Introduction

Hearing is an integral part of learning and communicating; without it, individuals often feel socially and mentally disabled. In 2022, more people are suffering from hearing loss and damage than ever before; thus, a multitude of hearing devices have been made available on the market so that impaired hearing doesn’t impact the lives of these people. Such devices can be broadly divided into two categories: hearing amplifiers and hearing aids. Both types attempt to compensate for the natural mechanism of hearing, which involves special cells and bones in the ear, with varying degrees of success. Keep reading to find out more about these technologies and how they improve the ability to hear sounds.


How hearing aids and PSAPs work

A hearing aid is an electronic device that amplifies sound for the wearer, to make speech more understandable and to correct multiple hearing deficits. Hearing aids involve the same mechanism as Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs), also known as hearing amplifiers, to enhance audio. PSAPs, and hearing aids, have 3 parts: a microphone, an amplifier, and a speaker. The microphone transduces sound into a digital signal, which is strengthened by the amplifier before it is played back to the user through the speaker. Although the background mechanism through which both devices work is essentially the same, they each have their own strengths and weaknesses, which will be discussed in the writing ahead.

sound amplification mechanism of a hearing aid and hearing amplifier or PSAP

Mechanism of Hearing Devices

Which Hearing Device Is Right For You?

A busy schedule and hefty price tags make it hard for millennials to find the time to see an audiologist and purchase a hearing aid. This is where PSAPs come in. Individuals who find it hard to hear the TV, or those who just want to hear better, tend to opt for hearing amplifiers because they are cheaper and don’t require a lengthy hearing test. Likewise, seniors often struggle with hearing, but, at the same time, purchasing hearing aids on a tight pension can be unfeasible; thus amplifiers could be an excellent alternative.

Consumers must, however, select the right device according to their needs. For mild hearing difficulties PSAPs are the better choice, but, for individuals with significantly impaired hearing, a test is essential before deciding on which digital hearing device is most suitable. 


The Main Differences Between Hearing Amplifiers And Hearing Aids 

Though PSAPs and hearing aids may appear similar, there are huge differences in both their functional capabilities and uses. 

Use and Availability

Firstly, accessibility differs between the two devices: PSAPs are over-the-counter (OTC) products, but hearing aids require a prescription from an audiologist following a detailed hearing test. Furthermore, while prices vary within each of the two product types, PSAPs are much more economical, overall. However, in terms of use, hearing aids can correct severe hearing loss whereas basic hearing amplifiers enhance audio only for those suffering from milder hearing difficulties.

With regards to capability, hearing amplifiers aren’t just limited to those with hearing problems, unlike hearing aids, but have a wide range of recreational uses too. PSAPs are very commonly used by hunters, birders and those attending grand lectures and shows (so that they can clearly hear distant speakers). PSAPs are also much easier to use than hearing aids, as they don’t require any fancy programming by an audiologist.

In short, using and obtaining a hearing amplifier is super simple; unlike hearing aids which require hearing analysis, a huge bank balance and lengthy treatment plan.

Frequency-Based Audio Amplification

Hearing loss tends to occur unequally, with the inability to detect some frequencies of sound more so than others. In this area, PSAPs fall short of the user’s needs; in that basic sound amplifiers generally lack frequency-based and dynamic-based adjustment options. But, as they gain popularity, sound engineers have bettered the signal processing capabilities incorporated into these devices; such that they can be adjusted to suit the user’s hearing profile, much like hearing aids. In fact, the Digital Signal Processing built into hearing aids, responsible for this feature, is now being used in digital hearing amplifiers. Hear-Hi digital earphones are an excellent example of advanced DSP hearing amplifiers; allowing frequency-based audio adjustments through their free app, so that the wearer can very easily change the amplification based on their environment and even their own hearing ability. One should only consider high performing, sophisticated hearing amplifiers for better hearing, as simple hearing amplifiers can do more damage than good.

