Hearing Aids vs. Hearing Amplifiers

Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.Hearing Aid Technology, Sound Advice

hearing aids and a hearing amplifier
Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.
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The commonality between hearing aids and hearing amplifiers is that their purpose is to give us a richer, fuller hearing experience. The difference is that hearing amplifiers do not address the problems that the hearing impaired suffer from.

The American Academy of Audiologists has expressed and addressed grave concerns with the unprescribed use of hearing amplifiers which people have access to through retail vendors.

In addition, there is a lack of public knowledge regarding the use of either a hearing aid or using a hearing amplifier. It is imperative that we educate ourselves as to the efficacy of one over the other and to seek an assessment and treatment that will benefit our specific hearing needs.

Here, we take a look at the differences between hearing aids and hearing amplifiers.

What do hearing aids actually do?

Hearing aids are complex devices and are becoming increasingly more sophisticated to benefit the hearing impaired. They are “fitted” by an audiologist and the frequency of the device is tweaked to address the specific hearing impairment of the user. If the inner ear is damaged the hearing aid can help with the hearing loss and also prevent further damage from occurring if caught and fitted in time.

Unfortunately, the stigma of hearing aids is a major deterrent to people seeking out the appropriate care right away. In fact, there are an estimated 30 million people in the US that do not use hearing aids when it is necessary and to their benefit.

What do hearing amplifiers actually do?

Personal Sound Amplifiers, known as PSAPs, make sounds louder. This applies to all the sounds in one’s environment. They are not made to distinguish between which sounds the user has issues with. They are made and marketed for use in recreational settings and are not created to cater to individuals’ needs. They can be purchased easily without a hearing test and are available in a wide price range with and a range of quality.

Differences between Hearing Aids and PSAPs

If you struggle with hearing, it is of utmost importance that a hearing assessment and diagnosis is procured by an audiologist first and foremost. Once this has happened, the correct hearing aid is “fitted” according to the users’ needs. The hearing aid is composed of a microphone, amplifier, and speaker and there are several factors at work for a proper fit. The physical attributes of the ear, the frequency required for the specific type of hearing loss and the way the user uses the hearing aid on a day to day basis are all part of a complete treatment.

Unlike hearing amplifiers, hearing aids help the user hear better by being tuned into the specific frequency that enhances the users hearing experience and alleviating the affliction. Hearing amplifiers do not address the problems that the user is experiencing. They are made up of a hearing piece, an amplifier, a microphone, a power source, and a speaker.

Finally, hearing aids are held to standards by regulatory agencies and are considered medical devices and hearing amplifiers are not.

What does the FDA have to say?

The danger that lies with PSAPs is that they highly unregulated and readily available. They don’t require testing by certified hearing health professionals prior to use. One can easily be led to self-diagnosis and if not used properly and with restraint can cause more harm than good.

Due to concerns for the health of the public, the FDA has issued a resource that notes “PSAPs are not intended to make up for impaired hearing.”

In other words, if you are struggling with your hearing abilities, it is wiser to get a proper hearing evaluation before procuring a PSAP. The use of PSAPs can delay a proper hearing diagnosis and ultimately cause more damage.

How do you know which one you need?

Once hearing loss is effectively ruled out, using a PSAP for short periods of time and for recreational activities like bird watching or attending the theater is permissible. In fact, PSAPs are recommended for people that are not suffering from hearing loss, as they are not a substitute for hearing aids!

Atlanta Hearing Doctor

Our team at Atlanta Hearing Doctor looks forward to helping you experience the benefits of better hearing. We are here to provide comprehensive hearing health services and treatment that provide you with better, fuller hearing. It starts with your first appointment! Contact us today to learn more.