Did you know that you can purchase a hearing device at your local department store? It is true; you can buy a device that will amplify sounds for you. Although people buy these devices instead of a hearing aid, they are not approved medical products. These devices, intended to be used by individuals with normal hearing, enhance nature sounds and music.
A hearing aid is an FDA regulated device that consists of three parts: a microphone, an amplifier, and a speaker. Typically, a hearing aid receives sound through the microphone, which converts sound waves into electrical impulses and sends them to the amp. At this point, the power of the signals is increased and transmitted to the ear via the speaker. There are excellent advantages to wearing hearing aids, the obvious being better hearing. Below is a few other great reasons to wear a hearing aid:
- Feel better about yourself
- Better relationship with family
- Improve job performance
- Increase social contacts
- Physical well being
The responsibility of regulating medical devices falls to the Food and Drug Administration, and the agency does not allow the selling of hearing aids over the counter. However, a consumer can purchase a personal sound amplification product (PSAP). The products cost between $250 and $350, a bargain when compared to a $6,000 set of hearing aids not covered by Medicare or private insurance companies. Amplifiers do have a few advantages over traditional hearing aids:
- They are more affordable than hearing aids
- Over-the-counter purchasing
- They are more attractive than a hearing aid
Unfortunately, hearing amplifiers and enhancers do have their drawbacks including a few that could be detrimental to your hearing health.
Which PSAP Works Best for my Needs?
One major issue with PSAPs involves their use by people who do have a hearing problem. Unlike a hearing aid, there is not a simple method for figuring out which model of PSAP would best meet your needs. Is your hearing loss mild? Moderate? Severe? How do you select an appropriate device? The new legislation, known as the Over-the-Counter Hearing Act of 2017 is intended to create safety and effectiveness standards for amplification products.
Another problem with a PSAP involves the complexity of your hearing loss. Self-treating your unique hearing needs is challenging and purchasing over the counter amplifiers will cost you the opportunity to benefit from the skill and teaching of an audiologist. Lip reading and distinguishing high-frequency sounds, skills that are a great benefit to the hearing impaired, will go untaught. Addressing a symptom with an over-the-counter purchase is not enough as it may allow the real problem to go undiagnosed. An audiologist has the training to diagnose and skillfully treat the underlying problem.
Yes, a PSAP is effective at amplifying music, the sounds of nature, and television. If your hearing is healthy, it will most certainly enhance your listening enjoyment. However, it is not FDA approved, and you will not benefit from a professional hearing aid fitting by an audiologist. If you have a hearing problem, get a professional hearing evaluation to diagnose the actual problem and treat it accordingly.