Sony CRE-C10 Intro

Sony – Joining Forces with WS Audiology in the OTC Hearing Aid Market

Sony, one of the largest consumer electronics manufacturers and the third largest headphone maker in the world, has joined forces with WS Audiology, the second largest hearing aid manufacturer in the world to produce OTC hearing aids – OTC stands for Over-the-Counter and OTC hearing aids are a new class of medical devices that can be purchased either locally or online without the need of a prescription and that can be adjusted by the users to best address their hearing needs.

The Sony CRE-C10, a set of self-fitting, invisible hearing aids, were introduced at the end of 2022 and shortly after, in 2023, a second model was introduced: The Sony CRE-E10, a set of rechargeable, self-fitting, Bluetooth-streaming hearing aids.

This Sony C10 hearing aid review focuses on the invisible model but you can read our detailed review of the Sony E10 rechargeable hearing aids here.

Sony C10 Hearing Aid Key Facts and Features

Device Category:Self-Fitting Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid
Device Style:Invisible – Completely-in-the-Canal
Colors Available:Black
Power Source:Size 10 Batteries
Battery Life:60-70 hours
Sound Controls:Via Smartphone App – iOS and Android compatible
Bluetooth Streaming:Not available
Hands-Free Calling:Not available
Waterproof:N/A –> Not dust-tight nor waterproof
Manufacturer’s Warranty:1 Year
Price:$999.99
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02/18/2024 01:33 pm GMT

Pros

  • Sound Quality – The sound quality is of these hearing aids is remarkably good with superior speech clarity and decent noise reduction
  • Discreteness – They’re practically invisible – unless you’re looking up close and directly into the user’s ears – For those concerned about the stigma of wearing traditional hearing aids, these invisible hearing aids may be the perfect solution
  • Comfort – These small hearing aids come with various sleeve sizes to fit most ear canals and, once you find the right size for you, you can comfortably wear them all day long
  • Good battery life – Although I didn’t quite get the 70 hours advertised by Sony, I was consistently able to get 3-to-4 days out of the size-10 batteries while using the hearing aids for 14-to-16 hours every day
  • Ease of Use – Simple controls via the app once the hearing aids have been customized to an individual’s hearing loss
  • Price – When compared to prescription hearing aids, these CRE-C10 Sony hearing aids are a good alternative to get more people to take action and seek a solution for their hearing loss

Cons

  • Battery Operation – In this era of rechargeable hearing aids, having to change the small, size-10 batteries every 3-4 days is very inconvenient – not to mention troublesome for any potential user with dexterity issues – Also, having to remember to open the battery doors every night after removing them from my ears to stop the battery drain while I’m not using the hearing aids, is a nuisance
  • No Bluetooth Streaming – Part of the price that users pay for these hearing aids’ discreteness is their inability to offer Bluetooth streaming and hands-free calling, which are highly-in-demand features for hearing aid users these days
  • Price – When compared to other OTC devices, these CRE-C10 Sony hearing aids are close to the higher end of the price range.

Unboxing the CRE-C10 Sony Hearing Aids

Unboxing the Sony CRE-C10 Over-The-Counter invisible hearing aids
Photo Credit: HearingPeople

Sony CRE-C10 OTC hearing aids arrive in an attractive package that has the premium feel of a product from a highly-respected consumer electronics manufacturer. The box has all the FDA-required labeling for this type of medical device, clearly describes what’s inside and has two QR codes that allow the buyer to review detailed product information as well as terms and conditions at the Sony website.

Once you slide the cover off the box, you find a clam-like carrying case with the hearing aids.  This case – which is where you store the hearing aids when they’re not in your ears – is small enough to fit in your pocket and also has two convenient compartments to carry an extra set of batteries

Sony CRE-C10 OTC Hearing Aids – Photo Credit: Sony Electronics Inc.

Downloading the App, Pairing and Customizing the Sony CRE-C10 Hearing Aids

Underneath the tray that holds the carrying case with the hearing aids, I found the user guide, a “getting started” card, the warranty document and a safety and maintenance information booklet.  Also, in the box, there were a cleaning cloth, a pack of six size-10 batteries, a brush and a pack of three pairs of ear sleeves (large, medium and extra small) that may be changed to fit the customer’s ear canal.  The hearing aids come with small sleeves already installed.  Lastly there is a plastic bag with the USB cable for the charging case.

Downloading the Sony Hearing Control app and pairing your hearing aids
Photo Credit: HearingPeople

If you’re comfortable navigating the settings of your smartphone, then downloading the Sony Hearing Control app, pairing the hearing aids, walking through the self-fitting process and making sound adjustments to your hearing aids should be pretty straight-forward.  

If you’re not very comfortable downloading an app from the Apple or Google stores, pairing and unpairing Bluetooth devices and adjusting various settings on your smart phone, then these hearing aids may not be the best solution for you.

Once you download the app, it prompts you to create a Sony account using your email address and your date of birth.

