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Hearing amplifiers and hearing aids are both products that amplify sound and audio. A person does not require a prescription to purchase an amplifier. However, those with mild-to-severe hearing loss may find hearing aids more beneficial.

This article explains what hearing amplifiers and hearing aids are and the differences between them, reviews some products to buy online, and provides information about hearing health.

Before purchasing a hearing aid or amplifier, people may wish to consider the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Hearing aids can help a person hear more clearly during everyday activities.
  • Hearing amplifiers can help increase the volume of a person’s surroundings.
  • Some hearing aids are available with additional accessories, such as Bluetooth functionality or artificial intelligence.
  • Some hearing aids and amplifiers have rechargeable batteries.

Cons

  • Hearing aids and amplifiers can be expensive.
  • Not all companies accept insurance when purchasing hearing devices.
  • Hearing amplifiers are not suitable for wearing at all times.
  • The FDA does not regulate hearing amplifiers as medical devices.

Hearing amplifiers, or personal sound amplification products, are wearable devices that use a microphone to pick up nearby sounds. They then process this sound and deliver it to a person’s ear at a louder volume.

A person does not need a prescription to purchase a hearing amplifier. However, manufacturers do not make these devices for people with hearing loss. Instead, people can use hearing amplifiers to hear certain sounds more clearly, such as while hunting or bird watching.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate hearing amplifiers as medical devices.

Hearing aids are devices that make sounds louder so that people with mild-to-severe hearing loss can hear and more fully participate in everyday activities. There are various styles and types available for purchase.

A hearing aid has a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The microphone picks up the sound, and the sound becomes electrical signals that get sent to an amplifier. The amplifier then sends the sound waves to the ear via the speaker.

The FDA regulates hearing aids as medical devices. A person will need a prescription from a doctor or an audiologist to purchase a hearing aid.

Learn more about the different types of hearing aids here.

Although both hearing amplifiers and hearing aids can amplify sound, these products are suitable for different people.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that hearing amplifiers are best for people with little-to-no hearing loss to boost their hearing ability in certain situations, such as while hunting or bird watching.

If a person has hearing loss, they may find hearing aids more beneficial. Audiologists can program hearing aids to suit an individual’s specific needs, and hearing aids have different programs for different sound environments.

Some additional differences between hearing amplifiers and hearing aids include the following:

  • Customization: Hearing aids have more range and options for customization depending on a person’s needs. Hearing aids also come in different styles, types, and colors. Hearing amplifiers, on the other hand, usually come in a “one-size-fits-all” design.
  • Prescription: A person needs a prescription to purchase hearing aids. However, they do not require a prescription to obtain a hearing amplifier.
  • Regulation: The FDA regulates hearing aids, while hearing amplifiers do not need to be FDA-regulated.
  • Cost: Amplifiers usually cost less than hearing aids.
  • Volume not clarity: Amplifiers make audio louder as opposed to clearer. They usually cannot distinguish between speech and other background noise, and they do not always have feedback cancelation like most hearing aids do.

It is important that a person chooses the correct device for their requirements. The FDA states that some people may experience more significant hearing loss if they substitute an audiologist appointment and hearing aid prescription for a hearing amplifier. This is because some forms of hearing loss may become progressively worse without treatment.

One 2017 review found that some direct-to-consumer hearing devices, including hearing amplifiers, can cause damage as a result of very high volume levels. People should not use hearing amplifier volumes that are higher than necessary.

Below are some hearing amplifier and hearing aid products that are available to purchase online.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Otofonix Encore hearing aid

This amplifier from Otofonix has more features than some other hearing amplifiers on the market.

This model sits behind the ear and has a rear and front microphone. The sound travels through the sound tube and into the ear via the ear dome. Otofonix states that this two-microphone feature means that the device picks up less feedback and background noise.

This model has up to 53 decibels of amplification, four listening modes, and 10 volume levels. There is also a telecoil feature that a person can use in public venues and a 45-day money-back guarantee.

This device is powered by disposable batteries and does not have Bluetooth connectivity.

Customer reviews and brand reputation:

This product has an average of 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. In addition, although customers have not left ratings on the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the organization gives the company an A grade.

Those who left positive reviews on Amazon state that these hearing aids are as comfortable as more expensive options, and that shipping was fast and simple.

However, some reviewers report that the hearing aid was not suitable for their level of hearing loss.

BLJ hearing amplifier

This hearing amplifier by BLJ is a discreet model that sits directly in the ear canal. It features silicone materials that may make it more comfortable to wear in the ear, and it has a pull wire for easy removal.

A small button on the device itself controls the settings. It has eight volume levels.

BLJ notes that this product is not suitable for those with difficulty operating small items or people with severe hearing loss.

Disposable batteries power this device, and it does not have Bluetooth connectivity.

The company does not provide any warranty details, but it does offer free returns.

Customer reviews and brand reputation:

Currently, MEDca does not have a Trustpilot or BBB profile. However, customers give this amplifier an average of 3.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Those who left positive reviews state that this hearing amplifier is suitable for mild hearing loss, with customers reporting they can more easily hear the TV and noises outside.

Starkey Livio Edge AI hearing aid

This model is available in four styles: behind-the-ear, receiver-in-canal, in-the-ear, and in-the-canal. All of these styles are rechargeable and can recharge overnight. This hearing aid is also available in various colors.

The device is Bluetooth-compatible, enabling audio from other devices to stream directly into a person’s ear. It can also connect to Starkey’s app so that people can control their hearing aids via a smartphone.

The device has feedback cancelation. The artificial intelligence (AI) technology automatically detects and adjusts programs depending on background noise and the sound environment.

Additional features include transcribing and translating features, custom programs, and fall detection alerts sent to a person’s chosen emergency contact.

