Jabra Enhance Plus review: Compact headphones for people with mild hearing loss

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Studies indicate that there are approximately 20 million Americans who have untreated hearing loss but may not be ready for hearing aids. Jabra states that there is an average gap of six years between noticing hearing loss and seeking professional hearing aid help. As we age and our hearing declines, there are situations where enhanced audio experiences are desired, and that’s where the new Jabra Enhance Plus Headphones can be justified.

I’ve spent a few years operating ship engine rooms and I’m approaching 50. So I am starting to suffer from hearing loss compared to my younger years. Potential customers should visit a Jabra Enhance Center to assess their hearing and determine if the Jabra Enhance Plus is right for them. Jabra sent us a sample so we could test without visiting one of these centers, but they’re across the US, so hopefully at least one is near you. The Jabra Enhance Plus is eligible for FSA and HSA as a healthcare device.

To like

  • Distinct hearing enhancement performance
  • Extremely comfortable and secure fit
  • Solid 10 hour battery life
  • IP52 dust/water resistance
  • Works well for music and calls
  • Affordable for the intended use

Do not like

  • Only support Apple iPhone
  • No button press for voice assistants

These new Jabra headphones are not designed to compete with the ever-growing number of wireless headphones with active noise cancellation, nor are they designed to serve as everyday hearing aids. The earbuds are for people with mild to moderate hearing loss who have trouble hearing sound during situational times, such as in meetings while watching a TV show or walking with family and friends. There are clearly times of the day when it makes sense to have an audio device to improve your hearing.

Material

The retail package includes two wireless headphones, a charging case with a built-in battery, a short USB-A to USB-C cable, and small/medium/large silicone gel earbud tips. A USB-C port is positioned at the back to charge the case and the earphones. Wireless charging is not supported.

The charging case is slim and slips easily into pockets. The inside of the case is lined with a soft-touch material to protect the headphones. Powerful magnets help you line up the earphones in the storage compartments for precise charging connections too. An LED charging light is positioned on the front where you lift the lid to reveal the headphones.

Also: Jabra Elite 7 Pro review: Buy for great phone calls, not ANC

The headphones themselves are very small and the most compact headphones I can remember testing. Jabra said the Enhance plus is 40% smaller than the Jabra Elite 7 Pro headphones. The medium silicone mouthpiece is installed in the box, and it fits me well. There is a fit test in the software to make sure you have the right size eartip for your ears. Unlike other headphones, the tips don’t extend too far into your ears, and with their small size, the headphones sit along the bottom edge of your ear rather than taking up a large part of your ear opening .

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Matthew Miller/ZDNet

A battery life of 10 hours with an additional 20 hours provided by the charging case is announced by Jabra. My experiments confirm that the battery life estimate is accurate, which is quite remarkable considering the small size of the earbuds. Each earbud also works independently, so you can extend battery life with just one earbud and coordinated charging with the case.

A single large button sits on the outer face of the earpiece along with an LED light. Minimal functionality is provided by the buttons, with a single press of the left earbud to lower the volume and a single press of the right earbud to increase the volume. A double press of the left button will mute the headphones.

Bluetooth 5.2 is used for wireless connection to your iPhone. You can buy the headphones in golden beige and dark gray. While the headphones aren’t health and fitness focused, they do have an IP52 splash-proof rating so you can use them in inclement weather.

Setup with an iPhone

The Jabra Enhance Plus only works with the Iphone Apple so if you have an Android smartphone, you currently cannot use the Enhance Plus headphones. Usually, the first thing you do when you get a new headset is open your phone’s Bluetooth settings to connect to the headset, then sometimes you can find an app specific to the brand of headset that offers enhanced functionality. If you try this, you won’t find the headset in the list of devices you can connect to.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Start by opening Settings > Accessibility > Hearing Aids, then add a new device. The Jabra Enhance Plus is technically a medical device with FDA clearance. Note that there are a few options available in this accessibility area, including streaming to each earbud, independent toggle adjustment, microphone level sliders, and more. Once you’ve configured your new headset in the iPhone accessibility settings, you can open the Jabra Enhance smartphone app.

Jabra Enhance smartphone software

The Jabra Enhance app is used to manage this specific Enhance Plus headset and is very different from the Jabra Sound Plus app. The Jabra Enhance Plus headset will not appear in the Jabra Sound Plus app, so do not attempt to establish a connection through this app.

In order to have the best experience with the Jabra Enhance Plus, open the personalization option in the settings. The app will first walk you through a few screens showing how to get the best fit for your ears. Once the adjustment is complete, note that you may need to leave the medium gel tip, you can proceed to the customization wizard.

Find a quiet room or location to perform this test to optimize headset performance. The app will actually check if the location you are in is quiet enough to customize using your iPhone’s mics. A practice session for your right ear will take place with you tapping the screen as soon as you hear a tone. Tones of different levels will play to test your hearing, very similar to the hearing test you take at the doctor. The test takes approximately 2-3 minutes and a status indicator bar appears at the bottom of the screen.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNet

After the hearing test is completed, an option to select a voice filter is displayed. You can listen to sample conversation with clear, normal and full options. Your hearing profile is then displayed with the treble, midrange and bass levels for the left and right ears.

The app’s main screen displays your listening mode, then the volume level, 0-10, for that mode. Adaptive mode automatically adapts to your environment and the conversations around you. Focus mode uses directional beamforming microphones to focus on sounds close to you. Surround mode lets you hear more of surrounding ambient sounds and can be useful for eavesdropping. I prefer to use an adaptive mode with volume level 6-7 most of the time.

Also: Jabra Elite 3 review: Forget the AirPods, these $80 headphones offer more for less

You can always choose to go back and do another personalization test if your hearing changes or you find that the earbuds aren’t working the way you want them to. Firmware updates are done through the Jabra Enhance app, along with very simple guides and basic tuning for listening mode settings to automatically remember the volume level.

Daily use experiences and conclusions

It was interesting to use the Jabra Enhance Plus, and with very mild hearing loss I found them useful in some situations. I walk about a mile from the station to the office, and given the current state of affairs in the city, I enjoy wearing the Jabra Enhance Plus on my walk as it helps increase my awareness of sounds around me, and I feel safer walking with them in my ears. I also enjoyed watching TV content when multiple people were in the room, and hearing TV content was difficult.

Wearing the Jabra Enhance Plus while typing on the keyboard, walking on wooden floors and other activities in a quiet environment was a bit overwhelming at first as the sounds were quite loud in my ears. Talking, eating, coughing, and hearing your own voice louder than without the headphones was also a different experience, known as the occlusion effect.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Unlike conventional hearing aids, you can also use the Jabra Enhance Plus as you would a conventional set of audio headphones. I enjoyed music, podcasts, and audio from video content playing on my iPhone to headphones. Additionally, you can use the headphones for phone calls. Phone calls are not advised with headphones in a noisy environment as the sound can be a bit overwhelming as there is not much noise reduction for calls.

While the $799 price tag is high if you compare them to other standard wireless headphones (you shouldn’t), it’s actually quite low compared to hearing aids. Hearing aids range in price from around $1,000 to over $6,000. Again, the Jabra Enhance Plus is not designed as a hearing aid for everyday wear, but it bridges the gap between using your ears without aids and using hearing aids. If you have mild hearing loss and want something to help you hear better in certain situations, you should schedule a visit to one of the certified Jabra Enhance centres.

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