Hearing amplifiers are the silver to hearing aids’ gold – inexpensive hearing aid alternatives you can buy over the counter at affordable prices to combat your mild to moderate hearing loss.
They’re a huge hit for mild hearing loss, as well as being used for amplifying sounds for theater performances, conferences, and hunters looking to hear the quiet sounds their prey make. 1.5 million hearing amplifiers were sold in 2017 alone, and with only 1 in 5 people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually using one, a hearing amplifier can be a great mid-ground option.
But, with so many brands springing up and options to choose from, it can be difficult to know who you can trust, and who makes the best personal sound amplifiers to give you your life back.
To find the best hearing amplifiers of 2022, we have researched more than 60 of the devices that are currently available, and pored over consumer reviews, FAQs, and manufacturer responses to user questions in forums and elsewhere.
What is a Hearing Amplifier? And What is the Difference Between Hearing Aids and Amplifiers?
Even though they help with hearing, amplifiers do not replace hearing aids – they’re simply an alternative.
Hearing amplifiers, or PSAPs (personal sound amplifying products), amplify sound to make it easier for users to hear speech and low-frequency sounds, but without the same level of customizability or tech for serious hearing problems like sensorineural hearing loss.
You can buy sound amplifiers over the counter with no prescription, and they’re fairly cheap: the lowest-cost option in our ranking is under $100. They often have telecoils for connecting to an induction loop system, and can be used with your TV and other appliances.
Hearing Amplifiers vs Hearing Aids
However, they aren’t as high-tech as hearing aids: they feature a microphone that picks up nearby sounds, and processes and amplifies the sound directly to your ear.
This isn’t frequency-specific, or selective: you’ll amplify some of the background noise as well as the voices you want to hear.
Hearing aids are custom-designed based on your specific hearing loss. For example, if you don’t hear certain frequencies well, they’ll adapt and magnify those particular frequencies to help you hear better.
However, they’re not usually covered by insurance, and very expensive: expect to pay $1,000-$5,000.
So if you’re looking for a hearing amplification device that can help you hear better, hearing amplifiers are a great alternative to hearing aids, though we still recommend you still seek a specialist audiologist’s opinion if you are concerned with your hearing loss.
Best Hearing Amplifier Reviews: 2022 Top Picks
To put together our recommendations for hearing amplifiers for mild to moderate hearing loss, we considered a wide range of factors (which you can read about towards the end of this article).
These hearing amplification devices are good value, relatively inexpensive, and are good cheap hearing aid alternatives if your hearing is not too profound.
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Otofonix Elite Digital Hearing Amplifier
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This doctor-designed, audiologist-tested device is a great cheap hearing amplfifier. It has lots of really positive reviews and it’s fairly affordable – though Otofonix has a range of premium and low-cost hearing amplifiers you can choose between if the Elite doesn’t work for you.
Users of this device have 10 volume levels and 4 pre-set programs to choose from. This level of flexibility makes it possible for most users to find a set-up that works for them.
It is a 12-band, 4-channel unit that helps to pull speech out of the barrage of sound most people face in their everyday lives. The built-in noise reduction and feedback canceling features work in tandem to produce a reasonably clean sound.
When you buy the kit, you get two different length ear tubes, 3 sets of open-domed and one set of closed-dome ear tips. This makes it much easier to get the fit right, which is important for comfort, especially if you are going to wear it all day.
Included in the deal are a very generous 45-day money-back guarantee and a 12-month warranty. Plus, you get life-long phone and email support.
Williams Sound Pocketalker Ultra Duo
- AMPLIFIES SOUNDS CLOSEST TO THE LISTENER WHILE REDUCING BACKGROUND NOISE - The Pocketalker allows you to amplify the sounds and voices most important to you. By placing the microphone close to the desired sounds, you can reduce distracting background noises. The Pocketalker helps you hear what you want to hear.
