Although the purpose they serve may seem similar, hearing amplifiers and hearing aids are two different devices. Yes, both can improve one’s ability to hear. However, hearing aids have a design tailored for people with hearing impairments and hearing amplifiers do not. The media tempts us to purchase hearing amplifiers while overlooking key differences that separate them from hearing aids. One significant difference is the lack of a professional diagnosis. Without a formal diagnosis and treatment plan, the underlying causes of hearing loss fail to come to light. The hearing amplifier will increase the volume, but it will fail to fix the problem.
The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates medical devices, prohibits the sale of hearing aids over the counter. As an alternative, manufacturers market the hearing amplifiers. The price of a hearing amplifier is affordable and a great deal if one considers that the cost of hearing aids can cost up to $6,000 while not being covered by Medicare or private insurance companies. Hearing amplifiers are not over-the-counter hearing aids. They are for individuals with normal hearing who want to amplify sounds such as music, television, or nature.
A significant concern with hearing amplifiers is that people attempt to use them as hearing aids which can further damage their hearing. Self-diagnosing is a problem that might completely ignore the complexity of the hearing problem, not to mention the underlying cause of hearing loss. Failure to have a set of hearing aids custom fit by a hearing healthcare professional can cost you more than your hearing. Essential skills like lip reading and the ability to distinguish high-frequency sounds will go untaught. Treating the symptoms of hearing loss with a hearing amplifier does not address the underlying problem causing the hearing loss.
If you or a loved one is considering the purchase of a hearing amplifier, please review the reason for getting it. Do you intend to use the device to enhance the sounds of nature, theatre, or music? Or are you having trouble hearing everyday sounds?
A hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional is an excellent way to determine if you have a hearing loss and if so, to find the cause and extent of the impairment. An audiogram will identify problems, and a hearing healthcare professional can treat your hearing loss correctly. If hearing aids are needed, they will be professionally fitted and fine-tuned to your specific hearing needs. A hearing amplifier can’t match professional treatment that correctly addresses your hearing problem instead of merely masking the symptoms of the problem.
Please remember that proper hearing health relies upon a professional hearing evaluation, which will include your hearing and the balance functions of the audio-vestibular system. A hearing healthcare professional can diagnose your hearing problem with experience and a variety of tools at their disposal. If you are experiencing trouble hearing, you owe it to yourself to treat it properly.