The beautiful thing about the world we live in is that we are seeing technology advance at a pace faster than we’ve ever seen before. Audiology and hearing-related products are no exception to these exciting advancements. But as with any technology, it is critical for individuals to know when it is appropriate and best to use it. For example, cell phones are great for getting driving directions, but you shouldn’t be driving and texting. Yes, you could… but should you? No.
Personal sound amplification products (PSAP) are a new breed of low-cost devices that give people the impression that for several hundred dollars, you can skip the trip to the audiologist, avoid the cost of hearing aids, and solve any hearing-related issues you may be having. This magical thinking is dangerous in that it begins with the notion that people can self-diagnosis their level of hearing-loss. Hearing loss has a profound effect on an individual’s quality of life. Would anyone actually attempt to self-diagnose any other health-related matter that had a significant effect on them? Probably not, and hearing loss should be no exception to this rule.
PSAP’s, are in fact appropriate for individuals with normal hearing who require a bit of additional amplification in certain situations. They may be acceptable for people who have mild hearing loss and where their audiologist feels they may not need hearing aids just yet and will oversee their progress over time.
However, PSAP’s are not a substitute for hearing aids in individuals with hearing loss. Hearing aids contain significantly more advanced technology that is designed to improve hearing sensitivity and listening comfort in ways that PSAP’s are not able to do. The first step, regardless of what device is appropriate, is to meet with an audiologist to ensure that your hearing is properly evaluated across the full range of listening frequencies. Your ability to have a conversation in a quiet room, in a noisy room, speak on the phone, and watch TV comfortably requires a proper assessment by an audiology professional to ensure that you are using the technology that is most appropriate for your needs.