An estimated 360 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss –– yet relatively few people seek treatment. Barry Levy has today’s Consumer Report with some suggestions If you’ve ever been tempted to try one of those cheaper, sound amplifiers you find online or in drug stores instead of the more expensive hearing aids.

You might be wondering what’s under this sheet….well, this is the size of the hearing assistance device my wife would love to have me use because she says I don’t listen to her…guys…you know what I’m talking about. But the devices we’re going to look at are pretty inexpensive and no bigger than…a small phone…but they may do more harm than good.

Having trouble following conversations in a noisy restaurant? Straining to hear a co-worker in the cafeteria?
Experts at Consumer Reports looked at some affordable, over-the-counter sound amplifiers…most of which are a fraction of the price of prescription hearing aids –– which can cost thousands. Some amplifiers even cost less than $50-dollars. But Consumer Reports says be careful with these penny-saver models. 

“So, we found that actually the really cheap ones aren’t that effective at helping people with hearing loss –– and more importantly, they could actually, potentially damage people’s hearing further by over-amplifying loud sounds – like a siren, for instance,” Julia Calderon, Consumer Reports Health Editor. 

Two other, pricier, amplifiers –– this $350-dollar Sound World Solutions, C-S-50-Plus –– and this $214-dollar Eteemotick Bean –– did a little bit better, but it’s complicated.
When tested in a lab –– by a professional hearing aid researcher –– both showed promise for people with mild to moderate hearing loss…while also protecting against over-amplification of loud sounds.
Plus, panelists who tried them said they were comfortable and easy to use. But in real-life situations, reactions were mixed.

“So they seemed to help with things like t-v watching –– but they weren’t so great at deciphering conversations in a noisy environment.”

Which means, if you do decide to try an amplifier, be sure to check the return policy before you buy.  

Some amplifiers may be worth a try but the best thing to do is see a hearing specialist, to see if these devices are right for your needs…you definitely don’t want to get stuck with a big boat anchor like this.

Also, make sure to check with you health insurance provider to see if they cover any of the cost of hearing aids before possibly being stuck with a big bill.