It sounds like you want a communication recommendation. In order to find the best Personal Sound Amplifier Product (PSAP) for you, taking into account your hearing acuity, your lifestyle, your support group, your hearing difficulties, your budget, your dexterity, your cognition, your needs, your wants, and more, you need a communication needs assessment. The communication needs assessment will factor in all of these issues, and more, to determine what products (amplifiers, assistive devices, phones, hearing aids, cochlear implants, etc.) will be best for you.
To get this answer, you need to do your part- start with finding a professional who offers communication needs evaluations (NOT a hearing aid evaluation) and be ready to pay for this appointment. Then, you will save a lot of time and (overall) money by getting the best device(s) for you- either through a licensed provider, online, catalog order, over-the-counter, etc. The one-hour investment in the communication needs appointment will answer your questions, personally, as opposed to simply "guessing" what you need online.
Short answer is that there are no "best" personal sound amplification devices. These units are designed to simply amplify all the incoming sound at a consistent level across the entire frequency range. If you have a very flat mild hearing loss then a PSAD might be of some benefit. However, very few people have that type of hearing loss. I have talked with many patients who tried PSAD's and they rarely kept them or used them more than one week. They simply did not do what the patient expected them to do. Hearing loss affects different frequencies different amounts. Volume comes primarily from the low frequencies and clarity from the high frequencies. Most hearing loss is primarily in the high frequencies causing a large reduction in clarity and less or no reduction in volume. True hearing aids are programmed to a patient's exact hearing loss adding just the right amount of amplification in each frequency. In addition, the hearing aids also actively filter some noises to improve speech reception and clarity. While a PSAD might be of some limited value you are better advised to have a full hearing test done by a licensed hearing aid specialist or audiologist who can then discuss your needs based on the results of the test.
Personal Sound Amplification Devices are devices which can be purchased over the counter and purely amplify all sounds and noises in all environments , and have not been approved by the FDA. Due to these devices amplifying all environmental sounds and noises, we find that a majority of our patients will not benefit from the PSAP's as one of their major difficulties which we have encountered is hearing the clarity of speech when there is background noise present, such as when they go to a restaurant. The PSAP's will amplify everything therefore making it even more difficult for them to hear in that situation. As you can buy these devices over the counter without having a prior consultation, there is the risk of causing trauma to the ear. Hearing aids are medical devices which are selected based on a thorough consultation with an audiologist who will assess the type and severity of your hearing loss and prescribe hearing loss, based on your assessment results as well as communicative needs. The audiologist will also be able to identify whether there is a serious condition in which you may need to be referred to a doctor or ENT for further assessment and management. The hearing aids are then programmed according to your hearing loss and can be adjusted at any stage, whereas PSAP's cannot be adjusted. Together you and your audiologist will put together a plan to improve your hearing and quality of life, and you will always have your audiologist as your support!
PSAPs amplify sounds but do not address other components of hearing loss. PSAPs have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a medical device like hearing aids. A patient should check with their provider before making a decision on purchasing any device that has to do with their hearing. The PSAP is not specific to a patients hearing loss and is factory programmed unlike hearing aids which can be adjusted by the provider for a patients specific needs.
I see people almost every day in my office that make statements regarding their attempt to use hearing aids that "just didn't work". Upon questioning, I usually find they've never tried hearing aids but tried to save a little money and buy Sound Amplification Devices. 9 out of 10 (or more) patients have buyers remorse having bought something that just doesn't address their need. One must understand that simple amplification will NOT help with most hearing losses. In fact, many times it makes it worse! If you have high frequency loss and little to no loss in low frequencies, a straight amplifier is not for you. If you amplify the high frequencies to get you to a normal level, and simultaneously increased the volume of low frequencies (where you have no loss) the lows are then so loud they are intolerable and in fact now mask what you want to hear. Don't fall for the slick ads that make promises of better hearing. They help only in very few situations. Have a professional hearing evaluation and treat your hearing loss as you would any other important medical issue.
Our practice will be investing in a pair of as many of the leading PSAP's as we feel necessary to always be on top of this categories capabilities and shortcomings. We just received our pair of HEAR ONE's today. Go to Digital Hearing Outlets Facebook page after April 1 and we will post our initial review of the HEAR ONE PSAP. We will have patients of our practice evaluate HEAR ONE and other PSAP's as well. Those reviews will be posted weekly on our FB page.
There are several good and bad personal sound amplification devices (PSAPs) available. What will work best for someone depends on where they have difficulties hearing or understanding speech as different devices work better in different environments, such as in noisy environments, in the car, speakers at a distance, the television, etc. It's best to talk with your audiologist so they can help steer you in the right direction to suit your needs best.
Thank you for your question, it's a good one. What sound amplifiers do is simply make all of the sound in the environment louder. The overwhelming majority of people who come into our office don't need things louder, they need speech to become more clear. A sound amplifier will not do that. It also bypasses an inspection of your ear canal which is recommended to make sure there is not a wax problem or something more serious. I would at least have your hearing evaluated by a professional to get their opinion. Actual custom fit and RIC devices are custom programmed to your loss to fit your individual needs. Thank you very much for your question!
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