We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.
Less than 1 in 3 people over the age of 70 and 1 in 6 between the ages of 20 and 69 who could benefit from hearing aids have them, reports the
Obstacles like high cost and lack of time to see a hearing professional can make it challenging for people to get the help and hearing device they need.
Because hearing amplifiers can be more convenient and inexpensive to purchase, many people with hearing loss opt for these instead.
If you’re researching devices for hearing loss, read on to learn about the differences between hearing aids and hearing amplifiers, as well as the pros and cons of each.
Although they can look similar, there are several important differences between hearing aids and hearing amplifiers.
Hearing amplifiers are also known as personal sound amplifying products.
They don’t require a prescription, meaning you won’t have to visit a hearing aid professional to get them. What’s more, although the price varies, they can be significantly cheaper than hearing aids.
However, they don’t work the same way as hearing aids, and they aren’t designed to correct hearing loss. In some instances, they may even worsen hearing loss.
Hearing amplifiers work by amplifying every sound without differentiation. As such, they can’t crystalize nearby sounds or isolate specific sound frequencies you may have difficulty hearing.
Still, well-designed hearing amplifiers can help people without hearing loss hear faraway sounds more easily. That’s why hunters and bird watchers use them. They may also be a good first step to hearing aids for some people with mild hearing loss.
Unlike hearing amplifiers, hearing aids require an audiological evaluation and prescription. The prescription is uniquely yours, just like prescription eyewear.
Hearing aids are categorized as class 1 medical devices by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Hearing amplifiers, on the other hand, are not medical devices and are not regulated by the FDA.
It’s important not to confuse standard hearing aids or hearing amplifiers with over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids.
OTC hearing aids are a new hearing aid category that, when available, will also be regulated as class 1 medical devices by the FDA. Like hearing amplifiers, OTC hearing aids will not require a prescription, but they will be designed to correct hearing loss.
Unlike hearing amplifiers, hearing aids identify the specific sounds you have trouble hearing — based on your prescription — and make them clearer and louder. That’s how they can help you follow a conversation in a noisy room.
In addition to providing hearing quality, hearing aids have a range of special features that most hearing amplifiers lack. These vary but can include:
- tinnitus relief
- Bluetooth capability
- app connectivity for the wearer and for others, such as caregivers
- digital noise reduction
- artificial intelligence
- wind noise reduction
Hearing aid pros
- FDA-regulated class 1 medical device
- produces natural sound
- has settings for varying hearing environments, such as wind noise reduction
- provides personalized hearing correction based on a prescription
- includes input from a hearing professional, such as an audiologist
- restores hearing ability during use, which can alleviate isolation and symptoms of depression
- can be adjusted by the wearer or by a hearing aid professional
- can connect to smart devices to stream music, television, and phone calls
- can alleviate tinnitus
Hearing aid cons
- can be prohibitively expensive
- rarely covered by health insurance
- some options that use non-rechargeable batteries can be challenging to handle manually
Hearing amplifier pros
- doesn’t require a prescription or a trip to a hearing aid professional
- easily accessible
- less expensive than hearing aids
- makes faraway sounds audible
- can be a good first step toward hearing aids
Hearing amplifier cons
- not regulated by the FDA
- not meant to improve hearing loss
- doesn’t crystalize nearby sounds
- can’t distinguish between sound frequencies or pitch
- makes all sounds louder
- can damage ears and further reduce hearing
If you’re on the fence and unsure if hearing aids or hearing amplifiers are right for you, the highlighted devices below may help you decide.
We’ve focused on easily accessible hearing aids that are lower in cost. Some don’t require audiologist visits. We also included one standout hearing amplifier you may wish to consider.
A note on price
General price ranges for hearing aids on our list are indicated below with dollar signs ($ to $$$). Three dollar signs indicate a higher price range. Unless otherwise noted, prices are for a pair.
- $ = under $1,000
- $$ = $1,000–$2,000
- $$$ = over $2,000
The Eargo Max is Eargo’s least expensive hearing aid option. Like their other models, the Eargo Max is rechargeable and doesn’t require disposable batteries.
It’s designed for people with mild-to-moderate high-frequency hearing loss.
