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Hearing aids vs. amplifiers

What is the difference between Vibe hearing aids and personal sound amplifiers?

If I have a hearing loss, then the solution should be to simply turn everything up louder, isn’t it? This is a common line of reasoning for people who are encountering hearing care for the first time, and it is also what we naturally do when we can’t hear well – we turn up the TV, the radio, the phone, or our headphones so that we can hear better. But for someone with hearing loss, this is not a long-term solution.

Some people are attracted to personal sound amplifiers because they cost less than hearing aids. If it is your first time considering having hearing support, you may be wondering why hearing aids seem to be so pricier than some personal amplifiers that you might find on the internet. The answer is that personal amplifiers operate with a much lower level of technology than hearing aids do. Amplifiers make all sounds louder, not just the ones that need to be amplified for your specific hearing needs.

When we amplify all frequencies with same intensity, we boost not only the frequencies which are missing from the person’s hearing range, but also the frequencies that don’t need to be amplified. This means that unnecessary stress is being put on the healthy hair cells that transmit sound to the brain, and they could be damaged, resulting in further hearing loss.

Differing levels of technology

Hearing aids are very precise instruments that have the ability to amplify only select frequencies. The level of technology is much higher than that of an amplifier, which consists mainly of a microphone and speaker that amplifies sound into the ear. Hearing aids are designed specifically for hearing loss, an in particular the kind of hearing loss that most people have – sensorineural hearing loss. In contrast, the main function of an amplifier isn’t to treat hearing loss, but simply to make all sounds louder. Without the technology to support background noise reduction, amplifiers will pick up and transmit all sounds, including wind and traffic noise.

When is a sound amplifier better?

A personal amplifier might only be more appropriate than a hearing aid if there has been no hearing loss diagnosed, and if there is a need for all sounds to be amplified. Amplifiers are intended to be used by people with normal hearing who want to boost sounds in certain situations, like to watch TV without disturbing others, or hearing quiet sounds at a distance.

On the other hand, if you or your loved one does have a hearing loss, choosing a personal sound amplifier as a substitute for a hearing aid can lead to more damage to your hearing because it can cause a delay in diagnosis of a potentially treatable condition. And that delay could allow the condition to get worse and lead to other complications. Furthermore, there is the potential for additional damage to the remaining healthy parts of your hearing if sounds are over-amplified.

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