Picture of a decibel meterDo you have trouble hearing your daughter on the phone? Or maybe you find it hard to hear your co-worker with office background noise.

Maybe a PSAP is the answer. But like most people these days you’re doing your research online. You have questions.

What is a PSAP? Is it a viable hearing aid alternative? Are there any risks?

What is a PSAP?

PSAP stands for “Personal Sound Amplification Product.” They make the sound coming into the ear louder so that a person with mild hearing loss is more likely to hear it.

PSAP is a more modern version of the “ear trumpets” or “ear horns” used in the 1800’s before hearing aids were invented.

These devices usually look very technologically-advanced. They use Bluetooth technology to bring distant sound directly to your ear. The device can be wirelessly connected to a Smartphone, SmartTV or advanced sound system.

How Does the FDA Classify the PSAP?

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is the government agency responsible for protecting consumers from medical products that make fraudulent claims in the United States.

The FDA clearly distinguishes between a PSAP and a hearing aid. They require that those who sell PSAP do the same to avoid misleading consumers.

Under FDA guidance, PSAP vendors should not call their devices a “medical device” or claim that it “helps the hearing impaired” unless it meets the regulatory standards of a hearing aid. These devices do not meet those standards and are largely unregulated.

It classifies the device as a wearable recreational device for occasional use by people who are not hearing impaired.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and Consumer Reports similarly remind consumers that a PSAP is not a hearing aid.

How Is the PSAP Different from a Hearing Aid?

A PSAP amplifies all sound coming into the ear. Like a hearing aid, you can connect the PSAP to a smartphone to listen directly to music or the TV. However, everything else, including background noise, becomes louder.

For example, picture you’re having a dinner conversation in a restaurant, and you turn up the volume on everything. This will likely impact your ability to hear the person you’re trying to speak to.

A hearing aid doesn’t just amplify sound. It regulates the sound coming into the ear. It distinguishes between the person you’re speaking with and background noise. It helps minimize sound distortions that can make listening to music and conversation unpleasant.

It can be adjusted to optimize hearing in various settings like:

  • At a festival
  • In a restaurant
  • On the phone
  • Discussions with multiple people
  • Going for a walk
  • Sporting events
  • At the movies

In these settings, the PSAP would merely make everything louder. If you have hearing loss, this not only doesn’t solve the problem; it can cause discomfort or further damage your hearing.

When to Consider a PSAP Device

A person who occasionally wants sound a little louder may benefit from a PSAP. For example, if you watch TV late at night while your spouse sleeps in the next room, a PSAP may end the quarrels over late night TV volume.

The Danger of Using a PSAP

PSAPs can seem appealing because they cost less than a quality hearing aid. Some may even think that they are just a cheaper version of the same thing, but using a PSAP when you really need a hearing aid not only diminishes your sound experience, it can be dangerous!

An audiologist can examine the hearing loss to determine its cause. It may be an infection, earwax or even a tumor. In these cases, delayed medical care could cause serious damage to your hearing and overall health.

Even if the hearing loss is age-related, speaking with a professional regarding hearing solutions will help you stay safer, healthier and connected with those you love.

On top of this, indiscriminately amplified sound can cause or worsen your hearing loss. Using a PSAP device may turn mild hearing loss into a major problem. In a recent report published by Consumer Reports, they remind consumers of this fact.

Making the Decision

Some people use PSAP when they really need a hearing aid. They don’t realize how much clearer and more enjoyable sound is with a hearing aid.

If you’re considering getting a PSAP, get your hearing tested first. Learn about the advanced hearing technology found in today’s hearing aids.