It seems like every time you turn on the television, there’s another advertisement for products that help you hear better. These devices, called personal sound amplifiers, help you hear low-volume sounds or sounds that are far away. The ads are compelling, and sometimes misleading. Despite what they say, hearing amplifiers are NOT hearing aids and are not approved by the FDA for use as medical devices. Before investing your money in one of these gadgets, be sure you know the limitations of personal sound amplifiers.
How Personal Sound Amplifiers and Hearing Aids Work
Personal sound amplifiers are devices you place into your ears to amplify sounds. These auditory tools are designed for people with NORMAL hearing who need to amplify sounds when they’re in certain situations. For example, a hunter might wear a sound amplifier to hear subtle sounds of movement when out in nature.
How do personal sound amplifiers differ from hearing aids? Sound amplifiers make ALL sounds louder, unlike a hearing aid, which can differentiate between sounds and amplify them based on the characteristics of that sound. Hearing aids are programmed to make speech easier to hear and decipher. Plus, an audiologist can make adjustments to the hearing aid to optimize your ability to hear. You get the benefit of “customization.”
Some people are attracted to personal sound amplifiers because they’re less expensive than a hearing aid, but they’re not meant to be a replacement for one. Hearing aids are custom fitted to your ear to ensure that it feels comfortable when you wear it, while personal sound amplifiers are “one size fits all.”
Hearing Loss Needs Evaluation
If you suspect your hearing is not what it used to be, the next step is to get your hearing evaluated by an audiologist. Using a “quick fix” approach like a personal sound amplifier may lead to further hearing loss due to a delay in diagnosis. An audiologist can quantify the degree of hearing loss you have and let you know whether you’re a good candidate for a hearing aid. A number of correctable factors can contribute to hearing loss, such as medications or ear blockage due to wax. You’ll never know unless you get evaluated.
- “Hearing Aids and Personal Sound Amplifiers: Know the Difference”
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration Consumer Updates. Oct. 20, 2009.