When most people start experiencing any level of hearing loss, the first thing that comes to mind is whether they will need to use a hearing aid. And in some cases, this might be necessary.
However, considering the high cost of hearing aids, most people end up seeking out less costly hearing aid options. So, what are the best hearing aid alternatives? In comes Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs). Various studies have found some PSAPs to be as good as hearing aids, when it comes to enhancing the wearer’s ability to hear sounds clearly. This means that while PSAPs are not FDA approved for use in helping with hearing loss, they can act as an effective and reliable alternative to hearing aids, especially for those suffering from mild or moderate hearing impairment.
What is the best hearing aid alternative? I think the Otofonix Elite has the best blend of amplification, ease of use, and customer support!
Read on to find out more about PSAPs as alternatives to hearing aids.
What is a PSAP?
Simply put, a PSAP is a wearable device that is designed to amplify sounds in specific situations and environments. Since they are not regulated by the FDA, they tend to be cheaper. Furthermore, they are widely available and can be purchased without a prescription from the doctor.
How Do PSAP’s work?
To deliver amplified sound to the ear of the wearer, PSAPs are designed with a few important components. These include a microphone, speaker, amplifier, power source and volume controls. The sound to be amplified is captured by the microphone before being converted into a digital signal that is amplified and then sent to the speaker.
How Do They Differ From Hearing Aids?
To some degree, PSAPs and hearing aids use similar technology to deliver similar functions; however, these two are very different from each other. While hearing aids are specifically designed to help with hearing loss, and have been approved for this use by the FDA, PSAPs are simply designed to amplify sounds in various situations. The latest PSAPs come with a variety of features that bring their capabilities closer to those of hearing aids.
Why Would You Want a PSAP Instead of a Hearing Aid?
One of the main reasons why you might want a PSAP instead of a hearing aid is due to their substantially lower cost. While you might need to fork out thousands of dollars for a hearing aid, PSAPs are much cheaper as their production is not regulated by the FDA. Furthermore, it is much easier for you to get your hands on a PSAP as you do not need a prescription from your doctor, when looking to buy one.
What to Look For When Shopping for a Hearing Amplifier
While there are numerous PSAPs out there, you will find that most of them are not worth the money; regardless of how cheap they may be. To ensure that you end up with an effective device, we encourage you to focus on some important factors:
- A good PSAP should be backed by a variety of positive user reviews; or better yet, has been vetted by a reliable third party organization such as Consumer Reports.
- To ensure clarity of sound, the best PSAPs should cover all the frequencies that your hearing impairment covers. This frequency range should be at least 250 to 6,000 Hz or wider if possible.
- The latest technology, including directionality, noise reduction and other digital sound processing features, is also a must in any device worth its salt.
- Since these devices may be powered by traditional non-rechargeable batteries or rechargeable batteries, you should take some time to think about the type of battery that is suitable to your usage patterns.
- The best PSAP should also come with simple instructions and should be easy to use.
- Last but not least, it is important to check the return period on any device under consideration as you need to have enough time (about 4 weeks or 30 days) to test it out before making a binding decision.
Here’s A List Of The Top Six Best Hearing Aid Alternatives
Now that you know more about Personal Sound Amplifiers and how they can benefit you, here are some of the top models available today.
HD 250 Digital Hearing Aid
As a highly affordable hearing amplifier the HD 250 Digital Hearing Aid is one size fits all, in-the-ear digital hearing amplifier that comfortably and discretely fits in your ear. This programmable device delivers balanced amplified sound thanks to its Tri-layered Noise Reduction and Dynamic Speech Enhancement features.
Powered by a size 10 battery, the HD 250 also comes with a low battery warning feature. 6 batteries are included in the package. For easy and effortless volume control, the device has a push button. Finally, for a snug and comfortable fit, the device comes with three silicon fitting tips in large, medium and small sizes.
If you struggle with holding small objects, using this device might present a challenge.
While the non-rechargeable batteries might appear to be somewhat of an inconvenience to some, the HD 250 is a great option for those looking for a small and discrete PSAP with great features and simple one button operation.
Sound World Solutions CS 50+
In addition to amplifying sounds for the best clarity, the Sound World Solution CS 50+ comes with a free App (compatible iOS, Android, Mac and Windows) for easy customization and audio steaming. The slim over the ear placement design, just like a Bluetooth, ensures a comfortable and discrete fit at all times. For a tight a snug fit, the earpiece comes with 3 interchangeable tips, small, medium and large. While this sound amplifier is customizable it comes ready for use, with preset volume and environment controls.
To ensure that you get uninterrupted service from this device, the manufacturer includes 2 rechargeable batteries in the package. These can be used interchangeably; with each one lasting for at least 12 hours per charge.
The CS 50+ also comes with voice prompts, available in 4 different languages, for all common settings on the device.
