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What's New in Hearing Amplifiers? (PSAPs?)

If you’re having trouble following conversations in noisy restaurants, missing what people at the other end of the table are saying in meetings, having to turn the TV volume way up, then you might want to try a personal sound amplification product (PSAP), electronic devices that are similar to hearing aids but are for people that are not experiencing hearing impairments. Hearing aids can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $3,500, but PSAPs cost a fraction of that- on average $250 to $500 each.

Unlike hearing aids, PSAPs do not have approval by the Food and Drug Administration to be used as medical devices; rather, they are classified as electronic products that are to be used recreationally by people that want to amplify environmental sounds in certain situations (such as noisy restaurants). One of the benefits about PSAPs is that they are usually ready to go right out of the box; no testing or fitting by an audiologist is required.

If you think you may have some degree of hearing impairment, it is recommended that a professional hearing test be conducted to determine the cause of your hearing problems. However, studies are beginning to demonstrate that modern PSAPs can sometimes even outperform traditional hearing aids, especially when it comes to speech intelligibility in a quiet environment, and act as a good alternative to traditional hearing aids in certain cases. In comparison, hearing amplifiers are certainly the less expensive option, and therefore may also be a great option for those who cannot afford traditional hearing aids.

There are Many Types of Personal Sound Amplification Products

There are many PSAPs on the market that amplify sound, but some work better than others in certain situations. Some high end hearing amplifiers offer the functionality to adjust sound amplification volumes for each sound frequency, as opposed to general devices that amplify every frequency equally, which is known to damage your ears in the process. Some amplifiers may be better in meetings and lectures. For instance, some models offer a wireless microphone that connects to the PSAP via bluetooth. The microphone can be placed in the middle of a table, enabling you to hear everything that is said.

Recent advancements in technology has allowed PSAPs to offer many new features and benefits as well - which make them even more appealing to the consumer. Read on to learn more!

Bluetooth Functionality is Here to Stay

The Bluetooth functionality available on most high end PSAPs makes them extremely convenient and useful devices. They pair easily with your smartphone and can seamlessly stream music or other audio from your phone to your PSAP. To top it off, PSAPs these days are designed to resemble bluetooth headsets, which means people that need to use them can blend in more easily, and avoid the stigma caused by traditional hearing aids that look like medical devices. As mentioned earlier, some models include a remote microphone that connects directly to the PSAP via bluetooth. You simply place the microphone where the sound you need to hear is located, and it transmits directly to the PSAP.

What's With the Smartphone App?

Many PSAPs on the market today include a dedicated app that you download easily to your smartphone. The app lets you easily change the volume or other settings without needing a specialist to tune it for you. Some apps like Olive Smart Ear's App have custom programs that are optimal for different environmental settings, such as inside or outside, in a noisy environment like a restaurant, or when you are experiencing too much background noise. You just tap the phone once change the settings and it does the rest. Some apps also include a in-app hearing test, which automatically tunes sound frequencies to the user's needs. These apps make most PSAPs highly customizable and easy to customize - your smartphone essentially acts as a remote control for the PSAP, where you can change settings based on your preferences.

Rechargeable Batteries Means More Convenience

Rechargeable PSAPs are often more expensive than PSAPs with replaceable batteries, but the convenience and savings is often worth the higher price. As long as you have access to an electrical outlet, you can charge your PSAPs anytime and anywhere. The rechargeable batteries in PSAPs typically last six to eight hours, enough to get you through the day. With those higher quality PSAPs, you only need to set the PSAP on the charger at night and it charges while you sleep. More and more rechargeable PSAPs are coming onto the market, which is also good for the environment- it decreases the waste generated by disposable batteries.

Rechargeable batteries in PSAPs do have their drawbacks, however. For instance, if you are in a situation where you don’t have access to electricity for more than a day, such as with camping, you will be unable to use your PSAP once the batteries drain, as you can’t simply change the batteries for fresh ones. Also, if you are an avid user of the bluetooth function of many PSAPs to stream music and other audio, your battery will drain faster than through normal use. In these cases, be sure to bring a portable charger, or choose devices with extra charges in their carrying case. 

What Is Compression and Why is It Important?

The sound in a given environment has a dynamic range, which is the difference between the loudest portion of the sound and the quietest portion. This may apply to a song, a noisy restaurant, or a crowded concert hall. Often the quietest portions are drowned out by the loudest parts, and quite often those quiet portions of the sound are the parts you want to hear! Compression is the process of reducing a sound signal’s dynamic range, which is accomplished by decreasing the loudest portions and augmenting the result so that the quieter portions of the sound can be heard more easily. Not all PSAPs are programmed to provide compression, but it’s an important feature that will help you hear the things you want to hear, so keep compression in mind when researching the features of a particular PSAP.

Other Features To Consider When Looking For the Right PSAP

Modern PSAPs offer many other great features that are designed to help you hear things better. For instance, directionality is a feature aimed at improving your understanding of speech by focusing on what’s in front of the wearer (usually the speaker). Noise reduction is a feature that is designed to remove unwanted background noise, such as air conditioner hum or other droning sounds. Feedback suppression is another feature of some PSAPs that works to reduce the annoying high-pitched feedback sound that often occurs with hearing aids and other amplifiers.

One last point to consider: if you think you might be experiencing hearing loss, the best thing to do is have a formal hearing test and evaluation by a licensed audiologist to determine if you do have hearing loss, and learn what your treatment options are. A hearing test is most likely covered by your health insurance.

The information in this guide has been written using the following reliable sources:

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