- IDEAL FOR ONE-ON-ONE CONVERSATION, SMALL-GROUP AND TELEVISION LISTENING, OR CONVERSING IN THE CAR - Whether you desire to hear the soft voice of a grandchild, the words of a friend or family member, or the quiet sounds of nature,the Pocketalker can help. The Pocketalker helps keep you connected to the people and activities most important to you.
- ADJUSTABLE VOLUME AND TONE CONTROL - The Pocketalker Ultra amplifies the room you are in by up to 40dB. Has separate tone and volume controls that are located on the outside of the case for easy adjustments to your hearing needs. Finger tip adjustable volume control allows you to quickly adjust to your listening environment - whether your hearing loss is low frequency or high frequency sounds.
- SIMPLE AND EASY TO USE - Leader in PSAP amplification - this hearing amplifier features a lightweight, ergonomic design for portability and easy use. Finger tip adjustable volume control allows you to quickly adjust to your listening environment. Out of all hearing devices for elderly people, the Pocketalker Ultra is the most simple device to use.
- PURCHASE INCLUDES: Extra Battery Bundle with 20 AAA-Batteries (normally comes with 2), Headphones (HED021), Mini Earbud (EAR013), 12 ft Microphone Extension Cord, Neck Lanyard, Liberty Microfiber Cloth, User Manual, & 5 Year Manufacturer Warranty
Williams Sound Pocketalker Ultra Duo is a handy hearing amplifier that’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It’s been a best-selling hearing amplifier for several years, and is universally highly rated among users.
This device is best for those who want to get amplified sound but don’t want to spend too much on hearing aid devices or don’t need or want internal/in-ear amplification.
Some customer reviews even cite is as on par with $2,000+ hearing aids – though their experiences may not match yours. Many describe the Pocketalker as “life-changing” – making conversations clear, letting them watch crisp TV again, and using the frequency and sound controls to reduce background noise as much as possible.
- The hearing amplifier is lightweight, making it easy to carry around.
- Comes with a year’s supply of batteries, saving you the hassle of buying them, and the money.
- It comes with a belt clip so that you can wear it on your belt as well.
- The hearing amplifier works only with 3.5 mm jack telephones.
- The hearing amplifier can’t help you in other everyday situations.
A low-budget hearing amplifier: Britzgo BHA-220
- DIGITAL CHIP WITH LONG 500HR + BATTERY LIFE
- SMALL DISCRETE & ADJUSTABLE TO FIT EITHER EAR
- 1 YEAR REPLACEMENT WARRANTY !!
- This personal sound amplifier is built with a digital chip and frequency control to adapt easily to different sound environments.This also features a premium German battery with the longest life available in the hearing amplification industry
Nobody wants to spend thousands on a hearing aid, which is why many people try out cheaper hearing amplifiers first. These are typically priced at over $100, but are a lot more affordable than custom hearing aids.
So, when we found the Britzgo BHA-220 we were really pleased. It is very affordable, yet unlike many other really cheap hearing amplifiers, it’s highly rated by many people who use Britzgo hearing amplifiers daily.
As you would expect for that price, it has its issues. For example, there are better hearing aids for picking out voices from the background noise. It has Active Digital Noise reduction, but other recommendations do this better. But, some users found it to be exactly what they needed. Plus, even those who said it was not perfect still felt it was very good for the money.
The one thing everyone loved, aside from the price, was the long battery life. Provided you use the genuine German batteries they recommend, you really can get 500 hours of use out of each hearing aid battery.
We have included it here, because we want to help everyone, regardless of their budget, to tackle their hearing loss. There is no doubt that some sort of aid is better than nothing at all. Plus, the Britzgo is far better than the majority of the cheap devices. As a result, it makes our list.
iBStone Rechargeable Hearing Amplifier
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The iBStone is a hearing amplifier that works as a telecoil. The binaural hearing aid device can help you hear the TV or any other sound coming from your earpiece much more easily, and it’s generally useful for people suffering from moderate to severe hearing loss.
