Hearing Aid Basics

Hearing Aids vs. Sound Amplifiers: What’s the Difference?

by Tanya Gonzalez. Posted on Friday, September 3, 2021

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIH), approximately 13 percent of people in the United States 12 years of age or older have experienced some form of hearing loss. As a result, many seek to improve or regain their hearing through the use of devices such as hearing aids and sound amplifiers. But while both of these devices serve the purpose of helping people hear better, there are major differences between them. Moreover, if the wearer doesn’t carefully distinguish between these differences, their hearing might actually get worse.

So, what exactly are the differences between hearing aids and sound amplifiers? Let’s take a look.  

What Are Hearing Aids?

Hearing aids are small, medical grade electronic devices that are used to treat hearing loss. They work by picking up sounds in the environment, making only the frequencies that the wearer cannot hear well louder, and distributing them into the wearer’s ear. Hearing aids are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be customized to the wearer’s specific type of hearing loss. These devices are meant for daily wear and can either be worn inside the ear (in-the-ear hearing aids, also known as ITE) or on the exterior of the ear (behind-the-ear hearing aids, also known as BTE).

Traditionally, individuals who sought to purchase hearing aids would have an in-person fitting appointment in a store. The fitting process involves trying on the hearing aid devices and programming them to match the wearer’s needs. Recently, however, technology in hearing care has been rapidly evolving to the point that an increasing number of hearing aids can now be adjusted to the wearer’s needs from the comfort of their own home. SoundBright makes this technology accessible, allowing anyone who has experienced hearing loss to easily browse and purchase affordable, medical-grade hearing aids online without having to undergo the in-person fitting process. 

Still, some hearing aids can be costly and, to some, unaffordable. Because of this, individuals who experience hearing loss often turn to sound amplifiers thinking they will be a remedy, but sound amplifiers can only do so much.

What Are Sound Amplifiers?

Similar to hearing aids, sound amplifiers also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many models even resemble actual hearing aids, but there are significant differences between the devices. Unlike hearing aids, sound amplifiers are neither medical grade nor customizable to the particular type of hearing loss that an individual has experienced. 

As their name suggests, these types of devices merely “amplify” or augment sound. Sound amplifiers don’t actually create more clarity in sound, they just tend to make EVERYTHING louder, including background noise and other sounds that are already interfering with a person’s ability to hear. In some situations they may help, but when wearers are in an environment where there are more complex sounds, they may actually hinder the individual’s ability to hear even simple sounds. 

They also don’t actually treat hearing loss and may not even work for individuals with moderate or severe hearing loss. Additionally, sound amplifiers are not meant to be worn on a daily basis, limiting their usefulness even to those that they actually provide relief for.  

Choosing Between Hearing Aids and Sound Amplifier Devices

The lines are becoming blurrier when it comes to hearing aids and sound amplifiers. Some hearing aids may look like sound amplifiers and vice versa, making it harder for prospective customers to differentiate between them. 

Because sound amplifiers can be purchased over-the-counter and are significantly less expensive than hearing aids, they are easily accessible. This is appealing to those who may not be able to afford medical grade hearing aids. However, if hearing loss is not properly treated, it may get worse.

Many insurance companies cover a portion or even the entire cost of hearing aids. They will, however, typically NOT cover even part of the cost of amplifiers. Even if they don’t cover hearing aid costs, there are some medical grade hearing aids, like the nearly invisible Vibe Air, that are more affordable, can be purchased online, and do not require a medical consultation to obtain. Payment plan options are often available as well. 

At SoundBright, we understand and sympathize with individuals who are hesitant to purchase hearing aids because of price or inability to easily obtain devices. Knowing this, we provide an alternative, more convenient method for those who need a hearing aid and are either unable to or prefer not to visit an audiologist in person. Our site offers customers the opportunity to browse different types of medical grade hearing aids online and payment plan options. Additionally, when purchasing a hearing aid on our website, we offer the option for customers to have a free Care Call, during which a licensed hearing professional will guide customers on their journey toward better hearing as well as how to program and care for their devices. 

The Takeaway

It’s important for anyone who has experienced hearing loss to fully explore all their options and understand that hearing loss is a condition that CAN be treated. Sound amplifiers are only meant for those with normal hearing or very mild hearing loss and will not provide the same type of sound clarity as customizable medical hearing aids do. Those with gradually worsening or moderate to severe hearing loss should especially consider medical grade hearing aids that cater to their needs and to achieve actual, positive results. 

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