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Hearing Amplifiers vs. Hearing Aids

12 million adults in the UK report that they suffer from a certain degree of hearing loss and it’s estimated that by 2035, there will be around 14.2 million adults in the UK with hearing loss greater than 25 dBHL according to the Office for National Statistics population data (2018).

Hearing aids are the go to option for most people with moderate to severe hearing loss, although not everyone can afford them or may not, for various reasons, wish to wait to be fitted  on the NHS. For people with hearing loss who need to be economical with their money; it is tempting to consider skipping out on using a hearing aid altogether in favour of buying a hearing amplifier, otherwise known as personal sound amplification products (PSAP), personal sound amplification devices or digital hearing amplifiers. 

Personal sound amplifiers are a popular way to help improve our hearing ability, but what makes them different from hearing aids? Learn about the differences, benefits, and how to manage suspected hearing loss effectively.

What's The Difference Between Hearing Amplifiers & Hearing Aids?

Hearing amplifiers and Hearing Aids are designed for different purposes. How do you know which you need depending on your type of hearing loss?

Hearing aids are medical devices used to help improve a person's hearing. Hearing amplifiers (also known as: 'hearing boosters,' 'hearing enhancers,' 'sound amplifiers' or 'digital hearing amplifiers'), on the other hand, are less powerful than hearing aids. A major difference between them is that hearing aids are specifically designed for people with hearing impairments, whereas hearing amplifiers are not.

For example, those with sensorineural hearing loss would turn to hearing aids to effectively manage hearing loss. Hearing aids are tuned and programmed specifically to match the degree and type and configuration of each person’s hearing loss. On the other hand, hearing amplifiers are intended to be used to boost the overall sound levels around you.  Another difference between hearing aids and hearing amplifiers is that hearing aids use sophisticated digital technology to not only amplify sound but also process various elements within the incoming sound to help improve clarity. Hearing aids usually require a fitting by an ear specialist or ENT doctor whereas most hearing amplifiers can be purchased over the counter for a fraction of the price.

Hearing amplifiers are more affordable, but are they effective?

In recent years, hearing amplifiers have become a popular way to manage those with slight to moderate degrees of hearing impairment. They are designed as small devices which can be worn in the ear canal or behind the ears, and amplify sound for the wearer. However, due to their increasing popularity and a lack of public knowledge about audio amplifiers, doctors warn that they should be used with caution. Hearing amplifiers would not be tuned for specific hearing losses and may not not offer an effective solution for speech perception.  Hearing aids are typically more expensive than audio amplifiers as they offer many additional features; however, for those with mild-to-severe hearing loss, it is well worth the money spent. Hearing aids focus on amplifying specific frequencies while amplifiers will amplify all sounds equally. Amplifiers may not be equipped with robust feedback management processing, and may whistle a great deal if the volume is turned up a lot. A major benefit for electronic hearing aid users receiving a device fitted by an experienced audiologist or hearing professional is that they offer a number of processing strategies to reduce background noise which will help to hear speech even in noisy environments.

Hearing aids are a lot more customisable than hearing amplifiers

Hearing aids can be adjusted to suit each individual person's needs, while some lower-end hearing amplifiers cannot be modified at all. Hearing aid manufacturers will typically offer an array of different options for individuals seeking customised fit and function of their devices, including tip size, dome size, shell size, colour and material type. This level of customisation is virtually unparalleled in most other technologies on the market today, offering a perfect solution even for people with mild, moderate or severe hearing losses. A great deal of choice is available for anyone looking to wear hearing aids.  

Any hearing professional will tell you that customisation is important for hearing devices because it ensures that you are able to purchase the perfect hearing aid for your unique hearing loss needs. Your level of hearing loss can be accurately measured and an audiogram produced using a high quality hearing test. Thereafter, this unique audiogram is used to generate a hearing aid recommendation. This will include information that can be discussed such as: which brand and model of hearing aids you will need, how you want your device to fit in your ear), and whether or not you would like a behind-the-ear (BTE) unit or completely in-the-canal (CIC) device, otherwise known as an invisible hearing aid. 

The level of customisation available for lower end devices may be limited. At Hearing Direct, we specialise in affordable hearing aids. The cost of privately purchased devices can often cause people to try hearing amplifiers due to their low price-tag. If you have hearing loss, you need an aid, not an amplifier. 

The HD 230 digital invisible hearing aid is one of our most popular devices. It is an allrounder and comes fully loaded with all the features you need to effectively manage hearing loss. This in-the-ear model is so small and lightweight, you'll even forget you are wearing it! Discretion is often crucial when buying a hearing aid and despite the HD 230's size, a vast level of technology is still available, as well as a high level of battery life.

Click here to browse all of our in ear hearing aids, handpicked by our team of hearing professionals.

Test Your Hearing Online For Free

If you feel you may require more than hearing amplifiers to appreciate and properly enjoy the sounds you love, we recommend you take our online hearing test.

Results will indicate if you need to take further action to protect your hearing. The hearing check cannot be regarded as clinical data so we recommend you consult with a medical/healthcare professional or audiologist. They will be able to help diagnose the root cause, type and suggest appropriate methods to manage any potential hearing impairment.

How Else Can I Amplify The Sounds Around Me?

Other than hearing amplifiers, there is a whole world of amplified items out there to enhance the way we listen.


Assistive Listening Devices

Assistive listening devices (ALDs), like hearing amplifiers, deliver amplified sounds. They come in the form of wireless listeners, TV headphones, and neckloops. Their primary function is to help the hard of hearing better hear, understand, and enjoy their favourite television shows, music, as well as add clarity to speech.

Amplified Telephones

Phones for hard of hearing offer higher volumes than generic home, wall-mounted, and DECT phones. They provide a far loud ringer and voice volume to assist how the hearing impaired communicate. As a core day-to-day activity, amplified phones are imperative for ensuring people do not miss out on the joys of conversations. You might also wish to explore:Phones for seniors and Amplified Doorbells

Extra Loud Alarm Clocks

Loud alarm clocks have been designed for the hard of hearing and the hard of wake alike. Boasting superior alarms over standard alarm clocks, this and the combination of vibrating pads and flashing lights is the wake-up call you really need. Our 30-day money back guarantees means you can try out the items we supply, knowing that if dissatisfied, you will receive a full refund.

About Hearing Direct

We are one of the world's leading hearing aid specialists. HearingDirect offers a wide range of affordable products, as well as information resources to help improve the quality of life for the hard of hearing. We sell: 

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Author: Joan McKechnie

After qualifying as a Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologist Joan has spent most of her 20 year career in hearing-care related roles. She has a wealth of experience within the hearing aid and hearing rehabilitation fields and has worked in manufacturing environments with two hearing aid companies helping to develop products and roll out new technologies. Joan has been involved with Hearing Direct since its launch and enjoys the online retail environment which seeks to provide easier access to hearing products and accessories. She is HCPC registered. Read Joan's full bio here.


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