After setting up your account and selecting the appropriate product (either the Sony C10 of the Sony E10 hearing aids) the app guides you through the process of pairing your hearing aids.

Customizing your Sony CRE-C10’s amplification settings using the Sony Hearing Control app

Customizing your Sony CRE-C10’s amplification settings using the Sony Hearing Control app
Photo Credit: HearingPeople

In the next step the app walks you through the technical setup of your phone and provides hearing aid insertion instructions so you can proceed with the hearing profile check, which should be conducted without interruptions in a very quiet environment.  The app plays a series of sounds through the left hearing aid and asks you to record how many sounds you hear each time these sounds are presented. Using your answers, the app personalizes your left hearing aid settings based on your hearing ability.  The same process is repeated for the right ear.

In the last step, once your personalized settings are applied, the app gives you the opportunity to make loudness adjustments to both ears to ensure that the sounds in both ears feels balanced.

Sony CRE-C10’s app remote control functions: Volume, Bass/Treble and Directionality

Sony CRE-C10’s app remote control functions: Volume, Bass/Treble and Directionality
Photo Credit: HearingPeople

After this initial set up, you can use the app to control volume and treble/bass.  You can also make fine-tuning adjustments or you can start the customization process from scratch again by running a new profile check.

Solving Common Problems Like Feedback and Occlusion Effect

Given my past experiences with ITC (In-the-Canal) hearing aids, I was fully expecting to have to deal with some occlusion effect and I was happily surprised that it didn’t happen.  Occlusion effect happens when tightly-fitting hearing aids cause us to perceive our own voice as echo-y, hollow or booming.

I also must report that I didn’t experience any feedback.  Feedback is the squealing sound that we hear when a microphone picks up sound from a speaker while that speaker is playing sound from the microphone. This can happen when the ear tips of a hearing aid are too small for the ear canal.

The fact that I didn’t experience either feedback or occlusion effect just means that the small vented sleeves that came preinstalled on my Sony C10 hearing aids were the perfect fit for my ear canals.  It doesn’t mean that you won’t experience these common problems but that’s why Sony includes four different sleeve sizes so that you can find the size that is right for your ear canal.  Additionally, you can use the “Own Voice” and “Loudness” fine-tuning adjustments in the Sony Hearing Control App to address these common fitting problems.

Sony C10 Performance in Real Life Situations

Given that I have been wearing prescription hearing aids for more than a decade to treat my hearing loss, one of the most important perspectives that I can offer in these reviews is that of a user, that of a fellow human dealing with the daily challenges of hearing loss.  That’s why I strongly feel that testing the Sony hearing aids in real life situations is one of the most important elements of this Sony C10 hearing aid review.  

I normally wear my prescription hearing aids all day, starting in the morning after I shower and dress, all the way into the evening when I’m ready to relax at home.  For this review, I wore the Sony hearing aids instead of my prescription hearing aids for 10 days and I went about my regular life.

I used the Sony C10 hearing aids in many different situations, including taking phone calls, watching TV, going to the movies, talking with friends at noisy bars and restaurants, running errands, chatting with people at the cleaners and at the grocery store, walking on the beach, riding my bike, working out and interacting with patients and colleagues at work.  Following are my key observations…

1) Impressive Sound Performance Even in Noisy Environments

I am impressed with the Sony C10 hearing aids’ sound quality.  The clarity of speech was excellent and they did a decent job a reducing unwanted noise.  My ability to understand conversations at noisy bars and restaurants with these hearing aids was better than I expected.

For individuals with hearing loss, speech clarity is one of the key features in a hearing aid and the Sony CRE-C10 hearing aids deliver superior speech clarity.

2) Very Comfortable and Truly Invisible

I wore the Sony C10 hearing aids for 14 to 16 hours every day and I must say that they felt very comfortable in my ears.  I was lucky to get a perfect fit with the small vented sleeves that come preinstalled in the hearing aids but the four sizes of click-sleeves included with the hearing aids should assure a comfortable and good-performing fit for most individuals.

After wearing RIC (Receiver-in-Canal) hearing aids behind my ears for over 12 years now, I am not very concerned with hiding the fact that I wear hearing aids but there are many patients at our clinic for whom discreteness is a great concern.  The Sony C10 hearing aids are truly invisible they might be the perfect solution for those concerned about the stigma of wearing traditional hearing aids.

How the Sony CRE-C10s look in my ear (center) compared to my prescription RIC hearing aids (left)
and to the Sony CRE-E10s (right)

3) Battery Life is Good but I’m not a Fan of Batteries

Given that I wear my hearing aids for 14-16 hours every day, I was concerned that I would be forced to change the small size-10 batteries very often but that wasn’t the case.  Although I didn’t quite get the 70 hours advertised by Sony, I was consistently able to get 3-to-4 days out of batteries.

Having said that, I’ve been wearing rechargeable hearing aids for many years now and I not a fan of having to change batteries or having to remember to open the battery door at night so that they don’t continue to drain while I’m sleeping.  I can also see how the small size-10 batteries can be a problem for people with vision and/or dexterity issues.