The iBStone features a USB charging port that supports the use of USB-rechargeable batteries so you can maximize the time you can enjoy your favorite music. It includes three earpieces, including a neck-strap design and an earloop model.
- The iBStone hearing amplifier works with most TVs, computers, PLC/VCRs, DVD players, and other sound sources by using a regular audio cable.
- The hearing amplifier is compatible with single-sided and dual-sided hearing aids.
- The iBStone hearing amplifier features a volume control knob, making it easy to adjust the volume as you watch TV or listen to other sound sources.
- While the binaural hearing aid device is perfect for watching TV or listening to music at home, there is no clear evidence to prove that it can help you in everyday situations.
- The hearing amplifier is not as good as a natural cochlear implant system.
- The earloop style is uncomfortable when worn for long periods.
A device for people with sensitive ears: Pocketalker Ultra 2.0
- Extended high and low frequency range
- Superior sound quality
- Internal microphone
- Built-in T-coil loop compatible
Not everyone gets on with behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing amplifiers. Some people cannot find one to fit their ears, while some find them irritating to wear.
This is clearly something that Williams Sound, the creators of the Pocketalker, kept closely in mind. Their device is an omnidirectional microphone that can be attached to either a pair of headphones, or if preferred, earbuds.
Simply turn the microphone to face what you want. This is ideal for one-on one-conversations, and many physicians now have a set in their surgery to help them to communicate effectively with older people who don’t wear a hearing amplifier. From the reviews, it was clear that people also liked using the extension cord to place the microphone close to other sound sources like the TV.
It has the added advantage of costing about half what traditional behind-the-ear hearing amplifiers do. While some users have found small issues, most agree it’s a great hearing amplifier for the price.
- AUDIOLOGIST DESIGNED: Tweak Focus+T OTC Hearing Aid was designed by an audiologist with nearly 50 years in practice to bring the premium sound engineering and components found in high-end hearing devices to be more accessible to the nearly 70% of those suffering from hearing challenges
- FULLY-LOADED OPTIONS: Tweak Focus+T OTC Hearing Aid is a 12-band amplifier with three listening modes: omni-directional (for quiet environments), directional (for noisy environments) plus a telecoil for use with telephone or loop systems
- LATEST DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY: Delivers amplification only where you want it, automatic feedback control to prevent whistling, and fast-acting compression to improve audibility of soft sounds and softening sudden loud sounds
- PRECISION FINE TUNING: Uses specialized patented technology that lets you select from among four ranges of amplification, plus remember what level and of amplification you like best. Once you’ve set your overall amplification preferences, you still have a volume control to further adapt to different situations
With four ‘fitting profiles’ the Tweak Focus+T stakes its claim as one of the most versatile sound amplifiers on the market – focusing on the premium end of the price range at $275 – $549 dollars (depending on if you want just the one, or a pair).
These profiles let you optimize your hearing to your environment: whether you’re in a noisy public scenario with background noise galore, or a cosy home environment, where you’ll want the Quiet setting. There’s also Telecoil included for better hearing on the phone, as well as in looped environments.
It comes with a set of three 312 hearing aid batteries, each with 5-7 day battery life, as well as a compact carrying case, so you can get started right away, and keep your hearing aids in the case you’re on the move and don’t feel like wearing them.
- The Tweak focus+t is compatible with other devices that have a 3.5mm audio jack.
- The hearing amplifier comes inside a water-resistant case. It makes it more durable and means that you can use it while you’re swimming.
- It’s lightweight, so you can travel with this device wherever you go.
- The hearing aid device can’t connect to Bluetooth devices to play music wirelessly.
- The earpiece creates an acoustic feedback effect, making it more difficult for high-frequency hearing loss people.
Sound World Solutions CS50+
The Sound World Solutions offer hearing amplifiers that work as internal or in-ear amplification devices.
They’re ideal for anyone who wants to amplify sounds they’ve started missing, and they’re rechargeable, so you won’t need to worry about continuously buying batteries. Bluetooth is integrated into the CS50+, so you can even take calls directly – or stream music directly to your hearing amplifier.
