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Hearing Aids vs. Personal Sound Amplifiers (PSAPs)

At Sonus Hearing Care Professionals, we understand that deciding to improve speech understanding or purchase a hearing instrument is an important decision.  Every day we see advertisements online or in magazines for the latest gizmo that promises better hearing.  They may even be on shelves at your local pharmacy or superstore.  While these devices may look similar to hearing aids they are actually in a class all their own, known as personal sound amplifiers (PSAPs).   The price tag of PSAPs can be alluring, but it’s important to consider what you’re getting for your investment – and more importantly, what you’re giving up.

It is no wonder that consumers trying to work their way through these myriad of possibilities are often confused. Consumers want the best help possible, at the lowest cost. We should keep in mind, however, that more is involved in reducing the effects of a hearing loss than hearing aids themselves (i.e., help with assistive listening devices, communication strategies and counseling, etc.). The route we suggest is via a trusted professional source, such as your Sonus Hearing Care Professional.  We know this is the best way to go for most potential hearing aid users. Hearing instruments are only one piece of the puzzle, even though a very important one.  The most important factor in successful hearing enhancement treatment is the professional working with you and following best practices such as testing speech understanding in noise and verification of how the hearing aids is working in your ear through the use of Live Speech Mapping.  Best practice procedures cannot be accomplished via remote location (ie. the Internet) or with over the counter PSAPs.   

What is a PSAP?

Personal sound amplifiers (PSAPs) are classified as “wearable electronic products for occasional, recreational use by consumers who are not hearing impaired”.  PSAPs are not intended to correct hearing loss and are actually prohibited by federal law from being called a “hearing aid”.  Conversely, hearing aids are FDA-regulated Class I medical devices intended for use by those with hearing loss.  They are fit by hearing care professionals, either an audiologist or hearing aid specialist, customized for an individual’s unique hearing needs.  Lately many PSAP companies have been making aggressive advertising claims, blurring the line between what is possible with a PSAP versus a hearing aid. But under U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, PSAPs must be marketed not as hearing aids that amplify sound to compensate for impaired hearing, but as devices for non-hearing-impaired consumers to amplify sounds in the environment for a number or reasons, such as for recreational activities. For instance, some PSAPs are sold to hunters who want amplification of quiet sounds in the forest combined with noise suppression to protect their hearing by muffling the sound of the shotgun blast.

One Size Fits All

Every ear is unique - there is no one-size-fits-all hearing device.  While hearing aids are designed to be worn all day, every day, PSAPs offer a universal fit meant for short term wear.  A misfit device may create sore spots and pain in the delicate ear canal.  Additionally, PSAPs only offer a one-size-fits-all acoustic experience as well.   They can deliver strong waves of sound, creating an uncomfortable experience for the wearer, as well as potentially causing more hearing loss.  A hearing care professional, on the other hand, uses your unique hearing profile to deliver a prescribed amount of amplification, or gain, only in the areas that it is needed.  A common complaint with PSAPs is that background noise is as loud as the conversation you’re trying to hear.

Talk to Your Hearing Care Provider

PSAPs go by many names such as The Bean, The Eargo, or Soundhawk, just to name a few.  When it comes time to make an important decision about your hearing, leave it to a professional.  At Sonus Hearing Care Professionals, we want to make sure you find the right device for you.  Even if you get a personal sound amplifier for recreational use, it can be an affordable means of seeing whether you will benefit from hearing aids. If the amplification helps you understand everyday speech, you can go on to get your hearing checked and be fitted with a pair of custom hearing aids programmed to compensate for your individual hearing needs.

That’s why we offer a complete line of hearing tests, hearing aid technology and follow-up visits to ensure you’re getting the best experience possible to make the speech of those you care about as clear as possible.