4) No Bluetooth Streaming or Hands-Free Calling

I have been steaming music and videos to my hearing aids for years now.  Even more importantly, I regularly stream phone calls from my cell phone directly to my prescription hearing aids and sound quality of those calls is excellent.  I missed the ability to stream music and videos to my hearing aids while wearing the Sony C10s and the quality of my phone conversation was not as good as I am used to.  Yes, I was able to understand the dialog by bringing the phone to my better ear or by using the phone speaker but my understanding of the conversation was not as good as when I stream the phone call directly to my prescription hearing aids.

I guess that part of the price that users pay for the Sony CRE-C10 hearing aids’ discreteness is their inability to stream music, videos and phone calls directly into their ears.

Our Ratings for the Sony CRE-C10 Hearing Aids

  • Overall Sound Quality
  • Speech Clarity
  • Noise Reduction
  • Directionality
  • Battery Life
  • Wearing Comfort
  • Discreetness
  • Ease of Fitting
  • Ease of Use
4.1/5

Who Is The Right Buyer for the Sony C10 Hearing Aids?

  • You’re and Adult with Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss – First of all, you should be 18+ years old and have a perceived mild to moderate hearing loss.  How to you know if your loss is mild to moderate?  If you have trouble hearing soft sounds or if you hear conversation but can’t make out what people are saying, you may have a mild to moderate hearing loss.  My strong recommendation is that you get tested by a hearing health professional or, at least take a few online hearing tests to confirm your level of hearing loss.
  • You’re a Do-It-Yourself Kind of Person – You also ought to be looking for and over the counter solution – one that does not involve getting your hearing aids fitted by a hearing health professional over 2-3 appointments – but rather a do-it-yourself approach where you are in charge of performing your own hearing test, programming your hearing aids and making sound adjustments, all through the Sony Hearing Control app.
  • You’re a Technically-Savvy Smartphone User – You own a smartphone and know how to use it fairly well.  You’re comfortable downloading an app from the Apple or Google stores, you can navigate through your phone settings and make various adjustments and you’re comfortable pairing and unpairing your smartphone to Bluetooth devices.
  • You Want an Invisible Hearing Aid – You’re interested in a pair of hearing aids that are totally invisible.  Discreteness is of utmost importance to you and you’re willing to trade off features like rechargeability of Bluetooth streaming in order to get a pair of hearing aids that no one can notice.
  • You Don’t Have Vison/Dexterity Issues – Changing the small size-10 batteries every 3-4 days won’t be a problem for you.

Conclusion: The CRE-C10 Sony Hearing Aids are a Great Invisible Alternative for DIY Users

Sony CRE-C10 OTC Hearing Aids (left) and the Sony Hearing Control App (right)
Photo Credit: Sony Electronics Inc.

The CRE-C10 Sony hearing aids are one of the best over-the counter hearing aids available in the market at this time.  They are a do-it-yourself solution for adult users with mild to moderate hearing loss that choose to conduct their own hearing test and customize the devices to their individual hearing loss with the assistance of a smartphone app instead of looking to visit a hearing health professional.

With the Sony C10 hearing aids the company expects to attract users that concerned about discreteness and want a device that is as invisible as possible.

At $1,000 per pair (they are only sold as pairs), they are closer the higher end of the price range for over-the-counter devices than some of their competitors but they deliver remarkable sound performance with superior speech enhancement and decent noise reduction capabilities.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans that have been living with mild to moderate hearing loss but didn’t wear hearing aids before, you should try wearing the Sony CRE-C10 hearing aids.

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In addition to being the Founder and Editor-in Chief at HearingPeople.com, Luis Zuluaga is the founder and CEO of Florida Hearing Institute, an innovative hearing health enterprise in South Florida, focused on bringing high-tech hearing devices at affordable prices to people with hearing loss. Before his latest hearing healthcare endeavors, Luis served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Zounds Hearing Inc., a US-based hearing aid manufacturer that introduced many technical innovations to the hearing aid market.

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1 Comment

  1. Great review! I have been wearing the C10’s for the last 3 days. I am impressed so far with the clarity with 1 caveat. I couldn’t understand a one on one conversation in a rather noisy environment. Time will tell.
    I do have an Oticon RIC that has all the bells and whistles. I prefer the C10’s because the tubes do not stay(Audiologist fitted) in my ear canal. It makes me subconscious and I’m always touching my ear to make sure the receiver is inserted. As far as having to open it to turn it off, my expensive aids are the same.
    2 things the C10’s are missing:
    1. Low battery alert
    2. Small Blue & Red to mark L & R respectively. I only wear reading glasses and shouldn’t need them to insert the aids. I can now insert them by feel, but shouldn’t have to. I don’t have a dexterity so batteries are not a problem, and I don’t miss the bluetooth and I’m 70.

    Mike G.

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