Hearing Aids vs Hearing Amplifiers – Understanding The Differences

A recent study conducted by ISHAA (The Irish Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists) study estimated that one in 12 people in Ireland will acquire a permanent hearing loss. As more people experience some degree of hearing loss, the demand for hearing devices has increased in Ireland.

Understanding the differences between hearing devices is a key aspect to making an informed decision on your hearing health.

In this article, we look at the key differences between hearing aids and hearing amplifiers. This article is written to help you make an informed decision and provide relevant information from MSc & BSc Qualified Audiologists.

Product class:
Hearing aids are approved medical devices designed to be specifically programmed to your level of hearing loss. The HSE, NHS & FDA in the United States classify hearing aids as medical devices to recommend for people experiencing hearing loss.

This essentially means, hearing aid manufacturers must adhere to strict quality guidelines for their devices to be approved and prescribed by Qualified Audiologists. Furthermore, our partners Widex & Unitron offer highly detailed documentation regarding each device and the specifications.

Hearing amplifiers are not classed as medical devices and can not be prescribed as a direct replacement for hearing aids. In this article, we take a deep dive into the key differences in technology and customization for the hearing aid wearer later in this article.

Hearing amplifiers are designed to increase environmental or external sounds, for example, the volume on your TV will be amplified to a higher decibel (DB). The issue occurs when the volume of the environmental sounds drastically increases.

Because the objective of the amplifier is designed to simply increase the sound, there is no control over how loud the sound can enter your ear canal. In one sense this can be considered dangerous as sudden loud sounds are amplified without any moderation to your hearing.

On the other hand, the technology behind hearing aids consisted of 3 core elements.

- Microphone: the microphone receives sound and converts it to a digital/electrical signal.
- Amplifier: The amplifier increases the strength of that signal. A processor within the hearing aid manipulates the sound and tailors it to your requirement.
- Receiver: The receiver converts it back into a sound and sends it to the ear allowing you to understand the sound.


The technology within hearing aids has advanced dramatically over the past number of years. As the processors and technology have advanced, this has allowed for a superior hearing experience tailored to a person’s needs.

Essentially this means, the Audiologist can program the hearing aid specifically for the type of loss you are experiencing. The Audiologist uses advanced programming software that allows fine-tuning of the hearing aid based on the Audiogram from your hearing test.

Furthermore, some of the latest hearing aids including the Unitron Blu, Widex Moment 440 & Evoke 440 allow multiple programming channels to suit the wearer’s needs. These specific hearing aids allow for multiple listening environments, for example, a hearing aid wearer can have a specific channel tailored to a busy office while another channel for the quiet library. This flexibility puts the control in the hands of the hearing aid wearer.

In comparison, hearing amplifiers simply amplify the external environments, they can not be programmed or fine-tuned to the specific needs of a person with hearing loss. This is one of the factors that affect the pricing between the two devices.

Fitting & styles:
The level of comfort and discreet appearance has been on the Wishlist of many wearers. Hearing aid manufacturers consistently compete to provide the best technology in the smallest possible design. The Widex Moment 440 was named as the world’s smallest rechargeable hearing aid. Invisible hearing aids like the Widex Moment 330 CIC can be custom fitted to your ear by taking an impression. This offers the most discreet design & comfort.

In comparison, because there is a difference in price, hearing aid amplifiers are not always the most discreet. There is often very little customization available in terms of custom molds or dome sizes.

The key difference is, the Audiologist can provide a tailored fitting with custom molds or domes at your clinic visit.

Warranty & repair:
Warranty is an important topic when purchasing any electronic device, our range of Widex and Unitron hearing aids come with a 4-year warranty. This warranty covers the costs of repairing the hearing aid & replacement parts. On the other hand, because of the low cost of hearing amplifiers, the warranty and returns period can often be quite limited.

What is the best choice for me?
The first step is always to express your concerns regarding your hearing to an Audiologist or medical professional.

Article Sources:
ISHA Study HSE Study FDA