A hearing aid requires a doctor’s prescription, a custom fitting, and a few thousand dollars. If you’re not quite ready for that kind of investment and you want something you can buy over the counter, there are alternatives like hearing amplifiers. These devices — sometimes called personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) — are cheaper, and more easily accessible, but their lack of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation means you don’t always know what kind of quality you’re getting. That’s where we come in. We tested nine different hearing aids and found three discreet devices that will help your hearing for less than $500.
We loved the Tweak Focus for its behind-the-ear styling and a pristine sound quality at a fraction of the cost of a traditional hearing aid. Thanks to the Tweak’s simple design, weightlessness, and nearly invisible earpiece, we nearly forgot we were wearing an amplifier, and our coworkers didn’t even notice we had them in. Best of all, the unpleasant, staticky white noise so common in other products was nowhere to be found in this amplifier, bringing the Tweak Focus’ sound quality head-and-shoulders above the competition.
Looking for a more disguised amplifier? Our runner-up, the Sound World Solutions CS50, looks and feels like wearing a small Bluetooth headset — and it functions just like one, too. The Sound World connects to your phone, meaning you can answer calls and stream music through your hearing aid. The phone app also lets you adjust settings to fit your personal hearing needs. However, the overall sound quality wasn’t as high as the Tweak’s, despite some in-depth personalization.
The Here On sound amplifier caught our eye with its combination of sleek design and extremely clear sound quality. While it caters more toward people searching purely for a sound amplifier instead of a substitute for hearing aids, these wireless earbuds were more comfortable than Sound World while raising the bar on Tweak’s already high sound quality. Its phone app allowed us to cancel out unwanted noise from our surroundings while also amplifying the sounds or voices we wanted to focus on — something we didn’t find in any other device.