Learn why self-treating hearing problems with personal sound amplification products might not be a better value after all.
Big-box stores, warehouse clubs, and online retailers have made it easier than ever to buy over-the-counter hearing devices or personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), but… not so fast! For hearing loss, the help of a trained hearing care professional stands head and shoulders above self-treatment, which can cause more harm than good.
What Are Personal Sound Amplification Products?
PSAPs, defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as “wearable electronic products for use by non-hearing impaired individuals to amplify sounds in certain environments,” typically comprise a microphone, an amplifier, and a receiver.
Though potentially helpful in normal hearing to amplify sounds in situations such as watching TV, listening for animals during outdoor recreation, or hearing a presenter who’s speaking some distance away, PSAPs can’t take the place of properly fit hearing aids.
What Are the Pros and Cons of PSAPs?
- Relatively inexpensive
- Can amplify soft sounds that might otherwise be harder to hear
- Made with recreational activities in mind, thus supporting active lifestyles
- Designed to wear immediately after purchase, making them convenient
- Might serve as a short-term alternative while considering more comprehensive solutions
- Neither FDA-approved or recommended to treat actual hearing loss
- Can amplify sound but cannot help your brain process sound
- Often uncomfortable in the ear, and for many patients they’re difficult to manage
- Could cause hearing damage or aggravate existing damage with misuse or overuse
- Bypasses the crucial step of professional testing, programming, fitting, and follow-up to rule out hearing problems and ensure the device is appropriate for your ears
What Should You Do?
In a report released by the National Academy of Sciences, panelists noted the need for “qualified providers and clinics with the knowledge, skill, and expertise to properly evaluate, prescribe, and train people in the use of hearing devices” and also concluded that “consumers who work with providers trained in the use of properly prescribed and fitted hearing devices can expect better results than those who use off-the-shelf products.”
Don’t leave your hearing health to chance. Work with a licensed hearing care professional trained to test your hearing, diagnose potential problems, and tailor a solution to your individual needs. Hearing loss not only involves one of your most important senses but can affect your physical, social, mental, and even financial health, making effective evaluation and treatment critical.