Backed by an extensive warranty, Banglijian’s Ziv-201A is a durable hearing amplifier with high-end features at a great price point. It charges via USB, and users can select between normal sound amplification and a noise-canceling setting, which trims out excessive background noise while allowing the user to hear speech easily. Use the adjustable volume control to switch between five amplification levels with a peak gain of 53 decibels.
The Ziv-201A comes with a cleaning brush, a case, and an assortment of ear domes to ensure a great fit. There are also two kinds of “sound tubes,” one of which is designed to accommodate people who wear glasses. Altogether, this is an ideal kit for people with mild hearing loss, and while it’s expensive compared to other options on this list, it’s still quite affordable compared to prescription hearing aids.
The main draw of this behind-the-ear hearing amplifier from Coniler is its integrated DSP intelligent sound chip, which applies dynamic compression to reduce background noise while allowing the user to hear more naturally. Regular users say that it works well, but while Coniler provides six ear domes, the domes vary in size, but not in design—they all result in a slightly muffled sound, and some buyers choose to replace the ear domes with aftermarket options to improve sound quality.
This hearing amplifier’s battery lasts for up to 18 hours per charge, and the attractive charging dock automatically powers off at the end of the charging cycle. The device also comes with two sound tubes (one for the right ear and one for the left), and its thin profile makes it comfortable for regular use.
While this amplifier has a small profile, there’s a tradeoff; it isn’t quite as powerful as behind-the-ear options, and there’s no rechargeable battery. For most people with mild hearing loss, the 40 decibel peak sound gain offered by this Laiwen digital hearing amplifier will provide enough of a boost to hear conversation in crowded environments, and the removable batteries aren’t too obnoxious—each #312 battery provides up to a week of reliable operation.
The device also offers three listening modes, which can be cycled by holding a small button on the side. Users can attenuate either mid, hi, or low frequencies to accommodate different types of hearing loss or to improve the device’s functionality in louder environments.
This in-ear hearing amplifier from iAid is small, comfortable, and fairly powerful according to verified buyers. Unfortunately, the manufacturer does not list any technical information regarding the device’s amplification abilities or physical size. As such, it’s difficult to compare this with the other listed options. iAid has a 45-day return policy, so unsatisfied buyers can easily arrange for a refund.
While the missing technical info is unfortunate, this device has some great features. A volume wheel lets users easily select the right level of amplification, and four included ear domes ensure a snug fit. A feedback-canceling chip prevents electrical interference, and the entire amplifier is only 1.4 grams (0.05 ounces).
Blomed’s digital hearing amplifier has a basic behind-the-ear design, but it uses a removable A13 battery. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—a single A13 battery provides about 10 days of functionality with regular use—but some users will prefer the convenience of a rechargeable model.
The amplifier has four compression modes, which make listening easier in different types of environments, along with volume controls for each of the modes. It also comes with a cleaning brush and storage case, but it only includes three ear domes (called “earpieces” in the product literature).
The most inexpensive option on this list, Aldmfront’s hearing enhancer has four listening modes, a rechargeable battery, and a built-in noise-compression chip. The controls on the side of the hearing amplifier are relatively straightforward and intuitive, and the sound tube can be worn comfortably on either ear.
The device comes with four different ear domes, and regular users say that it’s comfortable to wear. It doesn’t come with a case, but that’s understandable given its low price tag. We only wish that the manufacturer included more information on the amplifier’s technical specifications.
According to the FDA (link opens a PDF), less than 20 percent of people afflicted by hearing loss seek treatment. That’s unfortunate, as hearing amplifiers can provide great value for a relatively small investment.
Here are some of the most common questions regarding non-prescription hearing amplifiers, along with information to help you make the best possible purchase for your situation.
Hearing amplifiers can be helpful, but prescription aids are typically customized for individual patients. That means that prescription options tend to be more effective for treating severe hearing loss.
As we mentioned earlier, the distinction is important; the FDA is clear that over-the-counter products are not the same thing as hearing aids. However, non-prescription hearing amplifiers are much less expensive, and for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, they can provide sufficient amplification to make everyday interactions much easier.
Non-prescription hearing amplifiers are easy to operate and safe when used properly. They are even regulated for safety when it comes to output. With that said, you should get an assessment with a qualified audiologist as soon as you notice hearing issues, as it’s important to determine the cause (or causes) of your hearing impairment.
Hearing problems are assessed in terms of a decibel range (written on audiology exams as “dB HL”). People who have lost from 26 to 40 decibels of hearing have a mild degree of hearing loss, while people who have lost from 41 to 44 decibels have a moderate degree.
To put those numbers into perspective, normal conversation occurs at about 60 to 70 decibels. Regardless of what you’re experiencing, you’ll need an examination from a qualified audiologist to assess your degree of hearing loss.
Hearing device amplification is also assessed in terms of decibels. If you have a hearing loss range of about 40 db HL, an amplifier that offers 40 decibels of amplification should allow you to hear normally. One important note: Because non-prescription hearing amplifiers aren’t fitted to your ear, they may not provide their full amplification potential, particularly if worn with a poorly fitting dome.
You’ll need some time to get used to the experience of wearing a hearing amplifier, so don’t expect an immediately improved experience. Many older adults lose their hearing gradually, and suddenly restored hearing can be slightly uncomfortable.
You may have trouble filtering out speech from normal environmental sounds, and you might feel overwhelmed or exhausted at first as there’s increased demand on your sense of hearing. After a few weeks, your body will make adjustments, and you’ll be able to wear the device for longer periods without discomfort.
Be sure to clean your hearing amplifier regularly and in accordance with the device’s instructions. As sound tubes are worn in the user’s ear canal, they can increase the risks of ear infections if they aren’t sanitized properly. Fortunately, most hearing amplifiers come with cleaning brushes, cases, and other accessories that make this process easy.
If you’re asking this question, you probably know the answer. Here’s the good news: Studies have shown that the vast majority of hearing aid users report satisfaction with their devices, and hearing amplifiers offer a similar benefit at a lower price.
In three separate Australian surveys, between 71 and 97 percent of users reported feeling either “satisfied” or “very satisfied,” and literature reviews found overall satisfaction rates of over 70 percent.
In other words, if you’re living with hearing loss—or if you’ve seen hearing impairment affect a loved one—a hearing aid can make an extraordinary difference. To get the best possible results, speak with your physician before making your purchase, but don’t put off treatment. A properly fitted device can greatly improve your quality of life, and given the low cost and high-end features of modern options, there’s never been a better time to address hearing issues.