You’ve probably seen the commercials. The ones advertising PSAPs, or personal sound amplification products, assuring an improvement to hearing for as little as 20 dollars. It sounds like a excellent deal—particularly when compared to the substantial selling price of a hearing aid.
The fact is, it’s not so much a great deal as it is shrewd marketing. The commercials do their best to conceal some crucial information while emphasizing carefully chosen talking points.
But the question remains: why would you choose to spend more money on a hearing aid when less expensive PSAPs are available? Here are five reasons.
1. PSAPs are not FDA-regulated medical devices
Listen carefully to the PSAP advertisements. You’ll hear all about “boosts” to hearing but never about actually treating hearing loss. The reason: PSAPs are not FDA-regulated medical devices and can not be used to treat any medical ailment, including hearing loss. PSAPs are simply recreational devices intended to produce benefits to people who can already hear comfortably.
Making use of a PSAP to manage hearing loss is like buying a pair of reading glasses to treat near and far-sighted vision impairment. Hearing aids, on the other hand, are FDA-regulated medical devices that can effectively treat hearing loss.
2. PSAPs are not customizable
Hearing aids may not look very impressive on the surface, but inside they contain sophisticated digital technology that can slice up, store, adjust, and regulate any type of sound. Hearing aids can in addition create adjustments for pitch and volume so that amplification matches the patient’s hearing loss exactly.
A PSAP, in comparison, is a one-size-fits-all electronic device that amplifies soft sounds. Since every person’s hearing loss is slightly different, PSAPs won’t amplify the correct frequencies. Rather, PSAPs will amplify all sound, generating distortion in noisy environments.
3. PSAPs can’t enhance speech
Speech sounds are unique in that they are largely represented in the higher frequencies, particularly in comparison to background sound. Considering that digital hearing aids can identify variations in sound frequency, hearing aids can amplify speech while suppressing background noise. PSAPs, by and large, do not have this function.
4. PSAPs could cost you more in the long-run
To start with, hearing loss is sometimes brought about by factors that do not require hearing amplification at all. If, for instance, earwax accumulation is producing your hearing loss, a simple professional cleaning can improve your hearing within a few minutes—and without a cent spent on any amplification devices.
Second, sometimes more serious medical conditions can cause hearing loss, so you’ll want a professional examination to rule this out. Considering that you can purchase a PSAP without any communication with any healthcare professionals, you could be putting yourself in real danger.
Third, if you do have noise-induced or age-related hearing loss, a PSAP will not work the way you would need it to. You’ll probably purchase a hearing aid sooner or later anyway, so you might as well forego the additional cost of the PSAP.
And finally, compared with hearing aids, there is no mandatory trial period for PSAPs. If you buy one and it doesn’t get the job done, there’s no legal guarantee that you’ll recoup your money.
5. PSAPs lack the features of a hearing aid
PSAPs, like we mentioned, are simple amplification gadgets stripped-down of any enhanced functionality. Hearing aids, on the other hand, can enhance speech, reduce background noise, and adjust to different environments. Several hearing aid models can even wirelessly stream phone calls and music, and some can be controlled with smartphones and watches.
The decision is yours
PSAPs do have their uses. If you have normal hearing, PSAPs are great for things like bird watching and eavesdropping on conversations, if that’s your sort of thing.