Hearing Aids vs. Hearing Amplifiers

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | June 21st, 2019

Duane L. Smelser

Oftentimes, clients will use the terms hearing aids and hearing amplifiers interchangeably. While this is understandable, it is important to note that hearing aids and hearing amplifiers are two very distinctive devices. Below we will outline the commonalities and differences between hearing aids and hearing amplifiers.

What are Hearing Amplifiers?

Hearing amplifiers are also called personal sound amplification products or PSAPs. These devices are defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as “wearable electronic products that are intended to amplify sounds for people who are not d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing”. Hearing amplifiers or PSAPs will amplify nearby sounds around a person to help them hear better.

 What are Hearing Aids?

Hearing aids also amplify sounds; however, they are considered medical devices in the United States and also in most countries throughout the world. Unlike hearing amplifiers, hearing aids are approved by the FDA as a treatment for those with hearing loss, and are also regulated as medical devices and cannot be sold over the counter.

Similarities Between Hearing Amplifiers and Hearing Aids

Sound Amplification

Hearing aids and hearing amplifiers are similar in that they both use a microphone to take in environmental sounds and make them louder. Both devices then deliver these amplified sounds to a wearer’s ears in real-time.


Some hearing amplifiers or PSAPs include headphones, while others are wearable and fit onto a user’s ear in a similar manner to older style behind-the-ear hearing aids.

Differences Between Hearing Amplifiers and Hearing Aids

Technology and Features

There are massive differences between PSAPs and hearing aids when it comes to features and technology. PSAPs employ very simple technology. This technology takes in environmental noises and makes them louder. Hearing amplifiers will make sounds louder even if they are already dangerously loud, and does not have technology that is able to differentiate between useful sounds and background noises.

Hearing aids, on the other hand, are extremely technologically advanced. Modern hearing aids can instantly decipher whether or not a sound is useful, and can amplify or muffle the sounds accordingly. Hearing aids are able to adjust to different settings, and are finely tuned to match a wearer’s exact hearing profile. Hearing aids are also typically equipped with other technology such as tinnitus treatment therapies and wireless streaming.

Purpose and Use

Contrary to popular understanding, PSAPs and hearing amplifiers are not to be used for the same reasons as hearing aids. PSAPs and hearing amplifiers are restricted for use by those with normal hearing who do not experience any hearing loss. Hearing amplifiers should be used to improve the experience of hobbies such as bird watching or for parents to “keep an ear on” kids in the next room. They may also be used by night owls who enjoy a late-night TV show while family members are trying to sleep nearby.

Hearing aids are used for the purpose of treating hearing loss. Hearing aids are typically made as a joint decision between the wearer and a hearing healthcare professional. The hearing aids are then specifically tuned to meet the exact needs of the wearer in terms of volume and frequency.

Hearing amplifiers are not to be used by people with hearing loss, as doing so may result in further hearing damage. 

Availability and Price

Hearing amplifiers and PSAPs are regularly available and can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies and even over the internet. These devices are quite inexpensive and do not require recommendation from a healthcare professional. No appointment or hearing assessment is needed to obtain them, as they are not intended to treat hearing loss or be used by a person who has a hearing impairment.

Hearing aids do require a hearing assessment and recommendation from a hearing healthcare professional. They also require an appointment, as they must be professionally fine-tuned to meet a wearer’s exact hearing profile. Because they are packed with so much incredibly important technology and are considered medical devices, hearing aids are also a bit pricier than hearing amplifiers.

Hearing Health in Portland

If you live in the Portland area and think you may be experiencing some of the early signs of hearing loss, reach out to our friendly team at Hearing Health today.

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