Hearing Aids vs. Hearing Amplifiers

Helping people hear better is our goal at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center, as it is for any professional audiology service. We pride ourselves on helping you hear better and understand why you are hearing better through education, technology and customer service. The first step to better hearing is, of course, a hearing evaluation. This comprehensive session will discuss your family history, where and how you might be experiencing hearing difficulties, your lifestyle and your expectations of your hearing aids.

Education is an important component of our service. When you leave our offices, you will understand your hearing loss and you will understand your hearing aids and how to use them to get the most out of them. The best answer to hearing loss is hearing aids.

Do not confuse an amplifier with hearing aids – they are two different things and they serve very different purposes. The FDA has even put out a warning notice to people that hearing amplifiers should not be considered a replacement for hearing aids. Television ads tout the benefits of amplifiers – you’ve seen them – now you can hear what they are saying in the next room type of thing. But they do not process sound like hearing aids. In fact, using an amplifier AND hearing aids can be dangerous and damage your hearing further. Here’s a short explanation of the differences and what they do.

Amplifiers and Hearing Aids


Personal sound amplifying products or PSAPs are designed to boost environmental hearing for people without hearing loss. They don’t filter out background noise, don’t concentrate on one area and they aren’t selective about what sound they are boosting. PSAPs got really popular when advertised as a way to keep yourself aware of what was happening with the children or baby in the next room. They are also promoted as being a great aid when birdwatching or when you might be having difficulties hearing at the theatre.

But with the big increase in advertising came more and more consumers thinking they could use the amplifier as a sort of over-the-counter hearing aids. Doctors and audiologists warn against this. Hearing aids are complex little marvels of technology that benefit the wearer in terms of sound processing and amplifiers just boost sound. Age-related hearing loss first manifests itself as hearing loss of sounds in frequencies and hearing aids improve access to these sounds.

Professionally fitted and fine-tuned hearing aids benefit the individual wearer by boosting certain frequencies. Amplifiers just make sound louder regardless of the frequency or starting volume. Hearing aids are meant to be used for people with hearing loss; amplifiers are meant to be used by people with a full range of hearing.

Dangers of Amplifiers


People misusing PSAPs can do themselves harm. While the technology for amplifiers and hearing aids is similar, it is not the same. Hearing aids are for people with hearing loss and amplifiers are for people with normal hearing who want sound louder. They don’t make sound clearer; they don’t discriminate from one frequency to another and sound just gets boosted. That means if you are listening to something with an amplifier and the sound suddenly gets louder – the amplifier will still keep boosting that sound.
 

Hearing aids, on the other hand, are designed to moderate sudden bursts of loud sound.
Without a hearing evaluation, you won’t know the degree of your hearing loss and if you just use an amplifier, your hearing will continue to get worse.

Knowing Which to Choose


If you or a friend is interested in getting a PSAP, think first about what you want to use it for. If you are interested in getting it to help with your birdwatching, help boost sound at the theatre or help with childcare, they might benefit from the PSAP. However, they should be dissuaded from getting it if they think it is a replacement for hearing aids.

 

If you or friends are having trouble hearing, go for the safe solution and get a hearing test and then consider hearing aids. A number of hearing aid manufacturers offer an on-line hearing test which is a good start to see if you need a full evaluation at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center. We can help you find the right solution for your hearing problem. Using an amplifier instead of a hearing aid could do you more harm than good.