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Jan 15, 2020 

Presenting the Best of CES 2020 winners! Olive Union Smart Ear hands-on: A stylish hearing device with tradeoffs. An affordable option for those with mild hearing loss. As wearable technology becomes the norm, there's still one gadget that carries a stigma: the hearing aid. You can wear wireless earbuds and no one flinches, but for some, a behind-the-ear device can still seem awkward. Invisible hearing aids are an option, but they're often pricey or less effective. Olive Union understands this and hopes its Smart Ear hearing amplifier — which looks just like a wireless earbud — will help squash any anxiety for those who need a little volume boost in the world.

The Smart Ear ($249) is sold as a single unit, and appears to be aimed at those who struggle in noisy situations or just want an occasional assist with their hearing. Which is to say, it's an "amplifier" rather than a hearing aid. It comes in either black or white, pairs with your phone over Bluetooth and works with a companion app. At a glance, it could be a regular true wireless earbud. It'll charge in a small cradle over micro-USB and offers up to 12 hours of talk time, or over a claimed week on standby.

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