Personalization and User Control

More key differences lie in the customization of these audio devices: hearing aids are adjusted by an audiologist, whereas advanced hearing amplifiers are also customizable but more easily so. Advanced hearing amplifiers can often be adjusted and controlled using an app, as mentioned already, which gives the user maximum control over the audio they’re receiving. 
Moreover, the apps which accompany digital sound amplifiers often allow for Bluetooth connectivity, detailed guidance on use, and a free hearing test. Such devices are called ‘Bluetooth Sound Amplifiers’ and include noise-canceling functionalities too. One such device available on the personal sound amplification market, the Hear-Hi digital earphones, requires the user to download an easy-to-use app, which allows for selection of the type of environment the earphone wearer is in. Thus, when the user is in a noisy setting,  like a restaurant, the app automatically adjusts the sound so that background noise is massively reduced. Such digitally optimized features enhance the sound on a greater level, and enable users to gain the most from their hearing amplifier.

Hear+Hi hearing amplifier mobile app for sound enhancement and bluetooth pairing on iOS and android

My Hearing Acuity Mobile App to Control Hear+Hi Hearing Amplifier

Appearance of Hearing Devices

Where aesthetics are concerned, hearing amplifiers tend to be more minimalistic, and less visible to others. Some hearing enhancers even claim to be ‘invisible’, thus they are a popular option for those who prefer discreet hearing devices. Hearing aids are traditionally bulky in design and sit around the outer curve of the ear, making them more obvious. Though less daunting hearing aids exist, they come with a much heftier price tag. Hear-Hi offers sleek PSAPs at an affordable price, which are equipped with an 8-channel processor and Bluetooth connectivity; all in a compact, near-invisible hearing amplifier.  This advocates how sound amplifiers are cheaper and look better than hearing aids.

Rechargeable Hearing Devices

The rechargeability of devices differs among the two types of hearing enhancers too; though this feature can be found in both hearing amplifiers and hearing aids, the latter comes with a mighty additional cost for the charging unit. Thankfully, most hearing amplifiers are rechargeable, and the mechanism is also simple. For example, Hear-Hi’s rechargeable hearing amplifiers come with a trendy-looking case that acts as both a charger and storage box.

rechargeable Hear-Hi digital hearing amplifier

Digital Hearing Amplifier In Charging Storage Case


The Final Verdict

Both hearing aids and hearing amplifiers increase the loudness of sound, and allow for customization according to the user’s needs. However, hearing amplifiers do not require insurance or a visit to a hearing specialist. Instead, they are simple to both access and use, and less costly than hearing aids. Hearing amplifiers are also used recreationally, and prove to be excellent choices for audio enhancement. All-in-all, no matter the degree of help with hearing required, advanced personal sound amplification products are an excellent place to start before trying hearing aids. 


FAQs: 

What is dynamic range and why a simple PSAP is not good for you?

The dynamic range is the difference between the loudest and quietest sound in an audio. Hearing aids use Digital Signal Processing to compress the dynamic range, so that those frequencies that the user can already hear loudly are minimally amplified and those which are heard quietly are maximally amplified. In this way, one hears better without being exposed to high decibels indiscriminately. An 8-band DSP segments the sound spectrum into 8 bands, each of which can be adjusted to match the user's hearing ability; processors of this type are incorporated into hearing aids so that they can be programmed to match the user’s hearing problem. Simple PSAPs don’t allow for this control over particular frequencies, thus they can actually cause further hearing damage instead of improvement. But, advanced PSAPs, as mentioned later, do have this capability.

The reasons why hearing aids are seen as more beneficial for the hearing impaired than PSAPs include: 

  • Hearing aids require an audiologist to first perform a hearing test, thus seeming a more professional product.
  • Traditional PSAPs amplify sound linearly so they intensify all sounds equally, even the ones you don’t need, whereas hearing aids are programmed to intensify the frequencies you struggle to hear.
  • Hearing aids have noise-reduction features, due to the inclusion of Digital Signal Processing, which is also responsible for the aforementioned discrimination of frequencies.

But, what if there was an affordable, over-the-counter device with digital signal processing?

There is. With hearing amplifiers increasing in popularity due to their cost effectiveness, sound engineers are making the gap between hearing aids and hearing amplifiers smaller. Some advanced hearing amplifiers are now built with 8-channel DSP, therefore the limitations of hearing amplifiers are diminished in these devices. Hear+Hi digital earphones have taken this a step further: the user first performs a hearing test using the My Hearing Acuity App, which then personalizes the corresponding device; so that only the poorly heard frequencies are amplified, using the DSP incorporated into their Acuity Line of PSAPs. 

This way, hearing ability is enhanced at a lower cost than using hearing aids with similar functionality.