Personal amplifiers vs hearing aids
When you feel that you can't hear as well as you should, you start madly typing away on google trying to figure out what is a hearing aid, how much do they cost, and what products are available to have you hearing better. For some, even thinking about purchasing a hearing aid has negative feelings associated with it. Some people think hearing aids make them feel old. The idea of having a big beige hearing aid in your ear is not appealing, and I don't blame you for not wanting that. Hearing aids now are tiny, sleek, and discrete. You don't even notice its there. But if we are seriously considering a hearing aid, you will want to figure out as much as you can to get the biggest bang for your buck. So why not just buy a personal amplifier online for $50 rather than purchasing a hearing aid from a hearing professional at $2000? Or can you purchase a hearing aid for half the price online rather than at a hearing clinic?
"Hearing aids" that you purchase on tv infomercials or over the counter are actually not medical devices, but rather called personal amplifiers. Personal amplifiers are not programmed to your specific hearing loss. They are meant to make everything louder. The problem is that most people hear average and loud sounds just fine. We don't want to make loud sounds even louder. Wearing a personal amplifier can further damage your hearing since we cannot set maximum loudness level. This could mean that when exposed to a loud sound, it could cause permanent noise induced hearing loss. The goal is to amplify sounds you can't hear, not the sounds you already can. When you visit a hearing clinic, they test your hearing to see where your hearing thresholds are at various frequencies. Any sounds softer than your threshold is in a hearing dead zone.
Hearing aids are programmed by a hearing professional to tie in perfectly with your hearing thresholds at various pitches or frequencies. There are low pitch and high pitch sounds along with all the pitches in between. Some pitches you might hear just as well as someone with normal hearing whereas other pitches you have a severe hearing deficiency. For example, sounds such as "th", "s", "f" will fall into this "dead zone" for some individuals. When people speak up, the volume of their voices of up, but some sounds you cannot make louder by raising you r voice such as trying to yell the sounds "p" or "th". In this case, we want to make the sounds "p" and "th" louder without increasing the overall volume.
Buying a hearing aid that is programmed to your specific loss will ensure that you are not making loud sounds any louder. Having the proper programming to your hearing aid should just be fillling in the gaps so you can hear what you've been missing. Some hearing clinics will be able to program a hearing aid for you on the same day as your hearing test to try for a week or so before you buy. This offers a good opportunity to try before you buy.
To find more detailed information and studies conducted on this topic, I found a good article at hearingreview.com.