It’s no secret that hearing aids are expensive. Top brands in the industry, such as Widex, Eargo, ZipHearing, Miracle-Ear, and even Costco’s line, Kirkland, are all priced in the $1,200 to $3,100 per unit range, making them a major investment by most standards. If you’re in need of a hearing aid but can’t cough up that kind of cash on a dime, it may make sense to consider a less costly hearing amplifier. Read on to find out which device is right for you.
Who needs hearing aids?
The Hearing Loss Association of America reports that around 20 percent of Americans — that’s 48 million people — have experienced some level of hearing loss in their lifetime. What’s more, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 15 percent of Americans (37.5 million people) 18 and over report some trouble hearing, with age being the strongest predictor of hearing loss in adults aged 20 to 69. 60 to 69-year-olds, meanwhile, experience the greatest amount of hearing difficulties.
Needless to say, hearing aids are a necessary medical advancement for millions — particularly those in their golden years.
How do hearing aids work?
Hearing aids are small devices worn in or on the ear that make sound louder by magnifying vibrations which enter the ear. Each one has three main parts; a microphone, an amplifier, and a speaker. The microphone collects sound waves from the surrounding environment and converts them into electrical signals, which are then sent to the amplifier. The amplifier (a clever computer chip that is programmed with the specific needs of the wearer that can convert sound into digital code based on the wearer’s level of hearing loss, level of surrounding sound, and listening needs) increases the volume of the sound waves and sends them directly to the ear via the speaker.
Can you get hearing aids with medical insurance?
The expensive price of hearing aids would be a non-issue for those with medical insurance if they were covered by traditional plans, but alas, more than half of insurance holders report that these essential hearing tools are subject to out-of-pocket funds. Similarly, Medicare coverage of hearing aids is dependent on state. According to one clinical review published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, “The Medicare Act of 1965 statutorily excluded coverage of hearing aids under the premise that they were ‘routinely needed and low in cost,’ suggesting that consumers would be responsible for their purchase.”
Luckily, there is an alternative for those seeking an efficient, more affordable — albeit temporary — solution to hearing woes: hearing amplifiers.
Hearing Aids vs. Hearing Amplifiers
Although these products are similar in design, there are a few major differences. Besides the cost of personal sound amplifying products (PSAPs), which begin as low as $40, PSAPs aren’t fully programmable and typically can’t be adjusted over the phone by professionals, like hearing aids can. Additionally, they’re not selective in which sounds they amplify, boosting all environmental noises uniformly.
Hearing aids, by contrast, are customized for the specific needs of the patient, from ear-shape to volume level and type of hearing loss. They can also serve as a suitable treatment for hearing loss.
Though PSAPs are intended for recreational use and aren’t meant to be a permanent solution to hearing loss, they can certainly come in handy in a bind. They also serve as temporary fixes for those who have misplaced or broken their hearing aids — a common occurrence — and are waiting for them to be repaired.
We’ve done deep research into the hearing amplifiers market to find nine great picks that range from $50 to $270, fitting both your budget and needs. Keep scrolling for Woman’s World’s picks for the best hearing aid amplifiers around.
This story originally appeared on our sister site, FIRST for Women.
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Most Affordable Hearing Amplifier
Where to buy: $29.99 (Originally $59.99), Amazon
This hearing aid amplifier has many perks apart from its extremely low cost. Firstly, one session on its included charger will provide 48-hours of working time, eliminating high battery costs. It's also designed to fit both ears with ease.
One 62-year-old reviewer diagnosed with middle hearing impediment wrote, “I am not quite ready for hearing aids yet, but I did need something to make watching a movie or TV more enjoyable. ... This device works well for me. This is a good alternative to the much more expensive devices. ... It fits comfortably and is well made… I highly recommend this item.”
Best Rated Hearing Amplifier
Britzgo BHA 220
Where to buy: $54.50, Amazon
As the No. 1 best-selling product for hearing amplifiers on Amazon, this device has more than 500 hours of battery life, volume adjustability, high and low tone control, and a modern and stylish design, explaining its 1,000-plus reviews on the site.
“My wife had a pair of $1,500/each digital hearing aids that squealed when using the phone," one reads. "When they broke for the last time ... and the estimate for repair was close to $1,000, she gave up on them. … I saw these online and ordered them for her. Wow! After we got them turned down enough, she could hear me speaking at a normal level for the first time in years… No more yelling to be heard!”
