You’ve probably seen advertisements for personal sound amplifiers on television and online. Some people are drawn to these electronic devices thinking they’re an inexpensive substitute for a hearing aid. Personal sound amplifiers are NOT hearing aids and are not a suitable replacement for one. They amplify or magnify sound for people with normal hearing, usually for recreational purposes, whereas a hearing aid is made prescriptively for people with impaired hearing. For example, some birdwatchers use personal sound amplifiers to magnify the songs and sounds of the birds they see.
Personal sound amplifiers are classified by the FDA as wearable electronic products. Since they are not medical devices, they are not regulated by the FDA. The danger of using a personal sound amplifier is it could lead to a delay in getting your hearing evaluated and corrected by a hearing care professional. A personal sound amplifier acts as a “bandage” for a more serious problem that needs attention. In contrast, a hearing aid is part of a total package that includes an evaluation and an ongoing treatment plan to help you hear better in every situation.
When you turn up the volume on a personal sound amplifier, you can further harm your hearing. Personal sound amplifiers are not an inexpensive or quick fix for hearing loss. Save your money and your hearing by scheduling an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing evaluation. They can determine the degree of hearing loss you have and what frequencies are affected in the sound spectrum. An audiologist can also identify factors like impacted ear wax or medications that could be making your hearing problem worse. If you’re having difficulty hearing, you owe it to yourself to get a professional evaluation.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2009). Hearing aids and personal sound amplifiers: Know the difference. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm185459.htm