You have decided that you do not want a hearing aid, but you are beginning to notice signs of hearing difficulty and struggle to hear during a conversation. You want to turn up the volume of speech but cannot.
What are you to do?
You may want to consider a hearing amplifier. This broad-range device can pick up and magnify the sounds around you and funnel them into your ear, similar to hearing aids.
But did you know there are 3 tiers of hearing devices? Pre-programmed hearing aids specified to the wearer’s test results, programmable hearing aids waiting to be tailored by the wearer, and amplifiers.
Read on to find out which option is best for you and why it might be best to purchase hearing aids tailored to your hearing results.
Hearing Aids Vs. Hearing Amplifiers
Unlike traditional hearing aids that are used to make up for impaired hearing, amplifiers are only intended to increase the volume of sounds. In addition, they are for occasional, not constant, use.
Not every situation warrants an amplifier, while hearing aids should be worn in most situations if prescribed. Be sure to consult an audiologist if you are considering your options.
If hearing loss goes untreated or is treated only with an amplifier, the problem could get worse. However, for those who are looking to turn up the volume on the television or a conversation without disturbing others, a hearing amplifier can be a good solution.
Personal Sound Amplification Products
Hearing amplifiers are often referred to as PSAPs or personal sound amplification products. They are considerably cheaper than hearing aids and can be acquired without a follow-up trip to the audiologist’s office since an audiogram is not required. Some can even be programmed ahead of their arrival to the consumer with the consumer’s ideal settings.
Amplifiers vs. Hearing Aids
When you first look at an amplifier sitting next to a hearing aid, you may not be able to tell the difference. Both are small and can sit either around or inside the ear. Both have adjustable volumes and enhance the hearing of the wearer.
So, what’s the difference? Right off the bat, it is important to note that amplifiers are not FDA-approved. In fact, in 2009 the FDA released a consumer update stating that amplifiers, also known as Personal Sound Amplifying Products (PSAPs), should not be used by those with hearing impairments. The amplifiers are intended primarily for people looking to turn up the volume in certain scenarios.
If you do have hearing loss and plan to use a PSAP instead of hearing aids, you could actually cause future damage to yourself. The volume of a PSAP is not limited and can get too loud for internal ear use, meaning you could cause further hearing damage by wearing an amplifier.
Alternatively, if you plan to use an amplifier instead of a hearing aid, it may not be powerful enough for your needs. Sounds may be louder, but not loud enough when you need them to be.
Unlike amplifiers, hearing aids can be programmed to fit your specific needs. For example, if you are looking to turn up the volume on a movie, an amplifier increases the volume overall, but a hearing aid can focus in on the movie dialogue to make it easier to understand. Amplifiers tend to be a popular first step on the road to hearing aids because they are cheaper and do not have to be bought through an audiologist. However, with more companies like Audicus offering hearing aids at a discounted price, you have more options to find what best fits your needs.
Programming Your Hearing Aids
Typically when you go to your audiologist, they will first check your overall ear health with an otoscopic examination and a tympanometry, then conduct a hearing test resulting in an audiogram. The audiogram shows the severity of hearing loss in each ear and is akin to a prescription for glasses from your eye doctor. The audiogram is used to program a pair of hearing aids for your specific needs.
While you can purchase generic hearing aids and program them yourself at home, why not leave that up to a professional? Audiologists, like those at Audicus, can translate the audiogram into hearing aids that will be perfect for you, guaranteed. With their vast experience and knowledge, they can tinker with the hearing aids if you find them to be uncomfortable or have any issues. Check out the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to see a basic overview of additional types of hearing aids and how they can benefit you.
Suitable Uses for Personal Sound Amplification Devises
As stated, amplifiers cannot be used in place of a hearing aid. In what situations do hearing amplifiers thrive? These are popularly used during recreational activities. For those who want to turn up the volume in church or in a movie theater, the amplifier can do just that. Amplifiers are also extremely helpful in one-on-one conversations where external noises may make the speech difficult to hear. Users can turn up the volume to better hear their companion. For those who cannot hear the television when the rest of their family is not struggling, the amplifier is perfect. It allows the television to be at a normal volume with everyone still hearing what is going on in a show – no one has to miss out. Because the amplifier picks up all sounds, they may be less reliable outdoors with competing sounds such as wind or loud city streets. The beauty of PSAPs is that the user can pick and choose when to wear the device.
The PSAP market is expected to grow to 84.4 million units by 2023. This growing trend will bring innovative hearing amplification to those suffering from hearing difficulty.
By: Diana Michel
Sources: FDA, NIDCD