Chances are you’ve heard of Amazon. They are a massive online marketplace that allows you to buy and sell almost anything. They started off as booksellers and have grown to epic proportions. Whether you need a university textbook, sustainable laundry detergent, or a lifetime supply of chewing gum, they’ve got it. And while they’ve been selling hearing aids for some time now, with the new FDA ruling in favor of providing over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, their offering is expanding even further.
But before you go ahead and click the “buy now” button, let’s take a minute to review what Amazon has to offer to determine if it is in fact the right option for you. Their website sells a lot, and you want to be very careful when purchasing there to ensure you’re actually getting what you want. While an item description may say “hearing aids,” you really need to read the fine print to make sure that’s actually what you’re getting. Let’s dig in.
What does Amazon offer?
As you may already know, Amazon has many vendors, some reputable and trustworthy, and others less so. That is why regardless of what you’re purchasing, it’s always good to do a whole lot of research to make sure you’re not throwing money away. When buying hearing aids on Amazon, it’s important to make sure you’re actually getting hearing aids, not personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), there is a difference, which we’ll cover in the next section.
With a proper search, you can find hearing aids on Amazon that are FDA-registred, these are the ones you want to look at. There are many different models with different offerings. Here are a few we found:
IBstone Hearing Aids:
The description for this item says it is FDA-registered, and the description does not mention “amplifier,” which is important when conducting this search. The reviews are fairly good, though there are less than 1000. Its features are:
- Quick charge with a magnetic charging station
- Includes four programs with different situational environments
- Optimized digital proceeding for gaining 50dB of clear sound
- Layered noise reduction with adaptive feedback cancelation
Autiphon Hearing Aids:
These are also marked as FDA-registered and also exclude any mention of being an “amplifier”. These have slightly better reviews, and list the following features:
- An intelligent noise-reduction chip that provides natural sound
- Designed for mild-to-moderate hearing loss
- Includes whistling-proof dome to prevent whistling at higher volumes
- Easy operation with auto on/off when in charging box
- Higher sound gain than most hearing aids, with easy volume control
- Long battery life, approximately 250 hours
- Sleek design that can be worn completely inside the ear
- Unlimited customer service
These hearing aids have solid reviews, though there are fewer than 500 of them. Once again, these are specifically listed as FDA-registered and are hearing aids, not amplifiers. Their features include:
- Two directional microphones for optimal hearing
- Advanced noise reduction that eliminates background noise while providing precise amplification of the human voice
- Quick-response feedback technology designed to prevent the detection of whistling sounds from other hearing aids
- Four different environmental settings
These hearing aids have favorable reviews, are listed as FDA-registered, and are differentiated as hearing aids, not amplification devices. Its features are similar to the ones listed above:
- Rechargeable batteries with a magnetic charging base
- Directional microphones, reinforced sound tubes, and improved volume control
- A four-channel digital sound processor
- Four programs for different environmental settings
Most of the other devices you’ll see on Amazon are PSAPs, which is why it’s important to read the product description very carefully to ensure you’re getting what you actually want. Plus, since Amazon is in the business of providing everything, they also carry a variety of other accessories which are necessary for certain devices to work, so be sure to do your research!
What is the difference between Hearing aids and Sound amplifiers?
While to the layman it may seem as though hearing aids and sound amplifiers are the same things, that is not the case. Their difference is the main reason why it’s really important to ensure you’re purchasing the right thing if you decide to purchase hearing aids on Amazon. If you need hearing aids, then PSAPs will not only not do the job, they could actually negatively impact your hearing too.
PSAPs are devices that were designed to help people with normal hearing amplify certain sounds. For example, a hunter may use a PSAP to help them hear when an animal is approaching. Hearing aids, on the other hand, were designed to address hearing loss, and they are programmable to each person’s specific needs. The main difference: one device is made for people with normal hearing, and the other is for people experiencing hearing loss. These devices differ in a few other ways too.
Prescription: Hearing aids, like prescription medication, require a prescription to purchase. This means a hearing exam and consultation with an audiologist are necessary before you’re able to purchase hearing aids. PSAPs do not require a prescription, so they can be bought at any time.
Regulation: Since PSAPs are not medical devices, they do not require regulation by the FDA. Hearing Aids, on the other hand, are. That is why when searching on Amazon, you want to be sure the item is described as an “FDA-regulated” one, or else it may not be what you actually need.
Cost: In most cases, PSAPs cost anywhere between $15 – $500. Hearing Aids, as medical devices, are more expensive, usually around $4,000 for a pair.
Customization: Hearing aids are far more customizable as they were designed to address the wearer’s specific needs. This means users can choose not only from a variety of different volume settings but also specific frequencies they need help with too. In fact, they also have a lot more to choose from when it comes to styles, types, and sizes. PSAPs are usually a one-size-fits-all design, with almost no customization aside from volume control.
