Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP) Buying Guide
What Is Personal Sound Amplification?
A personal sound amplification product is a wearable medical device that is used to amplify sounds for personal consumption. They are more sophisticatedly than everyday audio headphones, but less powerful and at a low-cost compared to hearing aid devices. PSAPs are over-the-counter devices audiologists sometimes recommend for people experiencing early mild hearing loss, or moderate hearing loss following a hearing test. This recommendation is in contrast to people with profound hearing loss who need hearing aids.
Who needs sound amplification?
A personal hearing amplifier might help if you struggle to understand a conversation when there's background noise. Or maybe you're unable to hear your TV without it being too loud for the family around you.
A personal sound amplifier has directional microphones and a quiet sound amplifier that aid noise reduction and speech understanding in poor listening situations. Some personal amplification devices can even connect directly to your TV or phone using Bluetooth. This lets you control your listening experience compared to others.
Personal sound amplification vs. headphones
In many ways, personal amplifiers as a form of hearing aid have evolved out of the headphones industry. While the Food and Drug Administration doesn't sanction the use of PSAPs for hearing loss, some audiology professionals still recommend their use for minor cases.
Historically, most music headphones were focused on wide-spectrum sound quality plugged into an audio jack and projected into ears that have good hearing health. Meanwhile, hearing aids were focused on sound amplification earpieces with directional microphones, substantially amplified for consumption with hearing impairments. However, as music headphones and earbuds have become wireless and begun to include microphones, over-the-counter hearing aids and OTC PSAPs have provided a middle-ground solution for people with nuanced hearing needs facing minor hearing loss.
If the highest volume from your headphones still sounds muffled, ask an audiologist about personal sound amplification hearing device.
Can headphones be used as sound amplification?
It's hard to say no to this question. Headphones and PSAPs are related, so what is a standard feature on a personal sound amplification product might also be an optional high-end feature on a pair of wireless headphones. Wireless headphones by Lucid are marketed as both headphones and personal sound amplification devices because they are light, mobile, Bluetooth connected for standard devices, and amplify sound for people with minor hearing loss.
Buy personal sound amplification products at Sam's Club
You can get excellent wireless PSAPs from Lucid and Accent at Sam's Club for members-only prices. These include the Lucid Video and Audio broadcaster which Bluetooth connects your TV and favorite media devices directly to your personal sound amplification headphones.
What Different Types of Personal Sound Amplification Products Are There?
Over the ear headphones
This classic style of headphones includes two cushioned sound receivers/speakers, that are connected by a curved arc of plastic and metal that goes over the top of the head. This design can be wired or wirelessly connected to a smartphone or other media source. Over-the-ear PSAP headphones will often also include integrated directional microphones that amplify nearby sounds or conversations that aren't being streamed by a connected media device.
In-ear sound amplifiers
This more discreet style of headphones, sometimes called earbuds, involve placing small speakers into the ear, usually resting in the opening of the ear canal. In-ear sound amplifiers may be standalone devices for the left ear and right ear separately. Or they can be wired to a base device that rests around a wearers neck and connects to each ear.
Most PSAPs are wireless devices because they need to channel sound not just from media devices, but also from attached microphones to improve the volume of nearby conversations.
What Sizes of Personal Sound Amplification Products Can I Choose?
PSAPs are OTC products that don't come in personalized sizes. Over the ear headphones are usually larger, but adjustable most sizes of adult heads, but may not effectively fit around all head sizes or hairstyles. In-ear sound amplifiers usually come in one size, with multiple sizes of rubber cushion in each pack to fit different sizes of the ear canal.
What to Consider when Buying Personal Sound Amplification Products
What type of sound amplification you prefer
If you're only looking to amplify the sound coming from media devices, focus on a device with versatile connectivity. However, if you're looking to enhance conversations in noisy environments, a PSAP with good directional microphones and background noise cancellation should be a priority.
The size of the device should fit your everyday needs. If you don't mind a large over-ear design while you work, that's excellent. But you may need something in-ear for discretion or if you need to wear a hardhat.
Most PSAPs are rechargeable, but not all, so consider the battery life for each charge, or for disposable batteries. Also, if a device is rechargeable, consider the total battery life, because you may need to replace the entire product when that duration has run its course.
Generally, PSAPs are not covered by health care insurance plans. But these devices are also much less expensive than hearing aids.
A personal sound amplification product is available from Sam's Club at members-only prices from $80 - $400.
What Brands of Personal Sound Amplification Products Does Sam's Club Sell?
FAQ - Personal Sound Amplification Products
Which brand is best for headphones?
Lucid makes great audio amplification headphones.
Does Medicare cover sound amplifiers?
Medicare does not cover hearing aids, sound amplifiers or similar products.