Are you the type who sits in a restaurant or an events center and wishes to be able to boost the sound around you just a bit more? Maybe you’d like to be able to hear if the baby is crying from across the house or possibly, you’re a hunter hoping to enhance the sounds of a deer walking through the woods?
Or are you the one with the TV turned up really loud and are always asking your friends and family to repeat what they said? Do you find yourself avoiding busy, loud, or crowded places because it’s simply too difficult to converse?
Depending on where you fall in this spectrum, you might be interested in a personal sound amplifying product (PSAP) or you might need a hearing aid. There are vast differences between the two, and while they both are designed to help increase sounds, they are not interchangeable. Each device has a specific and important job.
Personal Sound Amplifying Products
PSAP’s are designed to enhance the environmental sounds for people who don’t have any type of hearing loss. They are typically used by outdoor enthusiasts such as hunters or bird watchers, busy parents who have duties in another room but still want to be aware of what babies or small children are up to and are even enjoyed by those who visit the theater.
They are designed to be used occasionally and only for short spans of time. They are not intended for long term daily use. Many people think that PSAP’s are a lower cost option to buying an actual hearing aid, but this is not the case. While not dangerous when used according to the manufacturer’s directions for short term use, these amplifying devices can in fact cause more damage to the hearing of wearers who actually have hearing loss.
For those shopping around, you might find these amplification devices called some combination of the following:
- Digital sound amplifier
- Hearing aid amplifier
- Sound amplifier
- Voice amplifier
While they are meant to be used within the ear, they are not a substitute for hearing aids. The term “amplifier” is a good clue that they are not a hearing aid. Though different designs are very similar to actual hearing aids, these devices can be purchased over the counter without a prescription or an evaluation of the individual’s hearing.
Unlike hearing aids, amplifiers cannot be customized to the individual’s specific pattern of hearing loss. Many who buy them as an inexpensive substitute for hearing aids are disappointed that they do not meet their expectations. Some are even more put off the idea of buying real hearing aids due to their lack of satisfaction with the amplifiers.
For people who have difficulty hearing, the first step is to visit your hearing health professional and have an examination. They will perform some simple tests that will help determine if you do indeed have decreased hearing.
These professionals are trained to diagnose hearing loss, and in many cases can identify the cause of the issue. They can offer ways to improve hearing whether through surgery or the assistance of a hearing device. With their vast knowledge and the benefits of modern technology, there will be a solution to help each patient individually.
For people who are in need of hearing aids, they can be customized to the patient’s particular hearing loss needs. Though they usually come with a higher price tag, they often have the added benefit of being warrantied. Your audiologist or other hearing health professional would be happy to assist you in adjusting for fit, learning to clean the device and change the batteries.
Some models can be operated by an app on a smartphone. The professionals you purchase your device from will be able to help you with learning how to program and make necessary adjustments to have your hearing aids operate at maximum efficiency for your specific needs.
Dr. Melissa Danchak, AuD, says over the counter amplification devices are like drugstore reading glasses, they are more of a one size fits all type of device. For people with vision problems, they tend to outgrow the drugstore readers eventually and must visit an eye doctor in order to get the lenses needed to correct their vision.
Hearing devices are much the same, if you do go with the cheaper, over the counter option, they likely won’t work well or for long, and people with different hearing impairments will experience different levels of success with the device. Eventually, they’ll need to visit a hearing health professional in order to get a device that will actually improve their hearing.
“People have different degrees of hearing loss at different frequencies, or pitches, so the sound really needs to be shaped and fine-tuned for their loss,” Dr. Danchak explained. “Ears can also be very sensitive to loud sounds while not hearing soft sounds so simply making everything louder doesn’t work well for most people. Making everything louder just makes everything louder—all the things you do and do not want to hear.”
By seeking out a highly customizable hearing aid, users can increase their quality of life tremendously. With the support of qualified professionals, they will have a better experience and therefore outcome to regain a more normal level of hearing.