The directional microphones are great – even in noisier conditions they work to filter out what you want to hear, and amplify what you do. These ear amps come with three earpieces, including a neck-strap design and an earloop model.
As a result however the price is higher, at $349 – $409.
- The Sound World Solutions is lightweight and has a rechargeable battery.
- Useful presets for simple and easy adjustment – without requiring your smartphone.
What to Consider When Buying an Audio Amplifier – Buyer’s Guide
To recap, hearing amplifiers can help those with mild hearing loss to hear more clearly in many situations. If you want to buy a hearing amplifier, we suggest you bear the following in mind when making your choice.
- Suitability: Is the hearing amplifier suitable for the situations you plan to use it in? If you want to hear your family over dinner priotize a hearing amplifier that can amplify the voices you want to hear, over the background ambience.
- Quality: If you have the budget, pick a hearing amplifier capable of amplifying sounds to the level you require.
- Versatility: Ideally, a good option is programmable and adjustable – the versatility is well worth the extra cost.
- Budget: You generally get what you pay for, so try to buy the best you can afford – we recommend hearing amplifiers in different price ranges, to get you the best for your money.
- Ease of use: If the buttons are small and fiddly, it may cause you problems.
Types of Hearing Amplifier
BTE stands for Behind The Ear. BTE hearing amplifiers are best for those who want to use an in-the-ear style hearing aid. The BTE device works with a battery and the other components placed behind the ear.
The hearing aid device connects to an earmold that fits the user’s ear. It is the most common type of hearing amplifier used by adults.
ITE stands for In The Ear style of hearing aid device placed directly inside the user’s ear canal. The ITE device works by having a coil that goes behind the external portion of the ear and a speaker go inside the ear canal, and they’re generally much smaller than BTE sound amplifiers.
OTE means Over The Ear style of hearing aid device that sits on the outer portion of the user’s ear. Children mainly use this type of hearing amplifier.
Headsets with earbuds
These are hearing amplifier devices that work as earbuds. Children who want to listen to music, watch or play a video game on their smartphone or tablet use this. Adults can also use these headset devices if they need a hearing aid for background noises such as traffic and music.
This type of hearing amplifier is wearable around the neck. It has a wire placed behind the ear, and the sound gets transmitted to a receiver inside the ear.
This hearing amplifier is used for background noises such as music and TV played on a CD, MP3 player, smartphone, or tablet.
How do Sound Amplifiers Work?
The way they work is very similar to a microphone – picking up on surrounding noise and feeding it through to a tiny speaker. However, they have much greater range and are small enough to sit comfortably behind and in the ear.
An amplifier does not work in the same way as a medical-grade hearing aid. It amplifies all sound and has less calibration options than a hearing aid.
Medical-grade hearing aids amplify specific frequencies of sound. If you have lost the ability to hear high-frequency sounds a medical-grade hearing aid can be calibrated to pick up those sounds. An amplifier will enhance sound across the entire spectrum. This means that you will end up hearing background noise as well as what you are trying to listen to.
Who are Hearing Amplifiers Suitable for?
The fact that they pick up the full spectrum of sound means that this kind of hearing aid is not suitable for everyone. They are usually not as powerful as full-blown hearing aids. This means that if you have lost virtually all of your hearing a simple amplifier is not going to help you much.
For this reason, we recommend to all of our readers that they speak to their doctor about their hearing loss. It is important to understand what is behind your hearing loss and we recommend getting an audiometric test done. This will help you to determine whether an audio or sound amplifier can help you.
Hearing amplifiers are not the same as hearing aids. It is very important to understand that they are not medical devices, and you should never buy one from someone who tries to tell you that a hearing amplifier is the same as a hearing aid.
However, they are helpful devices – provided you use them for the right reason and in the right way. People with mild hearing loss often benefit greatly from the amplification they provide.
Do Sound Amplifiers Enhance Hearing In Every Environment?
