What is the Difference Between a Hearing Amplifier and a Hearing Aid?

personal sound amplifying product

These days there are so many choices when it comes to hearing better with hearing loss. These devices can help to improve the quality of sound and hearing, and if you’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss, you may be considering your options and what would work best for you.
For the millions of Americans living with hearing loss, hearing amplifiers and hearing aids may be the first place they start when looking for ways to enhance hearing.
What many don’t realize, though, is that these are two very different groups of devices. While the lower price tag of an over-the-counter hearing amplifier may be tempting, it’s crucial to know the difference between these and hearing aids when it comes to treating hearing loss.
“Hearing aids and personal sound amplification products (PSAPS) can both improve our ability to hear sound,” says Eric Mann, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of FDA’s Division of Ophthalmic, Neurological, And Ear, Nose, and Throat Devices. “They are both wearable, and some of their technology and function is similar.”
That is, only some of their technology is similar. This is why there may be a significant price difference.
Here’s what you need to know to make the best choice for your needs.
Hearing Aids
Today’s hearing aids are taking managing hearing loss to a new level. These powerful little devices with a range of features now available are designed to help individuals with hearing loss hear better. Styles include in-the-ear, behind-the-ear, and in-the-canal. They may come with a tinnitus masker, have enhanced programming capabilities to block out background noise or even have Bluetooth connectivity, among other features. While some hearing aids can now be purchased over-the-counter thanks to recent legislation, most are still considered medical devices that are prescribed by a hearing healthcare professional to treat hearing loss.
The process begins with a hearing evaluation. Once a hearing loss is detected, the individual works closely with their hearing healthcare professional to determine the best hearing aid for their needs. After that, one or more fittings and adjustments ensure that the hearing aid is comfortable and working well. Most hearing healthcare providers also offer education on using and maintaining the hearing aid, all of which are often not available with over-the-counter hearing aids or hearing amplifiers. So what does a hearing amplifier do for hearing loss?
Hearing Amplifiers
The most significant difference between a hearing aid and hearing amplifier is that a hearing amplifier is meant for those without hearing loss. It is generally a wearable device that can amplify quieter sounds such as the volume from a television. They are simple and straight-forward, non-programmable devices.
Experts stress that hearing amplifiers should not be used as a substitute for hearing aids. Not only are they not considered an effective treatment for hearing loss, like hearing aids, but they could even cause hearing loss because they amplify sound across the board instead of selectively according to programming.
If you’re having trouble hearing and believe you may need a device to help, the first step is scheduling a hearing evaluation to determine if you have a hearing loss and its makeup. From there, your hearing healthcare provider can help guide you in selecting the best treatment to manage your hearing loss and hear better.

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