There are many types of hearing loss that can afflict people.
Many of these types of hearing loss cannot be reversed by any means, however, some people may be able to hear better if they have only suffered partial hearing loss.
This can be done through the purchase and use of a device to aid in hearing, such as a hearing amplifier or hearing aid.
However, it should be noted that while hearing amplifiers can help people who have hearing loss, they are not approved by the FDA.
Hearing aids have been approved and are considered proper medical devices. Hearing amplifiers are for those with only minimal hearing loss.
What Is a Hearing Amplifier?
At their most basic level, hearing amplifiers are devices used to aid in hearing for those who have minimal hearing loss. That hearing loss would be defined as less than needing an actual hearing aid to restore normal levels of hearing.
What’s the History of Hearing Amplifiers and Hearing Aids?
Hearing amplifiers have a long history of use, dating back to one of the earliest devices, an ear trumpet. If you’ve ever watched films set in the 1800s, or even during World War II, you may notice one of these devices. In the British comedy, ‘Allo ‘Allo! for example, you’ll see an elderly French woman using an ear trumpet whenever she can’t understand the conversation going on around her.
The ear trumpet was designed with a wide end in order to collect ambient sound waves to channel them toward the narrow end which would go in the user’s ear. While this device was intended to mimic how a natural ear works, there are limited uses for it.
In the early 20th Century, mechanical and electronic hearing amplifiers were developed. The earliest of this new wave of hearing amplifiers was based on technology used in the sound-recording industry.
The user would either wear or carry a box that contained the amplifying equipment. This box was connected to the ear by either a cord or wire. Due to how cumbersome the box was, however, this product was unappealing to those who were self-conscious about their hearing loss or had difficulty carrying objects for longer periods of time.
As technology has advanced, the miniaturization of hearing amplifiers became the norm. The smaller the amplifiers, the more aesthetically pleasing they became since they’re less noticeable now.
Out of the technology of hearing amplifiers came the development of the hearing aid. And while hearing aids are more effective, especially for anyone with severe hearing loss, they are much pricier and harder to maintain.
Who Would Benefit from Using a Hearing Amplifier?
Basically, hearing amplifiers are a step down from a hearing aid. They originated as things like ear trumpets – and of course, as technology has advanced, they’ve become more complicated, more effective, and much, much more discreet.
Hearing amplifiers are not medical devices, meaning they are not powerful or sophisticated enough for those with significant hearing loss or those who are classified as hearing impaired.
They are, instead, for those with very minor hearing loss who don’t need the power of a hearing aid to restore the hearing capabilities.
Simply put, a hearing amplifier is a battery-powered device used to improve hearing by making the sound louder. The device will have a microphone used to pick up sound around the hearer, then an amplifier will increase the sound, and then a receiver sends the sound directly into the ear.
That means, those with minor issues hearing conversations, distinguishing clear lyrics in music, or similar issues, could easily benefit from these much less expensive devices called hearing amplifiers.
Where to Buy Cheap Hearing Amplifiers?
Since hearing amplifiers are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration, and do not require a prescription, it’s easy to find them on sale at a number of retailers. You can go into nearly any drug store and find them, as well as stores like Wal-Mart, and Best Buy.
You can also purchase inexpensive hearing amplifiers at a ton of different online retailers that both cater specifically to those looking for such devices, and at larger retailers like eBay, Amazon, Walgreens, and Overstock.com.
Are Cheap Hearing Amplifiers Worth It?
This brings us to the question, though, are hearing amplifiers really worth it? Since they’re not regulated by the F.D.A., hearing devices like hearing amplifiers are available without seeing a doctor and are significantly cheaper. So, are they worth investing even a little bit of money into? Will they help your minor hearing loss at all?
If we’re talking straight-up price issues of hearing amplifiers versus hearing aids, a cheap hearing amplifier is potentially worth trying if your hearing loss is pretty minor.
If you’d like to hear the nuances of music a little better or keep missing little bits of conversation, hearing amplifiers could well do the trick, and save you heaps of money over-investing into doctor visits, prescriptions and the pricey hearing aids themselves.
How Pricing Factors into Differences in Quality?
According to even a quick perusal of prices online, you can see that hearing aids can cost about $2000 on the cheaper end of hearings aids that are higher in quality than hearing amplifiers. High-end hearing aids are more like $6000 to $8000 for a pair.
Over-the-counter hearing amplifiers can actually cost as little as $25 per pair. Obviously, these are going to be significantly lower quality manufacture than the $300 or $400 pairs. And the reviews do show they are significantly lower in quality. But are the slightly less cheap amplifiers any better?
Reviewers on the various pairs of hearing amplifiers actually give fairly similar ratings for the hearing amplifiers that range from $50 to $350 – about the top price range you’ll find for hearing amplifiers – in price.
If you look for the top sellers on Amazon, for example, you’ll see a range of 3.5 to 4.2 out of 5 stars for all the top-sellers in this wide price range. Other retailer sites have similar ratings across the board.
How to Choose a Hearing Amplifier?
If you’ve decided you’re going to give hearing amplifiers a shot, you’ll want to keep some things in mind as you shop.
1. Sizing for Hearing Amplifiers
Make sure to buy a hearing amplifier that is the right size for your ear. These devices come in a variety of sizes, and it is important that you pick one that not only fits, but will also feel comfortable in your ear.
2. Check for Feedback Issues
Make sure the amplifier does not have a feedback. Feedback is a noise in the device that can occur if the amplifier does not fit properly. Not only does feedback make it difficult to hear, but it can also potentially cause further hearing damage.
3. Check Out the Features
There are a variety of features available for each type of hearing amplifier. Make sure to research and find the amplifier which has the features that you need the most.
- Remote controls are available with certain amplifiers so that you can adjust the features without having to remove it from your ear.
- Rechargeable batteries are an option that will make maintenance easier by getting rid of the need to regularly buy expensive replacement batteries.
- Noise reduction is the ability of the hearing amplifier to reduce background noise.
- Directional microphones are settings for the listening aid that helps the listener determine what direction sound is coming from.
- Telecoils are a special feature that is used with compatible phones that allow the listener to just hear what is coming through on the phone.
- Wireless connectivity via Bluetooth compatible devices is becoming a more popular device option. Bluetooth connection exists for devices such as cellphone, game consoles, and televisions.
- Direct audio input is a feature allows you to plug the hearing device directly into a television or computer via a cord.
- Environmental noise control is a great feature which helps to block out types of background noise such as wind noise.
How to Take Care of Your Hearing Amplifier?
Depending on the quality, hearing amplifiers may last up to three years. To help make sure this is true for yours, you’ll want to take proper care of it. Some of the best ways to maintain your hearing amplifier include:
- Keeping them clean. Always follow the directions provided to properly clean hearing amplifiers, and only use cleaning solutions that are approved for such electronics.
- Immediately replace dead batteries to avoid any corrosion issues or neglect from disuse.
- Always turn hearing amplifiers off when they are not in use.
- Keep hearing amplifiers away from moisture, heat, pets, and children who may play with them.
If You’ve Got Mild Hearing Loss, Consider the Hearing Amplifier
As you age, you may, unfortunately, experience some level of hearing loss at some point. Or at least nearly all of us do. But if you’re not yet ready for the big investment of time and money into hearing aids, you may want to look into their much less expensive counterpart, the hearing amplifier.
Hearing amplifiers can be purchased in drug stores, big box stores like Wal-Mart, and at many online retailers. Be sure to read reviews for them, though, and compare across brands and price tags to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.