You’ve no doubt seen ads for sound amplifiers that claim to help you hear better at a lower cost than traditional hearing aids. Some of these products are referred to as personal sound amplification products, or PSAPs. Though it’s true these products can be purchased online or without seeing an audiologist, they shouldn’t be confused with hearing aids. So, let’s set the record straight. The primary difference between a hearing aid and these personal sound amplification products is that a hearing aid is a custom-fit device for an extremely complex and intricate sensory system that isn’t functioning normally, resulting in hearing loss.
Personal Sound Amplifiers Are One-Size-Fits-All Solutions
Personal sound amplification products are one-size-fits-all sound amplifiers. They aren’t customized for your hearing loss, don’t include speech and noise management programming and physically may not fit well in your ear. They may help make some sounds louder, but if you have a hearing loss, louder may not translate to better hearing.
PSAPs Cannot Be Marketed to Improve Hearing
PSAPS are already available over the counter and through the mail. The FDA doesn’t allow PSAPs to be marketed as devices to improve impaired hearing. Instead, they only amplify what the patient can already hear, but as consumers, we often don’t distinguish the difference until we experience it.
Amplifiers Vs. Hearing Aids
PSAPs cost less than hearing aids, ranging from $20 each up to $500+. In a recent issue of Consumer Reports which analyzed PSAPS, testing found no benefit to the lowest-cost PSAPs. Even though these devices may cost less, they can be a waste of money, especially if you have a hearing loss and limited budget.
When budget is a concern, as it is for many, remember that these less “expensive” PSAPs don’t always save money. If you spend $200 per ear for something that doesn’t help you hear better, you’ve wasted $400 you could have applied to an affordable pair of hearing aids custom-fit for your hearing loss.
Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
The new over-the-counter hearing aid act was passed in August 2017 and will require the FDA to create and regulate a category of OTC hearing aids. The FDA has three years to complete this task, which will prove challenging to promote access but ensure safety.
When OTC hearing aids become available, they will likely cost in the $150-$500 per ear range. OTC options will be self-prescribed, self-fit and self-adjusted. This may prove unsuccessful for many users, especially the elderly, and if these devices don’t help the patient, these also could end up being a waste of money that sits in the nightstand drawer.
Comprehensive Hearing Evaluations Are Critical
Your hearing loss is as unique and individual as you are. To help you function better with your hearing loss, especially in difficult listening environments, you need a comprehensive hearing evaluation. Based on those results, an audiologist can make recommendations consistent with your hearing loss, lifestyle, and budget. This process can require multiple adjustments to the hearing aids and complex rehabilitation, especially if you are a new hearing aid wearer.
Entry-level hearing aids private pay are available for as little as $675 per ear. Better hearing aids with more sophisticated features typically run $1,800 to $3,100 per ear. Ultimately, most patients hear better and are much more satisfied when opting for custom-fit hearing aids.
Consumer Reports recommends a professional hearing test before a patient buys a PSAP, as well as asking an audiologist for guidance in determining the best device. This is also in line with recommendations from professional organizations.
PSAPs Are Not Hearing Aids - Only Amplifiers of Sound
As we enter into this new world where consumers can buy a PSAP on Amazon or QVC thinking they are saving a few dollars, we’re concerned that instead individuals will buy PSAPs they see advertised, have a negative experience, and think they can’t be helped by hearing aids, which is not true. PSAPs ARE NOT hearing aids. Or, at minimum, they may be may be disappointed in their experience, and may be out dollars they could have applied toward custom-fit hearing aid technology. The same could be true when OTC hearing aids become available.
Professional Testing by Audiologists Will Yield the Best Results
At Associated Audiologists, we take the time to meet with our patients and their families, providing state-of-the-art professional testing before fitting a hearing aid, personalized recommendations, and outstanding and convenient service. In fact, 98 percent of our patients would refer a friend or family member to us.