All of this means that people using hearing aids not only get amplified sounds but clarity too since specific frequencies can be targeted. People using PSAPs are only getting sound amplification with no added clarity.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids
Now, since the FDA ruled in favor of providing OTC hearing aids, they are important devices to learn about too, as they will also be available for purchase on Amazon. OTC hearing aids have two vital benefits, they are lower in cost and they don’t require a prescription. However, there are many negatives associated with them too, that cannot be ignored.
- Designed only for people 18 years or older
- They work only for people with mild to moderate hearing loss
- They come as a one-size-fits-all design with very little customization
- OTC retailers do not provide long-term care to help with periodic cleaning and regular checkups
- Since OTC hearing aids do not require any formal screening there is a higher risk of a hearing disorder going undiagnosed
- The person wearing the hearing aid will be solely responsible for diagnosing necessary hearing levels
- OTC hearing aids aren’t regulated, which means there is no use of best practices for hearing aid fitting or follow-up requirements
OTC hearing aids may be the solution for someone who merely needs amplification, but that’s where that use ends. This is why it is important to always see an audiologist for a hearing exam to determine exactly what is happening. This is especially important because you don’t want to accidentally do more harm than good.
For some, amplifying the sound in the ear could cause more problems. If your hearing loss is only specific to certain frequencies, an OTC hearing aid could damage your ears further. This is because an OTC hearing aid makes all sounds and frequencies louder, which means you could end up having some sounds that are too loud in your ears, and over time, that could make your hearing even worse. It’s not a risk worth taking. So, be sure to get your hearing tested, and together with your audiologist, you’ll find the solution that works best for you and your wallet.
How to Identify Cheap Sound Amplifiers on Amazon
If after you’ve had your hearing exam, your audiologist determines you need hearing aids and you want to buy them on Amazon, then go for it. But, be sure to do your research and really make sure you’re getting a quality item. Nobody wants to waste their time or money! So, read on below for some tips to make sure you’re not buying something that you’ll ultimately need to replace.
Check the price: If the item seems cheap, like $50 or less, then it is likely not a device you want. It may not be a full package, which means you’ll have to purchase many other items to complete the piece, which is a hassle, and in the end, not nearly as economical as you think.
Read reviews: Don’t just look at the star rating, but see what people have to say. When reading reviews, it’s usually easy to tell if it’s a real person or a bot, and that can help ensure the feedback being given on the site is trustworthy or not. If many of the reviews seem to be exactly the same with a few different words here or there, they could be fake reviews someone has added. Be wary!
Look for FDA-Registered: As we mentioned, you really want to be sure you’re getting a legitimate device, not a knock-off. If you find a device on Amazon that you like, and it is listed as FDA-registered, check to make sure it actually is! The FDA website has a search tool here.
Look out for “amplifiers”: Remember, amplifiers and hearing aids are different, so be sure to read all the descriptions carefully. Many companies do a great job of making items appear to be more than what they are, so pay attention and you’ll find the one that’s right for you.
Watch out for deceptive phrasing: We don’t have to tell you twice, sometimes marketers will use very specific language to lull you into thinking the product is one thing when it is in fact something else entirely. This just requires you to read a little carefully, and between the lines, to make sure you’re not being lied to.
Our Take on Amazon Hearing Aids
The convenience that Amazon presents is undeniable, and it cannot be ignored. However, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, Amazon is a massive online retailer, not a medical professional. So of course, we believe buying hearing aids from an audiology clinic is your best bet for getting the best in treatment.
The good news is that you can buy legitimate hearing aids on Amazon, so if you choose to go that route, you can! However, you will have to dedicate a good amount of time to researching and double-checking the items listed to ensure they are FDA-registered, and the right ones for you. This is especially important to keep track of since so many of the products offered are PSAPs, not hearing aids.
Hearing aids on Amazon are lower in cost, which is a huge plus. But again, you need to be wary of misleading descriptions to safeguard your hearing health. If you need hearing aids, then you want to be sure that’s what you’re getting, not an overpriced amplification device. Really pay attention to the ads you see to make sure you’re not being misled.
As we’ve mentioned, hearing aids provide a variety of options when it comes to customization, especially in the early months, and they also require regular maintenance and attention. Having a home base to go back to when you need settings changed or device cleaning is critical, another reason we recommend going to an audiology clinic for your hearing aid needs.
If you care about your hearing health and want to do what’s best for your hearing, then see an audiologist before investing in any hearing assistive devices. An audiologist will perform all the necessary tests, will be able to see if you have any hearing conditions that you may not be aware of, and will be able to make a recommendation specific to your hearing needs.
If you are experiencing any hearing loss, don’t delay, see an audiologist today. Get the help you need, with guidance on how to best address your hearing in a single appointment. And then you can save your Amazon budget for other needs, like cute mugs or green cleaning supplies.