At first glance, a hearing aid and a PSAP (Personal Sound Amplification Product) may appear identical, and many hearing aids and PSAPs share similar features – they’re both wearable sound-amplifying devices that utilize some of the same types of technologies. However, the differences between the two far outweigh the similarities, and it’s important to understand these differences when trying to decide which hearing improvement device is right for your needs.
Hearing Aids: Compensation for Hearing Loss
In February of 2009, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration provided a set of guidelines for both hearing aids and PSAPs. In these guidelines, the FDA defined a hearing aid as “a wearable sound-amplifying device that is intended to compensate for impaired hearing.” Therein lies the main difference between hearing aids and hearing amplifiers – while hearing aids are specifically made for individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss, hearing amplifiers are made for non-hearing-impaired consumers.
Because hearing aids are defined by the FDA as a medical device meant to treat a medical condition, they’re subjected to rigorous reviews and regulations. When purchasing a hearing aid through an audiology care center, an extensive hearing test and multiple fitting and orientation appointments are required to properly program the hearing aid’s settings and ensure a comfortable in-ear fit. This way, you can get the full value out of your hearing aid. While personal sound amplification devices come pre-programmed and aren’t able to be fine-tuned or adjusted, hearing aids use much more advanced technology and are intended to compensate for specific types and degrees of hearing loss.
PSAPs: Amplification of Environmental Noises
Personal sound amplification devices are marketed heavily, particularly on TV commercials, and may appear to be an appealing choice to someone with hearing loss. Even though certain infomercials and product packaging can seem to indicate otherwise, PSAPs are not intended for use by individuals with hearing loss. Rather, PSAPs are intended for consumers with healthy hearing who want to be able to hear very quiet or subtle sounds.
Scenarios in which a personal sound amplification device would be appropriate include a hunting expedition (where the hunter wants to hear every rustle and approaching footstep), listening to a speaker from far away in a large lecture hall and enjoying television at a low volume while your children are sleeping in the next room. PSAPs amplify soft noises into the user’s ear via a microphone, letting the wearer pick up on sounds that would normally be indiscernible.
Finding the Right Hearing Device
If you or someone you love has hearing loss or suspects that you may have hearing loss, it’s important to contact a licensed hearing care professional, who will help you determine whether a hearing aid or another hearing improvement device is best suited for your needs. For more information on the FDA’s 2009 guidance, please visit the complete list of regulatory requirements here.