hearing aid: noun : an electronic device worn in or on the ear to help a person who has hearing problems to hear better

This is the definition of a hearing aid according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary.com. You’ve likely seen Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP) advertised on television—small electronic sound amplifiers that allow users to enjoy nighttime TV without disturbing sleepers, or to hear their toddlers from many yards away. At first glance, one might think that a PSAP may have the same definition as a hearing aid. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they are very distinctly different items and they are NOT interchangeable. While these personal sound amplifiers may help people hear things that are at low volume or at a distance, the FDA wants to ensure that consumers don’t mistake them—or use them as substitutes—for approved hearing aids.

The products are different in that only hearing aids are intended to make up for impaired hearing, whereas a PSAP is intended to amplify sound for someone who is not hearing impaired. Consumers should buy a personal sound amplifier only after ruling out hearing loss as a reason for getting one. If you suspect hearing loss, get your hearing evaluated by a health care professional. Choosing a PSAP as a substitute for a hearing aid can lead to more damage to your hearing. It can cause a delay in diagnosis of a potentially treatable condition and that delay can allow the condition to get worse and lead to other complications. Treatments for impaired hearing can be as simple as removal of a wax plug in the doctor’s office or, in rare cases, as serious as a major surgery to remove a tumor or growth in the middle or inner ear.

Both hearing aids and PSAPs acoustically amplify sound. However, the FDA defines a hearing aid as a sound-amplifying device intended to compensate for impaired hearing. PSAPs are not intended to make up for impaired hearing. Instead, they are intended for non-hearing-impaired consumers to amplify sounds in the environment for a number of reasons, such as for recreational activities.

Although it may be tempting to utilize a PSAP in lieu of a hearing aid, especially if you have not been diagnosed with true hearing loss, as a consumer you should be aware of the marketing tactics intended to attract buyers to over-simplified and (possibly) very inexpensive solutions to hearing enhancements. Most PSAP’s look like a Bluetooth device or just a sound amplifier worn as a pendant. But many of the PSAPs on the market are even manufactured to look like top-of-the-line hearing aids and that can be misleading to the average consumer.

The best thing to do before investing any money in a hearing aid (sometimes covered fully or partially by your health insurance) or PSAP (not covered by insurance) is to get a hearing evaluation by a certified audiologist. If you truly do not have hearing loss you still may not need a PSAP. Sometimes you can improve your ability to hear just by cupping your hand around your ear (the author finds this especially useful in situations where there is a lot of background noise while trying to hold a conversation).

If you are diagnosed with hearing loss, go to www.ihearingaids.co to find the hearing aid that is right for you and fits your budget. No matter where you are in the country, we have the hearing aid for you and will refer you to an audiologist in your area for personalized fitting and lifetime service and maintenance. When there is true hearing loss, there is no substitute for an accurate evaluation by a credible audiologist and and FDA approved hearing aid.


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