People love a good bargain. And Jack is one of those people. He just walked out of his local big box store with a pair of hearing amplifiers. They were only a few hundred dollars. What a great deal, Jack thinks. But here’s the problem: Jack thinks hearing aids and hearing amplifiers are virtually the same thing. Jack’s under the impression he just purchased hearing aids.

Jack’s confusion can be forgiven–the names are very similar. But hearing aids and hearing amplifiers are not equivalent. And making the wrong selection could have important implications for your hearing and your overall health.

What Is a Hearing Amplifier?

A hearing amplifier is a small device that, when placed in your ear, increases the volume of the sounds around you. Technically categorized as personal sound amplification products by the US FDA, these devices tend to be quite simple and one dimensional. A hearing amplifier is like turning the volume up on the world.

Because of their one-size-fits-all approach, hearing amplifiers are not recommended for individuals who have moderate to significant hearing loss.

When “help for hearing loss” is eliminated as a possible use for hearing amplifiers, it’s difficult to establish why you would use one of these devices. But there are some marginally plausible situations where a hearing amplifier could come in handy, such as if spend a lot of time around a quiet talker, for example.

Clear Difference Between Hearing Aids and Personal Amplifiers

Once consumers learn that hearing amplifiers are not recommended for people with even moderate hearing loss, the differences between the two devices start to become pretty stark. Hearing aids, obviously, are recommended for those with hearing loss.

Both hearing aids and hearing amplifiers make things louder. The primary difference between the two devices in how sophisticated that amplification is.

    • Hearing aids are designed to select and magnify specific frequencies of sound. That’s because people tend to lose their hearing one wavelength at a time. Either high-frequency sounds or low-frequency sounds commonly disappear first. Rather than making everything louder, hearing aids work to plug holes in what you’re hearing. This selective approach is much more effective for individuals with hearing loss.
    • Hearing aids are specifically designed to help you understand speech. In part that’s due to the uneven way hearing loss develops, but it’s also because communication is such a fundamental function of your hearing. As a result, hearing aid manufacturers have invested monumental resources into improving the clarity of speech above all else. There are sophisticated algorithms and processes working within hearing aids to ensure that, even in a crowded and noisy room, voices come through loud and clear.
    • Hearing aids can be calibrated for your environment. The acoustics of any given space will change depending on a lengthy list of factors. Some hearing aids can adjust to these changes automatically. Others can be calibrated using a smartphone or a dedicated device. By making minute adjustments to the settings of your hearing aid, you’re able to hear better in a wider variety of environments–meaning there will be fewer places you wish to avoid.

Simply put, these capabilities are essential components of properly treating hearing loss. And these are qualities that are not present in most personal hearing amplifiers.

The Right Deal for Your Ears

Untreated hearing loss can lead to cognitive decline–not to mention increasingly diminished hearing abilities. Because amplifiers don’t differentiate between frequencies, if you turn them up enough to hear what you’re missing, you’ll likely have it up too loud for other frequencies….and damage your hearing further. And who wants to do that?

Jack, for example, thought he got a deal. But turning up the volume isn’t really treating your hearing loss, and untreated hearing loss has been shown to increase your overall healthcare costs more than 40 percent.

Sometimes a bargain isn’t worth the cost and instead a real investment will lead to savings.


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