Eargo sells hearing aids through a website, eliminating the need for an in-person audiologist visit and prescription. After taking an online hearing test, you’ll work directly with an Eargo hearing professional by phone or online to fine-tune the settings.
These hearing aids come with lifetime support, enabling you to access a hearing professional whenever you need to. They also come with a 45-day money-back guarantee and a 1-year warranty.
They’re virtually invisible and comfortable to wear. Plus, you can request a non-working pair for free before purchase to see if you like how they look and feel.
Shop for Eargo Max
The Lively Bundle
Lively hearing aids can be purchased as rechargeable or button battery hearing aids.
The rechargeable option costs around $500 more and includes a charger case. The battery-powered package includes a 1-year supply of batteries.
Both packages include 3 years of online care from a Lively audiologist, app access, a 100-day money-back guarantee, and a 3-year warranty.
These hearing aids are meant for people with mild or moderate hearing loss, come equipped with noise cancellation technology, and you can use them to stream music and phone calls from your smartphone.
To purchase, upload your existing prescription or take an online hearing test.
Shop for The Lively Bundle
Kirkland Signature hearing aids are only available through Costco, so you need a Costco membership to buy them. Costco membership ranges from $60 to $120 annually.
An in-person hearing test is required prior to purchase and is available at a Costco Hearing Aid Center.
They’re designed to produce a rich, stereo-quality sound that mimics high-quality headphones. Plus, smart technology automatically adjusts your hearing aids to your listening environment.
They’re Bluetooth compatible. This enables you to stream media directly to your headphones from any smart device, answer your phone, or play music by double-tapping your hearing aids. You can also use a remote app to adjust volume and other settings.
The Audicus Dia II is the Audicus’s least expensive hearing aids option, using disposable button batteries. You can purchase them alone for a one-time cost or as a bundle for a monthly membership fee.
They give you unlimited access to an Audicus professional online or by phone, come with a 45-day money-back trial, and include a 1-year warranty.
To purchase these behind-the-ear hearing aids, you can use an existing prescription, take an online hearing test at Audicus online, or visit a hearing professional in person at an Audicus hearing store.
They filter out background noise to make conversation easier to follow and are meant for people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
These behind-the-ear hearing aids from Nano can be bought without a prescription, though there’s an online hearing test you can take before you purchase. They come with a 45-day risk-free money-back guarantee.
They use disposable A13 batteries, so factor in that cost when deciding if this is the option you want to go with.
These include special features like feedback cancellation and background noise reduction. They also connect to a wireless app, allowing you to manually adjust the volume and other settings.
(Video) What is the difference between a normal hearing aid and an amplifier?
Hearing aids can be expensive and are not meant to last a lifetime. In general, you can expect them to last about 3 to 7 years.
We recommend avoiding hearing aids that don’t come with a risk-free trial and warranty. You may be able to get a free trial through the manufacturer if buying from them directly or from the audiologist or retail location you buy from.
Before choosing hearing aids from any manufacturer, check to see if they provide a warranty and what it covers. Some warranties include loss and damage, while others include free repair or replacement services.
Be sure to read the fine print so you know what you’re getting.
Check for discounts
It’s also a good idea to check if any discounts are available. Federal employees, teachers, first responders, veterans, and members of the military are often given discounts upon purchase.
Ask what products, features, and services a bundle includes
In some instances, a bundle may make sense for you. Even though bundles can include extras that aren’t as important to you, they sometimes offer hearing aid upgrades every 18 months to 2 years. Bundles may also fold in the cost of batteries, extended warranties, and insurance.
Go over payment options
Many hearing aids come with monthly payment options. These can make your hearing aids more affordable in the short term but cost more in the long term.
Even so, it’s better to get a monthly payment plan you can budget for rather than forgo getting hearing aids that you need.
Treat your hearing aids with care to keep them lasting as long as possible and ensure optimal performance. Clean them regularly; store them correctly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions; and avoid damp or dusty environments.
Hearing amplifiers don’t provide the same level of hearing correction that hearing aids do. Generally, hearing amplifiers amplify all frequencies, while hearing aids are specially made for you to optimize the sounds you have trouble hearing.
Even though hearing aids can be expensive, they’re typically better suited to the needs of people with hearing loss, compared with hearing amplifiers.
