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Hearing Aids vs. Amplifiers

Hearing Aids vs. Amplifiers

I get asked this question all the time! According to the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health, it is estimated that approximately 38.2 million Americans grapple with some form of hearing loss. This makes hearing loss one of the most common health complications in the US. Since I believe (and research backs me up here) that hearing better makes you feel better, I want you to understand the merits of using either hearing aids or amplifiers to improve their hearing.

Did you know that hearing aids and amplifiers can look the same, but the two are totally different items with different uses? The outer shell is pretty easy to make, but the computer inside it is what will separate the quality of sound. 

What Is the Difference Between Hearing Aids & Amplifiers?

For starters, amplifiers or personal sound amplifying products (PSAPs), as they are commonly known, are devices that take all the frequencies in a given environment and equally raise the volume. PSAPs don’t suppress the background noise but instead amplify every sound that is on their radar. Since most individuals with hearing loss struggle when they are in noisy situations, it means that these devices can only be ideal if they are used for leisure. By that I mean, one on one situations with zero background noise. 

Therefore, if you are talking one on one with somebody or want to improve the sound during recreational activities such as theater and bird watching, amplifiers are the perfect solution. However, if you want a device that selectively fine-tunes all frequencies when you are in noisy situations, you can bet that PSAPs won’t help. I have read some really misleading advertisements recently with titles like, “PSAPS: the greatest invention of 2020!”, while amplifiers have actually been around for decades. 

On the other hand, hearing aids have made immense advancements in the last 10 years and are professionally designed and customized devices that take into account every frequency of an individual’s hearing loss. These devices make all sounds clearer, not just louder. They evaluate the noises around you, categorize them by the type of noise and then use compression to help you focus on the speech you want to hear. Hearing aids help you hear sounds more clearly while amplifiers help you just hear them louder. Hearing aids are regulated and classified as Class 1 medical devices by the FDA, and are best prescribed by a hearing healthcare professional (like me!), while amplifiers are still marketed in something like the wild west. There are few regulations on what they can and can’t say or promote. 

Hearing aid or psap

Also, amplifiers are generally made in a one-size-fits-all approach. The picture on the right is a common fit that I see for an amplifier. It is sticking out of the ear and is quite noticeable. A custom fit hearing aid like the image on the left is much more discreet and is also more comfortable for daily wear. Hearing aids can even be made completely custom in the ear canal with no portion behind the ear. That custom fit is impossible for a mail order or over the counter amplifier.

The Bottom Line 

While amplifiers are cheaper and readily available, they are not meant to be used for hearing loss. They might seem like a quick fix, but they may make your hearing condition even worse. They are designed for people with standard hearing capability that still want to amplify sound for recreational purposes.

 On the other hand, hearing aids are an investment in actually correcting your hearing loss and in improving your overall health. So, before you spend your hard-earned cash on a sound improving device, make sure you visit us at Levine Hearing, get checked and tested, and try out a customized hearing aid that resonates with your hearing issues.

Madison Levine hearing

23 thoughts on “Hearing Aids vs. Amplifiers

  1. I have been going to Levine hearing since moving here in 2016. I have worn hearing aids for over 20 years and the service at Levine is outstanding. They have cleaned and kept my hearing aids in top working condition. With their Very friendly and helpful staff, they just don’t fit you and send you on your way, but are always there to help when needed.

  2. In addition to my Phonak hearing aids (which offer Bluetooth audio), I also have a nice pair of wireless earbuds that include sound-passthrough (it passes through and amplifies ambient noises, so you’re not totally deaf to your environment while wearing headphones). This functions exactly like an amplifier would, so I’ve had an opportunity to experience real hearing aids vs amplifiers. The amplifier function on the headphones is fine if my hearing aids are not in yet and I need to have a brief conversation, but they pale in comparison to my tuned hearing aids. I can’t imagine having to use them all the time. Madison and team fitted me about a year ago with a major upgrade to the hearing aids I had been using for 6 years previously, and things are so much better than they were before. Hope Madison and the team are all doing well!

    1. It is really special to get upgrade someone like yourself who really enjoys and appreciate the advances in technology. We love getting to help you!

  3. I am currently about 3 months into my “hearing aids” from Madison. My only regret is that I didn’t get them sooner. Madison and her staff took the time to properly diagnose my hearing issues and fitted me with some wonderful hearing aids. After final tuning I now enjoy having conversations again and I sounds I haven’t heard in years!!!
    I give Levine Hearing 10 stars for customer service and the results far exceeded my expectations!!!! Get a professional to prescribe HEARING AIDS, not the amplifiers.
    I strongly recommend Madison Levine!!!!

  4. Thank you for this great explanation, Madison! As always, your care and concern for those of us with hearing loss is evident in your desire to give us the information we need to help us make wise decisions!! I am so thankful for Levine Hearing!!

    1. It’s not. I’ve seen it work decently in very specific scenarios. If someone just wants the TV louder but won’t wear a hearing aid, an amplifier can at least raise the volume. They just don’t want to wear outside the TV room and heaven forbid if their wife starts doing the dishes in the next room!

  5. What a great idea to offer some tips thus hearing impaied folks. The masks have definitely been a challenge for me at work. Everyone is required to wear a mask and there is a muffling of speech. So, thanks Madison, for taking the time to communicate your thoughts and helpful tips.

  6. I enjoy my visits to Levine & feel like theyI have the best for my hearing loss. It makes my life better to be able to understand what others are saying, healthier, safer, & keeps me younger— hooray!!!! My friend is always having to adjust her aids & many times doesn’t even wear them.
    I feel I am worth it to have the best – most especially in hearing good!
    Thx team Levine!!!!

    1. We are so happy to have you out in the world hearing, Linda! You are absolutely right. As much as I love to see you, I don’t want you having to pop in anymore than necessary.

  7. Having worn hearing aids for about 12 years with service from 2 different providers, I can honestly say that the service and attention I get from Levine Hearing is the best ever. Never have to wait for an appointment and everyone is always very helpful. I’ve been going to them for about 2 years and the aids I have now are super!

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