Hearing Aids vs. Hearing Amplifiers

Hearing Aids vs. Hearing Amplifiers

In Hearing Aid Technology, hearing aids by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S.
Latest posts by Laurie Duffy, M.S. (see all)

Perhaps you’ve begun to notice changes in your hearing, and you are starting to look into your options to treat your hearing loss.  Perhaps you’ve heard of hearing amplifiers, whether it’s been on television commercials or over the counter at the drug store.  While they may seem like a more affordable and conservative and affordable purchase hearing amplifiers are not an effective treatment of hearing loss in the way hearing aids are.

While these personal sound amplifiers may help people hear things that are at low volume or at a distance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to ensure that consumers don’t mistake them—or use them as substitutes—for approved hearing aids. While personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) and hearing aids might seem similar at first glance, they couldn’t be more different. PSAPs are meant for recreational use, whereas hearing aids are a recommended treatment for hearing loss. Buying an amplifier instead of a hearing aid might seem like the easy way out, but it might do more harm than good.

The Difference Between Hearing Amplifiers and Hearing Aids

While PSAPs can improve the ability to hear sound by making it louder and are as wearable and act similar to hearing aids, there are some major differences. Hearing aids are designed to make up for impaired hearing, while PSAPs are used only after ruling out the presence of hearing loss.

PSAPs, are designed to boost environmental hearing for people without hearing loss. They cannot be programmed to be selective in what sounds they amplify.  Often, they are used to monitor children or babies in another room. They’ve also been advertised to improve sound quality during recreational activities such as at the movies or during sports events.

While PSAPS might seem like an affordable and accessible alternative to hearing aids, this application can actually have adverse effects. Hearing aids perform a complex purpose that depends on the wearer, while hearing amplifiers boost every single sound non-selectively. Because of the particular function that is individualized to every hearing aid user doctors, audiologists and hearing aid specialists all warn against using PSAPs as hearing aids.

Hearing aids are usually professionally fitted and fine-tuned to the wearer and help mitigate hearing loss by boosting particular frequencies. Amplifiers simply make things louder, regardless of the frequency or volume. While hearing aids are tailored to the hard of hearing, PSAPs are meant to be used by people with a full range of healthy hearing. 

The Dangers of Hearing Amplifiers

While hearing amplifiers aren’t dangerous on their own, the misuse of an amplifier as hearing aids can cause serious damage. Using PSAPs as hearing aids can further damage hearing. While the technology used in hearing amplifiers and hearing aids is very similar, they are two separate devices with different purposes.

When people use PSAPs to mitigate hearing loss, the problem is not being solved or even addressed. A comprehensive hearing test is necessary to diagnose hearing loss as every individual develops hearing loss in different ways depending on the way that their hearing loss declines.

Failing to get proper help for hearing loss can lead to further deterioration of a person’s hearing. This can mean the difference between mild and serious hearing loss. Persons exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss should see a doctor or hearing health care professional to have their hearing tested.

Which is Best for You?

If you or a loved one is interested in buying a PSAP, ask your self why do they want this device? If they’re interested solely in bird watching, theatre, or childcare, they just might benefit from using a hearing amplifier as long as they do not use them too regularly.

If you or someone you love is getting a PSAP because of trouble hearing, then a PSAP will only make the problem worse. Instead of purchasing a PSAP, visit us at HearCare Rhode Island to set up a hearing test.  We provide a comprehensive assessment of your hearing to determine if you have a hearing loss. If a hearing loss is present, we can determine the best treatment for your hearing needs and recommend hearing aids that will benefit your life.

Contact us at HearCare Rhode Island today!