What are PSAPs (Amplification Devices)?

05/17/2021 | Hearing Aids, News, Patient Resources

A PSAP, also known as personal sound amplification product, is an amplifier that is often marked as a “hearing aid” in the back of magazines, electronic stores, or online.

This alone is very misleading, as it causes confusion over the definition of a hearing aid device.

But what is the difference between the hearing aids that we provide and online hearing aids? Well, there are many differences.

A hearing aid is an FDA-defined medical device designed to help manage a diagnosed hearing loss.

A PSAP is a sound amplifier designed to make sounds louder, generally for people that have normal hearing but want an advantage of hearing softer sounds at a distance or to provide a listening edge in certain situations.

What’s The Hype?

PSAPs have been popular for years. It is not new technology; in fact, it is fairly old technology that has been repackaged and sold as “new” and “innovative.”

Ask any hunter how long they have been marketed to about “Game Ears” or other “hunter’s aids,” which aim to help improve their ability to hear a big game or birds so that they could be better hunters than their friends.

Be careful before you make any decisions, especially when it comes to hearing technology, because you don’t want to end up causing more investment further down the line.

For expert advice you can trust

In What Situations Would They Be a Good Decision?

PSAPs are great when you want to hear the TV better without disturbing others in the house.

They are aimed at people with mild to moderate hearing loss, so they are great when you want to hear soft sounds that are further away from you.

However, as they only amplify sound, it may increase background noise, such as wind, which makes it harder to clarify speech.

They also work great if you want to hear someone’s voice in a one-on-one situation when there is not a lot of background noise.

A great example of this is years ago when I had someone come to see me for a hearing test because he couldn’t hear his wife. She had some vocal fold paralysis and really struggled to project her voice beyond a whisper.

He thought maybe he had a hearing loss and that hearing aids would help.

Turns out, his hearing was normal. He was a great candidate for a PSAP system that included a remote microphone that his wife could wear to bring her voice closer to his ear-level amplifiers. It was a great solution for them.

They Don’t Treat Hearing Loss

While they can help certain people in certain situations, they are not categorically proven to treat hearing loss, as they don’t have the same complex systems as a hearing aid device.

If a hearing loss has not been medically and clinically defined, the use of a PSAP could hide a problem that, if left untreated, could become worse or cause permanent damage.

What Should I do if I’m Concerned?

Choosing what hearing device is right for you can have you running around in circles.

My advice is to take the time to learn about your hearing and listening needs. It’s also important to note that the widget is not the solution to hearing loss on its own, but it is just one part of the larger picture.

Most importantly, pursue a diagnostic hearing evaluation. Not a free test at a hearing aid store but a real diagnostic evaluation of your ear and hearing.

This is to make sure that your ears are being evaluated thoroughly to rule out or identify underlying issues that may impact the progression or outcome of your loss.

If you’re still confused, then we wanted to let you know that we are here to help. If you have any concerns, big or small, give us a call at (541) 612-7555 and we will try our hardest to help.



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Erika Shakespeare CCC-A

Erika Shakespeare, CCC-A, specializes in pediatric and adult diagnostics and amplification. Working with adults to help manage tinnitus and hearing loss since 2002, she is an expert in both of these areas. Additionally, she is a pediatric audiology mentor and educator for pediatric audiologists across the country and is one of the most respected experts on pediatric audiology.

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