We published an article back in 2014 regarding the difference between hearing aids and personal sound amplifiers. A few of the comments we received requested more info on this topic to include additional details regarding product differences. Let's dig in and discuss the difference between a hearing aid and a personal sound amplifier. With a billion people at risk for hearing loss, this market still has significant upside (for consumers and suppliers alike).
First – What are these devices, and what are they used for?
What Is A Hearing Aid?
The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) defines a hearing aid as “a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. It makes some sounds louder so that a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities. A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations. However, only about one out of five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one.”
Hearing aids are FDA regulated devices and they typically consist of 3 distinct parts; a microphone, an amplifier, and a speaker.
A hearing aid has three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker. – NIDCD
What Is A Personal Sound Amplifier?
Personal sound amplifiers come in all shapes and sizes and are considerably less expensive than traditional hearing aids. Personal Sound Amplifiers also known as (Personal Sound Amplification Products), increase environmental sounds can help people hear better in certain situations, like hunting or birdwatching. Interesting to note that these devices are not designed for hearing impaired people. That's right these devices are specifically designed for non-hearing-impaired-consumers!
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to make sure you know the difference between a hearing aid and a personal sound amplifier. Here's what the FDA says about personal sound amplifiers:
Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs), or sound amplifiers, increase environmental sounds for non-hearing impaired consumers. Examples of situations when these products would be used include hunting (listening for prey), bird watching, listening to a lecture with a distant speaker, and listening to soft sounds that would be difficult for normal hearing individuals to hear (e.g., distant conversations, performances). PSAPs are not intended to be used as hearing aids to compensate for hearing impairment. – FDA
The FDA's Dr. Eric Mann, deputy director of FDA's Division of Ophthalmic, Neurological, And Ear, Nose, and Throat Devices says that the personal sound amplifiers can actually cause further hearing loss if used improperly.”It can cause a delay in diagnosis of a potentially treatable condition. And that delay can allow the condition to get worse and lead to other complications,”
Difference Between Hearing Aid and Personal Sound Amplifier
Difference In Cost
Despite what the FDA says, the difference in cost between a traditional hearing aid and a personal sound amplifier will have consumers curious about personal sound amplifiers. According to The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the cost of a single hearing aid is $2,300. If you need a pair, you'll be plunking down $4,600… That's a tremendous amount of money when you consider that a personal sound amplifier might cost you between $250 and $400.
There is some good news on the hearing aid front. If you shop around you can find deals out there (on quality products) that bring the cost of hearing aids down substantially. Doing some online research, finding innovative new companies (like Elevated Hearing), or simply visiting your local Costco store can arm you with information that can save you money.
If you think you're suffering with hearing loss, it's important to consult with a professional. Buying a personal sound amplifier might seem like a good idea because of cost concerns, but one shouldn't do so without carefully evaluating the potential risks that may accompany that decision.