It is estimated that one in eight people in the US have some degree of hearing loss in both ears, based on standard examinations. However, there is no accounting for the millions of US citizens who live with undiagnosed hearing loss. The most common treatment for those with hearing loss are hearing aids – tiny electronic devices which amplify the sounds we struggle with. These amazing devices when worn properly can help you be more aware of the world around you and help to heal relationships across your life, worn thin from years of communication issues. However, there are many barriers which keep people from using them. One of the biggest factors is the perceived high cost of hearing aids. As an alternative, many turn to hearing amplifiers instead. However, while hearing amplifiers offer some amplification for the hard of hearing, are they really comparable to hearing aids?!
What are Hearing Amplifiers?
Personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) are sold online under many different names, including “hearing aid amplifier,” “hearing amplifier aid,” “sound amplifier,” “digital sound amplifier” and “voice amplifier.” If the word “amplifier” is used in the title, this is often a significant clue that they are not hearing aids—though it can be hard to tell at times. They can look almost the same as many hearing aids on the market, however there are some important differences in how they perform. Hearing aids are considered medical devices regulated by the FDA which can be customized to an individual hearing exam by an audiologist, Ear Nose and Throat Doctor (ENT) or hearing healthcare professional. Meanwhile, PSAPs amplify sounds regardless of a hearing exam. They may miss the nuances of a person’s individual loss of specific tones or pitches.
Over the Counter Hearing Aids verses PSAPs
Recent changes are coming on a legislative level to allow the purchase of over the counter hearing aids. This legislation is designed to lower the cost of hearing aids for those who otherwise may feel they are out of reach. However, they often pose the same issues to patients as PSAPs. Designed for those with mild to moderate hearing loss, you can purchase over the counter hearing aids without a hearing exam. However this raises the question of “how do you actually know the degree of your hearing loss without a proper exam?”
Cheaper but not Comparable
PSAPs are not meant to be worn all the time. Instead, they are designed for those who need amplification for specific purposes such as watching TV, the movies, a lecture or performance when distance to the speaker or stage makes it hard to hear. Hearing aids on the contrary are meant to be worn from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to sleep, only to be removed when swimming, bathing or in other very wet circumstances. PSAPs are not for all day amplification. They may help for certain situations but fail to adapt to the wide array of listening environments which a person usually comes across from day to day. This is why studies show that hearing aids, when fit by a professional audiologist, tend to have higher consumer satisfaction rates. Hearing aids are programmable while the range of sound amplifiers just are not!
Hearing Aids—more adaptive and supportive
Dr. Melissa Danchak, AuD, of Kos/Danchak Audiology and Hearing Aids in Arlington, Texas, explains “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,” She continues— “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.”
More Bang for Your Buck
While hearing amplifiers may be alluring in their immediate affordability, they will not offer the support you truly need for around the clock hearing support. You may still struggle to hear in noisy places, or certain speakers leading to misunderstandings and strained relationships at work. Misunderstandings due to poorly amplified sound at work can actually have a more significant impact on your earnings. This can cost significantly more money and have a blow to the quality of your life, in comparison to the initial investment of a finely tuned adaptive programmed hearing aid. Invest in your future now by scheduling a hearing exam with us today!
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