PERSONAL SOUND AMPLIFICATION DEVICES VS. HEARING AIDS

We all know that PSAPs aren’t hearing aids - but do your customers? The cheap price tag of Personal Sound Amplification Devices (PSAPs) is enticing to many people with hearing loss, but the devices themselves could damage hearing.
Educating customers
Like most hearing professionals, Illinois-based Audiologist Susan Marshall frequently has conversations with new hearing aid users about the differences between Like most hearing professionals, Illinois-based Audiologist Susan Marshall frequently has conversations with new hearing aid users about the differences between hearing aids and PSAPs.

Here is the advice she gives them:

  • A PSAP won’t distinguish between the types of sounds
    “A PSAP has no adjustments for the type of hearing loss someone might have, nor are there adjustments to distinguish between voices and background noise. A PSAP might be good for listening to the TV, but it won’t help in more difficult listening situations.”

  • The PSAP is an amplifier
    “Adjusting the volume on a PSAP turns everything up or down. Hearing aids with digital chips will bring out voice and conversation, which is generally what a patient is looking for.”

  • The PSAP has a generic fit
    “If you don’t have a good fit, it will make your ear sore. Poor fit also negatively impacts the quality of the sound. So it may seem like a good deal, but it could also be a waste of money.”

  • There are better options, even if you’re concerned about price
    “There are lots of really good, basic digital custom hearing aids available for reasonable prices.”

  • Mail order has constraints
    “People can’t try a PSAP before ordering it. I offer customers a 30-day hearing aid trial period, during which the technology is fine-tuned to their needs.”

  • Listen to the potential
    “If someone is still not convinced, I keep hearing instruments in stock that I can demonstrate for them,” says Marshall. “The person who has a hearing loss often doesn’t realize how much it affects them. They don’t know how much they are missing.”

Finally, Marshall points out that there is no substitute for establishing a personal connection with customers.

“As hearing professionals, we need to walk patients through the process of getting acclimated to their devices,” she says. “Take the time to show them not just how to use it and how to care for it, but also to reassure them that you are there if they need help.”
How they differ: FDA definitions and distinctions
Within its regulations, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has attempted to make a clear distinction between hearing aids and PSAPs. This distinction is essential, in part, because over-amplification can damage hearing.

  • Hearing aids: Defined as a wearable sound-amplifying device that is intended to compensate for impaired hearing.

  • PSAPs: Defined as a wearable electronic product that is not intended to compensate for impaired hearing, but rather is intended for non-hearing impaired consumers to amplify sounds in the environment for a number of reasons, such as for recreational activities like hunting or bird watching.

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