Best Rechargeable Hearing Amplifier
Where to buy: $119.99, Amazon
Its ease of use, small size, full digital tone quality, noise-reduction feature, and super quick charging make Banglijian's behind-the-ear aid one of the most popular hearing amplifiers around.
“I am delighted with this amplifier,” reads one of its many positive reviews. “It recharges in 20 minutes and lasted 14 hours yesterday. ... I am still using it the second day without recharging! Am relieved not to [have to] mess with batteries.”
You can also check out new ZIV-206, which includes two types of sound tubes and costs $149.99.
Best Lightweight Hearing Amplifier
Where to buy: $109.99, Amazon
If you’re after something discreet, this tiny thing — only 0.7 by 0.5 inches in size — fits right inside your ear, rendering it practically invisible. It has three programs that allow for low and high frequency acoustic gains and you can talk on the phone comfortably while wearing it. Additionally, it comes with three earplugs to ensure you find the right fit for you.
“I purchased it because my dog grabbed my hearing aid and destroyed it,” one buyer wrote in their review. “I couldn't afford to replace it. So I [found] this cheaper one and gave it a try. OMG! This one is so light and I can feel nothing… It’s very easy to use."
Empower Hearing Amplifier
Where to buy: From $269.99 (Originally $649.99), Amazon
With a mega selection of 12 channels, this top-of-the-line, ready-to-wear, pencil-thin device is almost undetectable to the naked eye, thanks to its behind-the-ear fit. It comes with eight batteries and a 12-month warranty, and, according to its many pleased reviewers, it works every bit as well as far pricier hearing aids.
“I ordered this for my 100-year-old mother. ... She won't buy new [hearing aids] because of the $5,000+ price tags. [This] came yesterday and I decided to try it on myself before giving it to my mom. Who knew there were so many small noises in this world? I tried it with the TV and was able to lower the volume from 40 to 19."
Best FDA Approved Hearing Amplifier
Where to buy: $55.98, Amazon
As Amazon's choice pick for the hearing aids category, this FDA-approved hearing amplifier is one to contend with. It's got an advanced digital chip to control frequency and features four-channel noise reduction. There are also three different earbud sizes to allow for the perfect in-ear fit. Plus, it features a whopping 500 hours of lasting battery life, with each Varta battery providing the juice of more than a dozen ordinary ones.
“This thing is awesome so far,” reads one review. “I purchased it for my sister two weeks ago and she nearly started crying when she turned it on... It offers four modes for different uses with multiple ... volume adjustments [for] each level. Now, she can hear conversation and TV easily without a swishing sound. My sister is very happy with her new hearing aid.”
Best Hearing Amplifier With Customer Service
Otofonix Apex Mini
Where to buy: $149.00, Amazon
Otofonix is one of the most popular hearing amplifier brands on the market, and for good reason. Designed by a team of doctors, these mini amplifiers feature advanced digital technology with noise-cancelling and feedback suppression features, three listening programs, and seven volume levels. Its best asset, however, just might be its over-the-phone or email support, which users report as being invaluable. With a 45-day free trial and a one-year warranty, there's also a relatively low risk for the price point.
“This device is sleek and comfortable to wear, [has] great amplification, and easy to use," one buyer raved. "After a few hours, I forgot I was even wearing it. Great product and great customer service.”
Best In Ear Hearing Amplifier
Where to buy: $99.99 (Originally $119.99), Amazon
The LAIWEN hearing amplifier has eight channels and digital noise reduction and feedback cancellation, plus three different sound system choices based on your surroundings (sound one is for indoor activity, sound two is for higher sounds, and sound three is for lower sounds). It fits all the way inside your ear canal, so onlookers will be none the wiser, and comes with one year of quality assurance.
"This is a great product for the price," wrote one buyer. "My dad wanted something that didn’t look like a hearing aid and was affordable and easy to use. This was our simple solution. The deeper you push the product into your ear, the better the audio becomes (with less static interference)."
Best Hearing Amplifier With Power Settings
Where to buy: $249.00, Amazon
In addition to all of the same great features of the Otofonix Apex Mini, the larger Otofonix Elite has an additional power setting program for maximum amplification of all frequencies and 10 volume levels as opposed to the Mini’s seven. Moreover, the Elite has a handy rocking switch to adjust its settings.
Many favorable reviews compare the Otofonix Elite to much higher-priced hearing aid products. “I purchased a pair of high-end in-ear hearing aids from Costco for my 90-year-old mother who has very poor hearing,” one review reads. “Cost me $1,700. Mom lost both pairs. Bought a replacement pair of Otofonix at less than half the Costco price, and they work just as well."