MADISON (WKOW) -- Your friends could never tell the difference.
The "Listen Up" personal sound amplifier looks like a small MP3 player with typical headphones.But Listen Up promises something your MP3 player doesn't: special powers.
The infomercials say it'll "turn everyday hearing into extraordinary hearing." Listen Up claims it can help you spy on people at the gym, hear your neighbors talking from a block away, or even hear the coach's comments at a football game.
27 News Consumer Reporter Dan Cassuto bought a Listen Up and put it to the test.
Does it work?
The infomercial shows a man using a Listen Up to "spy" on two women on the other side of the gym.
We tried to re-create that scene so we took a Listen Up to Capital Fitness in Madison. We tried spying on two willing volunteers. It didn't work. We heard the background noise much louder, but not a word of what the two women were talking about.
Next, we went to the food court at West Town Mall. Two families agreed to help us test the product. Nancy put on a Listen Up and tried listening to Dan from 20 feet away.
"I couldn't hear you at all," said Nancy. "All I heard was background noise." Our volunteers had the same problem.
Listen Up amplifies the ambient noise because it's low-frequency. But that's not the sound you want to hear better.
UW audiologist Jon Douglas examined the Listen Up and tested its output on some computer audio systems. Douglas confirmed it does amplify sounds, but it amplifies sounds other than normal talking.
He says you'd likely hear air conditioners, fans, refrigerators, and other similar 'white noise' sounds much louder with a Listen Up.
Finally, we tried to replicate an infomercial scene where an elderly couple used a Listen Up to hear the television better.
Our producer got into bed and put on a Listen Up with the TV on a normal volume. She says she could hear herself breathing more loudly, but the TV was still too low.
Dan Cassuto gives Listen Up zero stars. We didn't hear a single word of conversation better, but we did feel like we put our ears right on the loud fans and rumbling air conditioning units.
Does it work? We didn't think so.
Email Dan Cassuto at firstname.lastname@example.org