Individuals can purchase this hearing aid from most audiologists. Different audiologists may offer different warranty periods.

Customer reviews and brand reputation:

Customers give Starkey an average rating of 3.6 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot and 1 out of 5 stars on BBB. Starkey holds accreditation with the BBB, and the organization gives it an A+ grade.

Those who left positive reviews state that Starkey’s customer service is prompt and helpful and that the hearing aids are suitable for people who may find technology difficult.

However, others report that the hearing aids gave feedback and did not charge properly.

Audicus Aura hearing aid

Audicus states that this model is suitable for those with mild-to-severe hearing loss.

Audicus Aura hearing aids are available in a completely-in-canal style that sits directly in the ear canal. They are available in beige or blue/red. They also have a pull string to make them easy to remove as well as hypoallergenic silicone covers for comfort.

There are four volume levels that people can adjust by tapping the device. Audicus includes three ear dome sizes, which means that a person can choose which one best fits their ear canal shape.

The company provides a 45-day trial and a 1-year warranty.

Customer reviews and brand reputation:

Audicus has an average customer rating of 3.14 out of 5 stars on BBB. In addition, the company holds accreditation with the BBB, and the organization gives Audicus an A+ grade.

While Audicus has a Trustpilot page, customers have not left any reviews.

Those who left positive reviews state that the Audicus hearing aids improved their quality of life and that the customer support was helpful.

However, those who left more negative reviews reported problems with customer service and returning the hearing devices.

The following table provides an overview of the products in this article:

Otofonix Encore hearing aidBLJ hearing amplifierStarkey Livio Edge AI hearing aidAudicus Aura hearing aid
List price$275 for one ear or $495 for a pair$99.90 for one earno information available$699 for one ear or $1398 for a pair
Warrantyone yearno information availablewarranty available, but no extra detailsone year
Amazon rating4 out of 5 stars3.9 out of 5 starsno information availableno information available
Trustpilot ratingno information availableno information available3.6 out of 5 starsno information available
BBB gradeA gradeno information availableA+ gradeA+ grade

A person should contact a hearing healthcare professional before purchasing a hearing aid or amplifier. Healthcare professionals such as audiologists will test a person’s hearing and help determine whether a hearing device is the best option for their circumstances.

If a person has healthcare insurance, they should contact their provider to check whether their policy covers the costs of hearing aids.

There are several alternatives or additional products that a person may wish to try.

Amplified phones

An amplified phone may be a useful tool for a person who finds it difficult to hear others when talking on the phone. People can turn up the volume higher than on traditional phones.

Potential additional features include:

  • Bluetooth headset compatibility
  • an alert system if a person does not hang up the phone correctly
  • flashing lights for incoming calls

TV listening devices

These are wireless headsets that a person connects to their TV. People can then turn the volume up independently on their headsets without changing the volume that other people experience.

Some products may also reduce background noise and amplify dialogue.

Phones with captions

Some landline phones may offer a service where the company captions telephone conversations on an easy-to-read screen. Some brands may allow people to adjust the volume and save conversations.

The NIDCD states that only 1 in 5 people who could benefit from the use of a hearing aid actually wear one.

It is important to see an audiologist if a person suspects that they may have hearing loss. They can recommend what form of hearing device is most suitable for that individual’s needs.

Some symptoms of hearing loss may include:

  • talking loudly to others
  • needing to have the TV and radio volume turned up loudly
  • regularly asking people to repeat themselves, especially in areas with lots of background noise
  • having better hearing in one ear than the other
  • straining to hear
  • not being able to hear a dripping faucet or the high note of a violin
  • hearing ringing or buzzing noises in one or both ears

The NIDCD also states that hearing aids are most useful for those who have damage in the inner ear’s sensory cells. This damage can occur due to age, disease, or injury from medications or loud noise exposure.

If a person purchases hearing aids, it is important that they look after them. Proper maintenance of hearing aids can extend their life.

The NIDCD recommends that people:

  • Keep hearing aids away from heat and moisture.
  • Clean hearing aids as the manufacture recommends, as earwax can damage them.
  • Never use hairspray or other hair products while wearing a hearing aid.
  • Turn off hearing aids when they are not in use, as this can extend battery life.
  • Replace flat batteries or charge a rechargeable hearing aid as quickly as possible.

People should contact a doctor if they notice a change in their hearing in one or both ears.

A person should contact a doctor as soon as possible if they experience:

  • sudden hearing loss in one or both ears
  • gradual hearing loss over several weeks
  • hearing loss alongside earache or discharge

Here we answer common questions about hearing aids and amplifiers.

Are hearing aids covered by insurance?

A person should always check their insurance policy. Hearing aid coverage will vary depending on the insurance provider and the type of insurance plan a person has.

Learn more about insurance and hearing aids here.

Do hearing aids help with tinnitus?

There is evidence that hearing aids may help mask tinnitus. Adjusting the outside volume levels may help reduce tinnitus symptoms.

Experts also recommend healthcare professionals consider hearing aid fitting a valid tinnitus management approach.

Learn more about hearing aids for tinnitus here.

Can hearing amplifiers damage hearing?

Hearing amplifiers are not damaging if a person uses them as the manufacturer intends.

However, amplifiers are not a substitute for hearing aids. If a person requires hearing aids and does not receive the correct devices, they may notice their hearing loss increases.

Hearing aids and hearing amplifiers both maximize the volume of sound. However, while hearing amplifiers are more suitable for those who need extra sound during recreational activities, hearing aids require a prescription and suit people with hearing loss.

People who suspect that they may have hearing loss should see an audiologist as soon as possible. If a person has hearing loss, a doctor or an audiologist can write a prescription for a hearing aid that is suitable for that individual’s requirements.