The Pitch: "Listen to TV without disturbing others"
April 2009. Listen Up is a battery-operated, personal sound amplifier designed for those with hearing difficulties. The device looks like a small MP3 player with headphones, and it can fit into a pocket or clip on to a belt. Most often promoted as a way to hear the TV at volumes that won't disturb others, it's also marketed as a gadget to help hunters get a jump on their game, allow people to eavesdrop on conversations, and even for caregivers to keep an ear on children in a playground. Numerous reports, however, say that while Listen Up can provide limited help in some situations, it doesn't do what the infomercial claims. And if you're trying to decide between the Listen Up and the similar Loud 'N Clear, another as-seen-on-TV gadget, that one doesn't work as promised either.
In a report by WKOW in Madison, Wis., a University of Wisconsin audiologist tests Listen Up and finds that it does amplify sound -- all kinds of sound. You'd likely hear air conditioners, fans, refrigerators, and other similar 'white noise' sounds much louder with a Listen Up," the audiologist says.
WKOW reporter Dan Cassuto also tests Listen Up in several locations. In a fitness club setting that duplicates one of the commercial's claims, Cassuto finds that nearby conversations are drowned out by the sound of the exercise equipment. In a shopping mall food court, a user says that background noise overpowers Cassuto's voice, which could be heard clearly with Listen Up turned off.
Cassuto's findings are echoed in other expert and user reviews. Numerous reports say wearers are more likely to hear their own breathing -- or their partner's snoring -- than TV sounds. Audio quality is also an issue, as many report that the amplified sound is tinny. Many users think the included headset is uncomfortable, and some even say it's unusable. Those ordering direct from the manufacturer sometimes report problems with the ordering process and with customer service. Listen Up is also available in stores, however.
Not everyone is completely unhappy with the Listen Up. In an Associated Content report, Nick Howes, news director for WNSV-FM, Nashville, Ill., says that Listen Up provides marginal assistance in conducting conversations in certain settings, though he adds that it is useless for watching TV. Around a fifth of users at Amazon.com -- and a handful of users at other sites -- say they are mostly pleased with Listen Up, especially after making modifications to the device like replacing the included headset. One user, posting at InfomercialScams.com, explains simple modifications that he made to make Listen Up less vulnerable to common background noises.
1. WKOW (Madison, Wis.)
Reporter Dan Cassuto tests Listen Up in a variety of settings and finds that it fails to live up to many of the promises made in the commercials. He also asks a University of Wisconsin audiologist to examine Listen Up. The audiologist reports that while Listen Up does amplify sounds, those sounds aren't necessarily the ones you'd want to hear. A video of Cassuto's report is also available on this site.
Review: Does It Work? Listen Up, Dan Cassuto, Mar. 25, 2009
2. KDKA (Pittsburgh)
Yvonne Zanos, consumer affairs reporter for KDKA in Pittsburgh, enlists the service of Doris Fisher, a senior citizen and retirement home resident, to test out Listen Up. They are surprised to learn that the Listen Up instructions say it isn't supposed to be used as a hearing aid, which prompts Zanos to ask why anyone would use it. Fisher reports she could hear herself a bit better, but nothing else. Zanos' verdict: "All in all, Listen Up doesn't perform as promised in any capacity." A video of the report is also available online.
Review: Does It Really Do That: Listen Up, Yvonne Zanos, Nov 26, 2007
This site allows owners to post complaints about and defenses of products sold in TV infomercials. As of our last visit, more than 50 users have posted complaints about Listen Up and only one user posted a defense. Even Listen Up's lone defender (a handful of positive comments are found among those on the complaints page) says the product has serious issues as sold, but can be modified to get decent performance. Many say that sound quality is poor; closer sounds overpower those coming from farther away. Several also report issues with the manufacturer's customer service and ordering procedure.
Review: Listen Up Personal Sound Amplifier Complaints, Contributors to InfomercialScams.com
More than 50 users give Listen Up a lousy composite rating of 1.5 out of five stars. While the majority of reviewers are clearly displeased, a handful give this personal sound amplifier good reviews. Happy users provide some suggestions, such as replacing the included headsets, for better results.
Review: Listen Up Reviews and Ratings, Contributors to InfomercialRatings.com
Listen Up scores an unimpressive two out of five stars at Amazon after lots of feedback. Still, about 20 percent of respondents award Listen Up four or five stars overall, saying it helped them hear the TV or carry on conversations better. However, far more are disappointed, saying it did a better job amplifying other sounds than the ones they wanted to hear, and that sound quality is very poor.
Review: Listen Up, Contributors to Amazon.com
Nick Howes, news director for WNSV radio in Nashville, Ill., puts Listen Up to the test. He notes that it helps marginally in hearing conversations in some settings. However, it fails completely in its most heavily promoted task, listening to the TV. Howes calls the Listen Up's audio quality "maddening."
Review: Product Review: Listen Up Personal Sound Amplifier-As Seen on TV, Nick Howes, Aug. 15, 2007
This short video review of Listen Up is fun to watch and fairly informative. "Kermity" says that since the Listen Up amplifies all sounds equally, it can't work as advertised. He also adds that sound quality is "tinny." Listen Up is awarded two out of five stars.
Review: As Seen On Tv Listen Up Personal Sound Amplifier Review, "Kermity", Jan. 28, 2008