Personal Sound Amplifiers vs Hearing Aids

In hearing aids by Candace Wawra

Candace Wawra
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We have been hearing a lot lately regarding personal sound amplifiers, sometimes called over the counter hearing aids, which work to amplify sounds for better hearing. Gone are the days of the Whisper 2000-like sound amplifiers of the late 1980’s which looked more like Walkman radio/cassette players and headphones. These days one could see a hearing aid next to a present-day sound amplifier and be hard pressed to know which was which. On the outside, they are very much the same design, and with the differing styles, colors, and sizes between hearing aids, adding a variety of amplifiers into the mix can make the differentiation even more daunting. Many people are attracted to amplifiers because of the ease of purchasing them and usually–but not always– at a much lower price. So are sound amplifiers really that different from hearing aids?

Along with the outward appearance, the only other feature amplifiers share with hearing aids is the option to control the volume of incoming noise to best suit the wearer’s needs, but even that doesn’t work the same way between the two. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) states that the main difference between personal amplifiers and hearing aids is that hearing aids are considered medical devices under their guidelines while personal amplifiers are not. A hearing aid can be programmed by a professional after a hearing exam to best suit the frequencies at which sound travels into the ear, allowing for better hearing through individualized test results. They can also be fine-tuned and reprogrammed at any time to keep up with each individual’s hearing needs over time. On the other hand, amplifiers are considered electronic devices designed to enhance sounds for more recreational activities, such as watching a movie or listening for bird calls, for those with normal hearing. They typically are ready to wear out of the box with no room to change the incoming sounds except for the volume.

People cannot be blamed for wanting to spend less on something that seemingly does the same job as something that costs more, not to mention allows the consumer to hand-pick their own device. But can they actually be used in place of hearing aids? The FDA recommends that people get a hearing test performed by a trained specialist to rule out any type of hearing loss or medical issue before purchasing or using a personal amplifier for hearing loss. They warn that those who have hearing loss and choose to purchase an amplifier in lieu of a hearing aid may be at risk of damaging their hearing further if there is a medical condition that requires a doctor or specialist’s care that could potentially be treated. In cases of medically determined hearing loss, a hearing aid is highly recommended over an amplifier in order to improve and maintain the best quality of life possible.

If you would like to know more about what may help you best, we at Hearing Wellness Solutions are here to help. We have the tools and training to evaluate your hearing to create your own personal profile and recommend the best solutions for you. As an independent practice, we have access to hundreds of products to suit your hearing needs. Feel free to give us a call at 417-887-8499 between 9am-4pm Monday-Friday with any questions you have, or to schedule an appointment. If a voice message is left after hours, we will gladly contact you as soon as possible once we are back in the office. We are also available via email at or and provide high quality hearing aids in Springfield Missouri.


References Used

  • “Hearing Aids and Personal Sound Amplifiers: Know the Difference.”
  •… “Hearing Aids.”