Most of our readers use hearing amplifiers for occasional use. Popular uses include going to church or the theater. In this situation, there is not a huge amount of background noise, so the fact amplifiers enhance background noise is not an issue. You can hear the sermon or the people on the stage.
Many people also use them for watching TV or listening to music. It means that you can turn the TV down to a normal level. This means that you do not have to disturb everyone else in the house when you watch the TV.
Using them outdoors can be problematic. For example, you would not want to use one while at a sporting event or on a windy day. The sound of the crowd or the wind is likely to be too intrusive.
Some people say they get used to the fact background noises are enhanced and learn to tune this out. It takes a few weeks to learn how to do this, but if you can do so, it may be possible for you to use your amplifier in more places and social situations.
People report mixed results when making phone calls. Some experience feedback and cannot hear well, whilst others get on fine when using a landline or mobile phone.
Explanation of the key features of hearing amplifiers
While doing our research, it became clear what features are important to users and what things irritated them about some of the devices they had previously owned. Below is our summary of the features you need to check out and why they are important to you, as a user.
Noise cancellation – you really want to buy a hearing device that has some sort of noise cancellation built-in. This technology helps to reduce feedback issues.
The number of bands and customization – the number of bands a hearing amplifier has is surprisingly important. A band basically controls the volume of an individual sound frequency.
When hearing deteriorates some frequencies become hard to hear, while others are more or less OK. Everyone´s hearing is different, so what you are looking for is a device that offers you the flexibility to adjust the volume of some of these frequencies. The more bands there are and the more they can be adjusted the more likely it is that you will find a configuration that will work for you. A two-band device may be adequate for some people, but if your hearing loss is more complex a 12-band device is a far better bet.
The number of channels and speech definition – channels also play a role in how easy it is to fine-tune the device. Hearing amplifiers with several channels are able to be adjusted more. This makes it possible to screen out loud noises like doors slamming and enhance the sounds related to speech. It is this that makes it possible for you to still be able to hear a conversation in a crowded bar.
A range of ear tip sizes – the way a hearing device sits in the ear is important for two reasons. Firstly, most people are going to be wearing the device for around 14 hours per day. Therefore, it has to be comfortable. In addition, if the device does not sit in the ear correctly there is a bigger chance of feedback and static.
Having access to the right size ear tips is important when it comes to getting the fit right. So, you should always look for devices that offer a range of different size ear tips. If you are petite you need to be particularly careful about this.
Interchangeable ear tubes – ear tubes are the part of the device that runs from the amplifier that sits between the mechanism at the back of the ear and the tip that sits deep in the ear canal. If the tubes are too long or too short the device will not sit properly in the ear. This will make it uncomfortable to wear and it can also have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the hearing amplifier. They will also be uncomfortable if they are not flexible enough.
Battery life – battery life is not something many of us give that much thought to, but you really should. Hearing aid batteries are tiny, so they are fiddly and awkward to change. Plus, of course, batteries cost money. If you have to change yours every day or two, the cost soon mounts up.
Audiologist designed – there is no doubt that those devices that are designed, at least in part, by an experienced audiologist have the edge.
Proper customer support – no matter how good the device is that you buy, in all likelihood, you are going to need some sort of help to set it up. We have lost count of the number of times people have said in reviews they could not get their device to work, but were then helped to do so by other users and support workers. If there is no evidence of a responsive customer support team, usually, you are best off buying elsewhere.
Money-back guarantee – hearing amplifiers are not cheap and there is no one size fits all device. Therefore, even after extensive research, you can still end up misunderstanding what you are buying and make a mistake. If that happens, you need to be able to send it back and get a full refund. So, before buying, it is wise to double-check that there is a money-back guarantee available and thoroughly read the terms and conditions.
A good warranty – once you have got your hearing amplifier up and running it should continue to work well for several years. However, things can still occasionally go wrong, so it is wise to check that there is a warranty and understand its terms.
These are the most common asked questions about hearing amplifiers:
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Last update on 2022-11-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API