Before you decide on the best hearing solution for you, see an audiologist or other hearing professional. They can give you a hearing test and provide input as to the type of hearing loss you have.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer and reproductive health professional who specializes in health and wellness content. She has spent much of the last two decades educating people about infertility and family building options. Whelan is a science nerd, and her heroes span the gamut from Temple Grandin to her wonderful mom. She shares her life in Brooklyn, NY with her all-grown-up, fascinating children and their wacky shelter dogs. Follow her on Twitter.
Generally, hearing amplifiers amplify all frequencies, while hearing aids are specially made for you to optimize the sounds you have trouble hearing. Even though hearing aids can be expensive, they're typically better suited to the needs of people with hearing loss, compared with hearing amplifiers.Can I use a hearing amplifier instead of a hearing aid? ›
No. Unlike personal sound amplifiers, hearing aids are programmed for a person's individual hearing loss. Only the frequencies a person struggles to hear will be amplified, and those frequencies will be amplified at the correct volume for optimal hearing.Are hearing amplifiers any good? ›
Hearing amplifiers (also known as personal sound amplification products) do make sounds louder. But due to a number of limitations, the FDA does not recognize them as medical devices. Audiologists do not recommend hearing amplifiers or any product that is not FDA-regulated to treat hearing loss.Can hearing amplifiers damage your hearing? ›
One 2017 review found that some direct-to-consumer hearing devices, including hearing amplifiers, can cause damage as a result of very high volume levels. People should not use hearing amplifier volumes that are higher than necessary.What are the disadvantages of using hearing aid? ›
- Hearing aids do NOT restore normal hearing. ...
- Hearing aids amplify all sounds, including background noise that you do not wish to hear.
- Hearing aids require an adjustment period that may take several months.
- Britzgo Digital Hearing Amplifier.
- Otofonix Elite Mini Hearing Amplifier.
- Clearon Rechargable Hearing Amplifier.
- NewEar Digital Hearing Amplifiers.
- Walker's Game Ear Elite Digital.
- LAIWEN Digital Premium Hearing Amplifier.
- Prime Amplifiers Hearing Amplifiers.
- ClearHear Digital Hearing Amplifier.
Loops are the most user-friendly of assistive listening options and the consumer's #1 choice. Hearing loops are simple, discreet and effective. Users simply switch their devices to the telecoil program and automatically receive clear customized sound directly to their ears.Are digital hearing amplifiers any good? ›
Absolutely, hearing amplifiers can make a real difference and are fully able to boost hearing and strengthen the volume of sounds around you. As stated earlier on, they are mainly for people with mild or moderate hearing loss, so those with more severe problems might not get the best value from these devices.What is the best hearing aid on the market today? ›
- Best for the Money: Audien Atom Pro.
- Most Natural Sound: Signia Silk X.
- Best for Tinnitus: Widex Moment.
- Best Rechargeable: ReSound One.
- Best with Fall Detection: Starkey Evolv AI.
- Best for Severe Hearing Loss: Phonak Naída Paradise P-UP.
- Most Advanced Smart Features: Oticon More.
Owing to their discreteness, in-canal hearing aids might seem like the right choice, but behind the ear hearing aids offer a wider range of hearing amplification, are usually more flexible, and offer many more choices to hear better in noise, connect to your smartphone, or stream the sound from your television directly ...
Excessive earwax is one of the leading concerns for hearing aid users. Interfering with the performance of the device, it can easily get into parts of it – such as the microphone. To ensure that this doesn't happen, it's a good idea to clean both your ears and the hearing aids as regularly as possible.How do you use a hearing amplifier? ›
How To Use An Outer Ear (BTE) Hearing Amplifier - YouTubeWhat is the typical frequency range of a hearing aid amplifier? ›
Thus, the typical peaks around 2000 Hz and 3000 Hz are the mechanical resonance of the receivers.Is Nano a hearing aid or an amplifier? ›
Nano offers several sound amplification products that are customizable to fit any ear size and can be worn discreetly. Its products are offered without a prescription or hearing examination at an affordable price.
Digital hearing aids use a microphone and electronic signal just like analog hearing aids. But where analog hearing aids merely increase the size of the original sound wave, digital hearing aids recreate the sounds in a digital reproduction of the sound wave. The benefits of digital sound are numerous.