Personal Sound Amplification Devices (PSAPs)

finger-280201_640You’ve probably seen PSAPs advertised on TV. These small electronic sound amplifiers give people the ability to enjoy nighttime TV without disturbing others and they can give you the ability to hear a toddler from yards away. While it is great to be able to hear things that are low volume or far away, they aren’t meant to be substitutes for hearing aids.

Why You Might get Them Confused

They both:

  • Improve your ability to hear sound
  • Allow you to wear them
  • Might have similar functionality

But, there is one important difference: Only hearing aids are designed to make up for impaired hearing. The settings within a PSAP aren’t based on someone’s hearing loss. With existing hearing loss, a PSAP can make the hearing loss worse whereas a hearing aid can preserve your hearing. The other risk of delaying a hearing screening is that hearing loss can be caused by treatable conditions such as a wax plug or a tumor. Delaying and not treating hearing loss can lead to worse outcomes and more complications. Basically, a PSAP shouldn’t prevent you from visiting an audiologist for a hearing assessment.

There is a Good Reason Not to Use a PSAP

PSAPS just amplify sound. Sound amplification can come in handy for recreational activities like hunting (listening for prey), bird watching, listening to a lecture with a distant speaker, and listening to soft sounds that would be difficult for normal hearing individuals to hear (e.g., distant conversations, performances), but most of the people we see don’t necessarily use PSAPs just for recreation. The trend is worrisome, PSAPs are being used by consumers as a cheap replacement for a hearing aid. A bad experience with a PSAP can deter people from seeking out a professional hearing solution that can improve their life.

If you find yourself struggling to hear things that others seem to hear, you shouldn’t hesitate to get a hearing evaluation from an audiologist. A PSAP will not provide the diagnosis and reassurance you need to preserve your hearing.