Marketing
With a little bit of internet research on Audien Hearing, you will find a laundry list of legal claims, business name changes, customer complaints, and BBB notices to discontinue. None of the following stories paint anything close to a favorable picture of the company.
Arizona District Attorney Lawsuit: Deceptive Advertising
Labeling a PSAP as a “hearing aid” is not only deceptive, it’s unlawful. As a result, Audien's alleged practice of characterizing its products as "hearing aids" and "FDA registered" provoked the Arizona District Attorney to file a lawsuit against Audien for false advertising. The lawsuit alleged that Audien Hearing committed deceptive advertising, failed to ship products to paying customers, and marketed its products under the guise of multiple brand names.
According to the Arizona District Attorney’s lawsuit against Audien Hearing:
Budget Hearing Aids, LLC (“Budget”) began selling hearing devices in October 2019 through Audixhearing.com, a website it owned. In January 2020, Budget shut down Audixhearing.com and began selling hearing devices through Xoomhearing.com, which it also owned. Due to the pandemic, Budget was unable to fill hundreds of orders due to shipping delays from China. As lockdowns in China eased and shipments became available and reliable again, Budget launched Audien LLC (“Audien”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Budget. Audien sells hearing devices through its website, Audienhearing.com.”
The Arizona Attorney General further alleged that Audien engaged in deceptive advertising by describing its products as “FDA-Approved” and “FDA-Registered.” A formal settlement with Audien was announced in May 2021. In the agreement, the Attorney General required Audien to remove those terms and the FDA logo from its website:
As a result of the settlement, the AGO [Attorney General’s Office] required Budget to desist from using this deceptive tactic and to remove the FDA logo and the terms “FDA APPROVED,” and “FDA REGISTERED” from any of its advertising.”
At this time, there is no evidence that Audien Hearing has refunded or fulfilled the pending orders of customers who purchased devices on its now-defunct websites. Therefore, these customers could still be out-of-pocket and left twisting in the wind as a result of their business dealings with Audien.
Also, Audien has not removed the term “FDA-registered” from its website, and it continues to refer to its personal sound amplifier products as “hearing aids.”
BBB Notice to Stop False Advertising
The Better Business Bureau website offers more evidence of Audien’s questionable business practices. According to BBB’s National Advertising Division (NAD):
Audien promotes its product as an inexpensive rechargeable hearing aid with a technology similar to expensive hearing aids. Additionally, the statements on its website represent that the Audien product can help to manage tinnitus (often referred to as ringing in the ears). NAD was concerned that consumers who may be experiencing hearing loss or tinnitus and who are facing financial hardship during this pandemic will be especially interested in the significant cost savings Audien advertises and reasonably believe that Audien’s product is a regulated medical device similar to the more expensive hearing aids (which cost, on average, from $1,500 to thousands of dollars).”
Per these findings, NAD served Audien a notice to stop false advertising, specifically asking them to remove the following false claims from its advertising:
- “Rechargeable Hearing Aids for $89/pair”
- “Similar technology to $5000 hearing aids”
- “Can be used for Tinnitus management”
According to NAD, “Audien stated that it agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations.” However, upon examination, the false claims highlighted by NAD continue to persist on Audien’s website at the time of this writing.
False Claims In Response to Customer Reviews
While reading through Audien customer reviews on the internet, it is easy to get a sense for the quality of Audien’s products and services. You can also see the false claims that Audien makes in response to those reviews.
In this example from Trust Pilot, a customer points out that Audien products are not FDA-approved, and that he thinks "they are hearing amplifiers, not hearing aids":
Save your money. Ev1. Ev3. Not FDA APPROVED. Think they are hearing amplifiers, not hearing aids. Very tinny sound, hard to understand, especially higher frequencies, female voice, and music. Also, regardless of the size of ear buds you use, they keep falling out of my ear.” –Raymond, March 2022
Audien offers the following response:
Raymond, As listed on our website we provide OTC Hearing Aids which have not yet received full FDA regulations. I apologize for our devices not working for you. I’m unable to find your order with just a first name so please contact us so we may assist you.” –Audien, March 2022
In its answer, it appears that (1) Audien does not seem to understand the FDA hearing aid registration process; (2) Audien does not seem to understand that they cannot refer to their products as “hearing aids”; and (3) Audien does not seem to understand what OTC (over-the-counter) hearing aids are. In fact, no company is legally permitted to market devices as OTC hearing aids per the FDA at this time. In this response, it seems like Audien is simply doing what it has always done—attempting to scam hearing loss patients who need affordable hearing care.
Final Thoughts on Audien Hearing
At MDHearing, we’re passionate about high-quality, direct-to-consumer hearing aids—not just because it's our business, but also because affordable hearing care offers life-transforming benefits.
For this reason, we don’t just celebrate MDHearing and its lineup of medical-grade, FDA-registered hearing aids. We also celebrate other businesses that are helping to lower the cost of quality hearing care around the world—such as Lively, Eargo, TruHearing, Costco, Sam’s Club, and other quality companies.
More poignantly, when we find evidence of an unethical business that is preying upon budget-conscious hearing loss patients—especially when they are engaged in deceptive advertising and dishonest business practices—MDHearing is going to let you know about it!
To make a long story short, we believe that Audien Hearing is a scam for the following reasons:
- Deceptive marketing practices: Audien falsely claims they are selling “hearing aids” when they are actually selling personal sound amplifiers. Further, Audien falsely claims they are selling “FDA-registered” hearing aids when their products are not FDA-registered.
- Deceptive business practices: According to the Arizona lawsuit, Audien shut down their websites, renamed their businesses, and rebranded their products—potentially leaving paying customers with unfulfilled orders twisting in the wind.
- Failure to adhere to the settlement agreement: It appears that Audien did not adhere to the Arizona deceptive advertising lawsuit settlement, which required them to stop using the terms “FDA-registered” and “hearing aids” to describe their products.
- Failure to adhere to the BBB notice to stop false advertising: Audien Hearing has not removed specific phrasing from their company website as requested by the BBB’s National Advertising Division (NAD).
- Numerous online customer complaints and negative reviews: Online Audien Hearing reviews continually show that Audien products are of poor quality and do not help hearing loss.
Now that you've explored Audien Hearing in this article, we sincerely hope that this review will help you or a loved one make the right choices for your hearing care. There are plenty of high-quality, FDA-registered hearing aid providers selling affordable, direct-to-consumer hearing aids at this time, so please do your research and find the most appropriate options for your hearing loss and needs.
Would you like to treat your hearing loss with a pair of high-quality, medical-grade, FDA-registered hearing aids—with prices as low as $299 a pair?
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