Grand Magazine Discovers That PSAPS Are Not Hearing Aids

Grand Magazine, Lifestyle
Published April 9, 2015
by Christine Crosby

Debunking The Misconceptions of Sound Amplifiers

As we age, one of the things we notice is people talking softer than ever before. TV programs are harder to hear. You have trouble following the table conversations when in a busy restaurant.

The first thing we do is ignore it and just up the volume. That is until others start complaining about how loud the TV/Radio is and ask you to turn it down. This little TV sound combat can continue for some time much to everyone’s displeasure.

Then, something serious happens; you notice that you’re having trouble making out everything your precious grandkids are saying. Now you know you need to take action. But what to do?

I’m too young to need a hearing aid, right? So, I started looking at sound amplifiers – they seem so much cooler than the dreaded hearing aid. Just when I thought that might be the ticket to fix my problem, I decided to ask an expert, Dr. Sreekant Cherukuri, a Board-Certified Otolaryngologist based in Chicago, what he thought of sound amplifiers. Here are his answers to my (and perhaps your) questions.

1. Is a Personal Sound Amplifying Product (PSAP) and a hearing aid the same thing?

No, PSAPs simply amplify sounds. Hearing aids address hearing loss by distinguishing between sounds and amplifying specific sounds important to hearing voices and music.

2. Are PSAPs designed to help people with hearing loss?

PSAPs are designed for normal-hearing people to amplify environmental sounds, such as when hunting or listening to birds chirping.  They are not to make up for impaired hearing.  The FDA, physicians, and audiologists agree:  PSAPs only amplify sounds and are not intended for the hearing impaired, and substituting a PSAP for a hearing aid can lead to more damage in the ear.

3. Don’t PSAPs cost much less than hearing aids?

PSAPs can cost up to $600. Some hearing aids, such as the MDHearingAid line, that address mild to moderately severe hearing loss cost less than high-cost PSAPs.  In some cases hearing loss may be addressed with an FDA registered hearing aid for less than the cost of a PSAP, which does not adequately address hearing loss.

4. Are PSAPs regulated by the FDA just as hearing aids are?

PSAPs are not FDA approved medical devices.  The FDA has released guidelines that confirm PSAPs are not intended for use by people with hearing loss.

5. Won’t any sort of hearing device help me hear better?

PSAPs simply make all the sounds around you louder and typically cannot  be adjusted to distinguish between background noises and voices.  In a fraction of a second, hearing aids distinguish between sounds and amplify frequencies to improve your hearing loss, depending upon your individual needs.

6. I just need to make all sounds louder, right?

Because PSAPs only amplify sounds, selecting a PSAP as a substitute for hearing aids can lead to more damage to your hearing.  Delaying diagnosis of a treatable condition could allow the condition to get worse and lead to other complications.

Well, there you have it. Guess I just need to go get my hearing tested and go from there.

Dr. Sreekant Cherukuri is a Board-Certified Otolaryngologist based in Chicago. He is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of ear, nose and throat problems. He is the founder of MDHearingAid.