Researching hearing devices can be overwhelming. There are a lot of choices on the market. The most common question we get is, “what is the difference between a hearing aid and an amplifier?” Hearing amplifiers and receiver-in-the canal hearing aids look very similar; however, it’s what’s on the inside (the technology) that makes them vastly different.

Hearing Amplifiers: Take All Sounds and Make Them Louder

As their name suggests, hearing amplifiers (also called personal sound amplifying products, or PSAPs) take sounds and make them louder overall. The original purpose of a hearing amplifier was to help someone with normal hearing hear even better. For example, there are hearing amplifiers made to help hunters hear wildlife sounds. Hearing amplifiers are often confused with hearing aids, but they aren’t actually the same. And people who need hearing aids shouldn’t use hearing amplifiers.

To get technical, hearing amplifiers boost the overall gain (the output decibels minus the input decibels). But they amplify all frequencies equally, without regard to what frequencies a person might have trouble hearing. They are not custom tailored to frequency-specific hearing loss—they are made to be “one size fits some.” And for some people with hearing loss, hearing amplifiers actually can do more harm than good. The FDA even released a statement to discourage customers from using amplifiers to help with hearing loss.

Hearing Aids: Customized To Your Unique Hearing Loss

Hearing aids are designed to be custom fit to your hearing loss and your lifestyle. Unlike off-the-shelf amplifiers, hearing aids are much more sophisticated devices—each individual hearing aid can be programmed to not only amplify but also enhance sounds in each unique ear (because your ears don’t always hear the same!). Hearing aids have a much more precise ability to enhance only the frequency ranges you’re missing, with special features such as directional microphones and environmental sensors that remove unwanted background noises.

Most hearing aids look fairly similar, with a small case that goes over the ear and connects to a receiver in the ear via a thin, clear tube. However, it’s the advanced technology that you can’t see that can make all the difference in a hearing aid’s performance and ultimately, user satisfaction.

SBPro and SB1: Advanced Features Make All the Difference

At SoundBenefits, we chose our two hearing aid products, SBPro and SB1, because of their small size and superior processing ability. They are highly customizable to a patient’s needs, offering a smart mix of sophisticated features that work together to create a highly natural soundscape. Research shows that when these advanced features are present, users are more satisfied with their overall experience.

Own Voice Processing: Uses real-time recognition to take your voice out of the mix you hear, which reduces the “barrel effect”— the #1 complaint from hearing aid wearers.

Dynamic soundscape processing: Increases sound quality by filtering background noise for superior speech understanding, even in noisy environments or when you’re moving.

Acoustic Motion Processing: Detects when you move from one environment to another and quickly adjusts levels automatically.

TwinPhone: Delivers phone conversations to both ears, which has been shown to increase speech recognition by more than 20%.

Tinnitus masker: Multiple options to control tinnitus (ringing in your ears) with Notch Therapy, traditional noise therapy signals, or a combined approach.

Directionality: Ultra HD processing allows for Narrow Directionality all while communicating between ears, which has been shown to improve sound quality for those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.

Directional Hearing Focus: Use the Signia app to adjust the span and direction of the microphone beam, allowing you to focus in on specific sounds.

Spatial SpeechFocus: Automatically steers the directional beam toward the direction of the dominant speech source, leading to a 30-50% improvement in speech understanding.

Binaural E-Windscreen: Reduces distracting wind noise by up to 30% for excellent performance while playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.

Echoshield (available on SBPro only): Improves listening quality and speech recognition in reverberant environments, such as homes with hardwood or tile floors.

The Best Place to Start is With a Hearing Test

The first step in knowing which device is best for you is to have your hearing tested by a licensed hearing care provider. A hearing test can accurately determine the severity and frequency range of your hearing loss, as well as the proper treatment options moving forward, if necessary. At SoundBenefits, we offer two options for hearing tests: a provider-led test (which we recommend!), or a self-guided test.

If you have any questions about this article or want more details about the difference between hearing amplifiers and hearing aids, reach out to us! We believe your hearing is too important to choose the wrong device, and we’re happy to share our advice and experience through every step of your hearing journey.