Sound Amplifiers Versus Hearing Aids: What’s the Difference?
Updated: Sep 16, 2021
Many people must deal with hearing loss and other conditions that reduce the sound levels their ears pick up. Hearing is a spectrum, and some individuals will experience more extreme levels of hearing loss; but whatever the case may be, people must know the proper device to improve hearing. This is where knowing the difference between sound amplifiers versus hearing aids is important; depending on the intended application, one can be ideal while the other can be detrimental.
Sound amplifiers and hearing aids each have their intended uses. It is important to know the right context for each. Be aware of what makes hearing aids and sound amplifiers different to make the most informed purchase and the healthiest option. Have a clear understanding of your current medical situation regarding your hearing, and if you’re ever unsure, contact a medical professional for a consultation.
What Are Hearing Aids?
Hearing aids are medical devices with the purpose of elevating the range of hearing for an individual suffering from hearing loss. As every person experiences hearing loss to a different degree, hearing aids are specific to one person and calibrated to their exact needs to promote better hearing and increase audio levels.
Because they are medical devices, hearing aids are regulated by the FDA, and they have strict guidelines for prescription and calibration. They aren’t meant for everyday use by someone who wants to increase the volume of their surroundings; their design is for those experiencing hearing loss.
What Are Sound Amplifiers?
By contrast, personal audio amplifiers aren’t medical in nature and they don’t require a doctor’s prescription to obtain. They are commercial products, and their design allows for those who don’t suffer from hearing loss to increase the sound levels of their environment. They aren’t selective in what sounds they increase but rather raise the levels of the environment as a whole without excluding any noise.
Typically, sound amplifiers are used when people want to listen to theater performances or keep an ear out for young children in the next room. They’re a tool of convenience to raise alertness, giving people the ability to hear minute sounds they would’ve otherwise missed. Also, as a clarification, sound amplifiers don’t make sounds clearer but increases the volume of sounds. This is a small but important distinction consumers need to know before making a purchase.
Can a Person Use a Sound Amplifier In Place of a Hearing Aid?
The short answer is no. A hearing aid is a highly specialized piece of medical equipment; its design is unique to the individual using it. Their applications are precise, and any deviation from the prescription can drastically distort the sounds individuals hear. Individuals who have prescriptions from their doctor for a hearing aid need to use it. A sound amplifier doesn’t have the clarity, precision, or depth of sound discernment to adequately mimic a hearing device.
The Risks of Misusing Sound Amplifiers
Hearing aids are precise whereas sound amplifiers are broad. As previously mentioned, they raise the volume of everything in a room. If the sound levels are already high, the amplifier will only make them louder without limit. This can quickly lead to hearing damage in individuals who unknowingly keep them too high for too long. A sound amplifier is not a substitute for a hearing aid; they are completely separate devices that have their own applications and intended uses. Deviating from that and using amplifiers improperly may be detrimental.
The Proper Uses for Audio Amplifiers
Amplifiers have specific uses to improve the listening ability of the user. Generally, those who use amplifiers do so in places where there’s already little noise so as to not hurt their eardrums. Some examples previously cited are during theater performances and watching for children.
They’re typically used in controlled environments, such as the home, where you can adjust the sound levels accordingly. In public, where individuals have little to no control over the soundscape around them, an amplifier has a high risk of doing more harm than good.
The Benefits of Amplifiers
Hearing aids and sounds amplifiers have similar yet drastically different applications, making it difficult for people to determine exactly which one they should invest in. The first option is to always consult your personal doctor; they have the medical expertise and knowledge to identify severe hearing loss that requires medical intervention. For those who do experience some form of hearing loss that isn’t significant enough to be eligible for a hearing aid, the amplifiers provide an appealing alternative.
Dealing With Everyday Inconveniences
It’s normal for people to have a hard time hearing something around the house, whether it’s the tv, radio, or someone talking to them from across the room. The ease of use and convenience of the application make amplifiers a critical tool in adjust hearing for everyday circumstances.
Compared to hearing aids—which can range in the thousands of dollars and typically aren’t covered by private insurance—personal sound amplifiers are highly affordable and easy to obtain. They don’t require any type of doctor authorization, and people can order them effortlessly from retailers or direct sellers.
Using an Amplifier Safely
Stating the safety precautions of using an amplifier is necessary because it has a high potential to be misused. Individuals who don’t know the difference between personal sound amplifiers and hearing aids will jeopardize their auditory faculties by improperly using amplifiers when they mistakenly believe they’re interchangeable with hearing aids.
Always know the proper use of the product you purchase and consult your doctor before taking any steps to improve your hearing through devices. Asking the advice of a professional will clarify any misunderstandings you may have about the devices you use or are planning to use. Amplifiers aren’t medical instruments; their use is for someone who wants to increase the volume of their immediate, controlled surrounding. Attempting to do anything other than that risks permanent damage to the eardrums that may require the use of hearing aids if improper use continues.