Two hearing aid experts discussing the quality Lexie Lumen hearing aids and camparing it to amplifiers

Hearing Aid or Amplifier – What is the Difference?

Both hearing aids and amplifiers can improve your ability to hear sounds, but each is designed with a different purpose in mind.

Do you perhaps have hearing loss and need a device to help you hear better? Are you not sure what the difference between a hearing aid and an amplifier is? Both hearing aids and amplifiers can improve your ability to hear sounds, but each is designed with a different purpose in mind.

You may have come across people advertising and promoting an amplifier device that allows you to hear better and is a “one size fits all”  device. This is NOT a hearing aid, it is a device that amplifies ALL sounds, without taking your unique hearing abilities into account. It might seem appealing to have a device that fulfills these hearing needs; however, they are not custom made to fit your hearing loss as hearing aids do.  It may seem as if the amplifier and hearing aid are similar, but they are quite different. Before purchasing an amplifier, one must consider all the pros and cons as well as obtain professional advice from a hearing health practitioner. See below for some of the points to guide your decision when choosing between an amplifier and a hearing aid.

Let us first understand what the purpose of an amplifier and a hearing aid is, and the differences between the two devices.

What is an amplifier?

An amplifier is a ‘hearing device’ that amplifies all environmental sounds (makes all sounds louder). The mechanism of an amplifier involves a microphone picking up sounds from the environment and thereafter transmitting it into your ears via earphones. They come in a variety of different colors, designs, and models. This tool is specifically designed for users with normal hearing levels, who need sounds amplified in certain situations. For example, a bird watcher will use an amplifier to assist him in hearing birds so that he can easily identify a  type of bird by its chirp.

An amplifier can be purchased without a consultation with a hearing specialist and one does not need to be diagnosed with a hearing loss to purchase this device. In addition to that,  (an amplifier cannot be programmed according to an individual’s hearing loss); it is a “one size fits all” device that makes ALL sounds louder.  Remember, an amplifier is not designed to assist your hearing loss in any way, it is meant for use by people with no hearing loss. If a person presents with hearing loss makes use of an amplifier, all environmental sounds will be “made louder”. This will make listening to speech in noisy environments difficult,  as the background noises and speech will present at the same loudness level. Sounds that are too loud and are presented continuously to the ears, could cause further damage to one’s hearing.

What is a hearing aid?

Hearing aids are devices that are programmed and fitted specifically for your hearing loss needs. Hearing aids do not amplify ALL sounds, they only amplify sounds that you struggle to hear. The newer digital hearing aids can enhance sound quality and switch between different programs based on your listening environment e.g. you can select the “noisy environment program” to hear speech better in noisy environments. Hearing aids come in different sizes, colors, types, and models.

What is the difference between an amplifier and a hearing aid?

  • Amplifiers make all sounds louder, whereas hearing aids provide custom amplification to fit your hearing needs.
  • Amplifiers are less costly than hearing aids.
  • Amplifiers should be used for people who have normal hearing, whereas hearing aids should be used for people with hearing loss.
  • Amplifiers are intended for people who want amplification of sound for recreational purposes while hearing aids are intended for assisting people with hearing loss.
  • Hearing aids make speech sounds easier to hear, whereas amplifiers merely make speech (and other noises around) louder.

Despite the cheaper cost and sound amplification, an amplifier will not be effective for a person with hearing difficulties. Using an amplifier could be more dangerous as the loudness levels are not controlled, that is why it is crucial that amplifiers should not be used as a replacement for hearing aids. It is important to make good choices when it comes to managing your hearing health as it has an impact on your personal life, relationships, professional work, and your emotional state. Hearing aids can improve your quality of life. Call our friendly and experienced hearing experts, who will be able to assist you with the most suitable hearing solution for you.  They will be able to advise you on the best course of action regarding the type of hearing device for you.

Hearing expert and article author Faatima

Written byFaatima Nakhooda

Masters in Audiology

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