What’s the difference between a Hearing Aid and Hearing Amplifier

hearing aids

Both are wearable sound-amplifying devices that input sound, digitally process it and then deliver it to the ear. They both look alike and many have the same advanced hi-tech circuits.

So what makes them different?

Hearing Aids are considered to be medical devices and as such require an audiogram (hearing test) and are regulated by the FDA for people with a hearing loss.  An ear amplifier or hearing amplifier; (aka: Personal Sound Amplifier Products or PSAPs), according to a 2009 court ruling do not need a prescription, are not FDA regulated but are meant for those people who do not have a hearing loss but who would benefit from some amplification.

This is a distinction made by the FDA’s desire to regulate one but not the other.What then are the major differences between the two?

Hearing Aids can be programmed and custom fitted to the specific hearing loss of the patient based on their hearing test. This feature provides the best possible fitting for those with a moderate to severe hearing loss but at a significant price.

PSAP cannot be programmed after purchase however the better devices come pre-programmed from the manufacturer for the more common environmental situations such as a noisy restaurant or loud background noise. The less expensive PSAP do not have this feature.  Some people need hearing aids but many just want the extra boost in volume that a PSAP gives them.

Hearing Aids typically cost between $2500 and $4000 apiece. They have more bells and whistles and many people feel that the quality control is better. They require an audiogram (hearing test), fitting appointment and must be dispensed by a licensed hearing instrument specialist or a certified audiologist. They are more suitable for people with a moderate to severe hearing loss.

Independent of whether you are interested in a hearing aid or PSAP,  if you think that you have a hearing loss it is always best to be seen and evaluated by an otolaryngologist (ENT Physician).  In this way you will rule out any serious medical issues that could be affecting your hearing.

Purchasing a PSAP would be a reasonable and economical option for those who are not certain that they are ready to spend thousands of dollars on a hearing aid. PSAPs, like hearing aids, use advanced digital circuitry to process and amplify sound in the speech frequencies of the human voice.  PSAPs give an added boost in volume to provide a more comfortable listening level. Most importantly, a high quality PSAP can cost as little as 10% of what you might pay for a hearing aid. The high end Personal Sound Amplifiers cost between $250 and $500.  Expect the high end Personal Amplifiers to share many of the advanced features of expensive hearing aids

Legal Disclaimer: The Otofonix Elite is not a hearing aid. It is a Personal Sound Amplifier Product (PSAP) as defined by the United States FDA. PSAPs are not intended to amplify speech or environmental sounds for individuals with impaired hearing or to compensate for hearing impairment. Because PSAPs are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or mitigate disease and do not alter the body, they are not devices as defined in the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. As such, there is no regulatory classification, product code, or definition of these products.

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