On the downside however, there have been complaints that the CS 50+’s outer cover is poorly constructed and falls apart easily.
All in all it is a great device for those who are willing to look past its shortcomings.
Designed for unmatched sound clarity and performance, the Bose Hearphones, demonstrate the brand’s expertise and experience in creating the perfect sound. Designed for both ears, these stylishly designed sound amplifiers make hearing conversations and streaming audio effortless. The buttons on the headset can be used to adjust volume as well as the directivity of the microphones to ensure that you focus on the sound you want.
For further customization, download the free Bose Hear app and connect to the phone headset via Bluetooth. A five button remote is also part of the set up, and can be used to control volume, start and end calls or skip tracks. The multi function button can also be used to initiate voice commands via Google Assistant or Siri.
The Bose Hearphones are powered by a rechargeable battery.
If you are looking for a top quality PSAP, the multi-functional Bose Hearphones are definitely a worthy option.
Otofonix Elite Hearing Amplifier
For a comfy and nearly invisible look, the Otofonix Elite Hearing Amplifier is a mini-sized amplifier with a sleek modern design. For the clearest sound, this sound amplifier comes with ten volume levels and four different listening programs. This device delivers clear sound thanks to its Background Reduction, Feedback Suppression Noise Cancellation features. Seven batteries, each with a seven day battery life, are included in the package.
Should you need help setting up or using the device, Otofonix also offers Customer Support to their customers through email or phone. They also offer a 45 day risk free trial!
However, due to the small size of the hearing amplifier, operating the device might be a bit challenging for those who find handling tiny objects difficult.
Williams Sound Pocketalker Ultra
Featuring a two piece set up, an earpiece connected to a microphone module, the Williams Sound Pocketalker Ultra delivers clear and amplified sound in a simple process two step process. To start listening, just plug in the earpiece and place the microphone close to the source of the original sound. You can adjust the volume to your preferred level.
This sound amplifier is quite versatile and can work with a variety of headphone and earphone options. It also pairs well with telecoil and necklooped-equipped hearing aids.
To better match your hearing needs easily, the device is designed with separate volume and tone control buttons.
The package comes with two AAA alkaline batteries with a 200 hour battery life.
This device is a great option for those looking for a versatile and easy to use sound amplifier.
Entymotic Bean Quiet Sound Amplifier
This single piece is available in a sleek and eye catching brushed gold, platinum or bronze finish. Designed to offer unmatched sound amplification and clarity in surroundings that are less than ideal, the Entymotic Bean Quiet Sound Amplifier is quite easy to use. The device supports two levels of sound amplification with its two position switch.
Size 10 Zinc Air batteries are used to power this sound amplifier.
Like other tiny sound amplifiers described above, handling this device might be challenging for those who find handling small objects to be difficult.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you see an audiologist?
Yes. You should see an audiologist in order to have your hearing properly tested by an expert. The results of the hearing tests conducted by your audiologist will determine whether you need to use a hearing aid or not. (Source)
Are hearing amplifiers safe?
Hearing amplifiers are safe provided that they are used correctly, and in the right applications. This is according to the information provided by the FDA.
Do hearing amplifiers really work?
Yes! In a JAMA study published back in 2019, the authors concluded that in patients with mild to moderate hearing loss, PSAPs are as effective as high quality hearing aids. However, in people suffering from severe hearing loss, the effectiveness of sound amplifiers is bested by that of hearing aids.
What is the difference between a hearing aid and a sound amplifier?
According to the FDA a hearing aid is a wearable sound amplification device that is specifically designed to compensate for any loss of hearing. A sound amplifier on the other hand is defined as a wearable electronic product that is designed to amplify sound in some environments.
How much hearing loss requires a hearing aid?
You might need a hearing aid if you have any degree of hearing loss. Your degree of hearing loss – mild, moderate or severe -, as determined by the tests administered by your audiologist, is used to establish whether or not you need a hearing aid. The term degree of hearing loss can be translated to mean how loud sounds need to be before you hear them clearly. You have mild hearing loss if you can only hear sounds at 30dB, moderate if you only hear at 50dB and moderately severe if you only hear sound at 60dB. (Source)
Hearing loss can leave you feeling left out and even confused as you struggle to follow conversations. Listening to music and watching TV can also be a challenge as you struggle with hearing speech. A suitable PSAP, though not approved by the FDA to help with hearing loss, can prove to be quite invaluable by making speech clearer through sound amplification. According to research findings, the best sound amplifiers can deliver the same results as hearing aids when used by people with mild to moderate hearing impairment.
While there is a wide selection of sound amplification products available out there, only the best can provide the level of sound clarity needed. To find the best hearing aid alternative, it is recommended that you keep a few important factors in mind; these will eventually guide you to the right product.
The above list is made up of arguably the best sound amplifiers on the market. However, the Otofonix Elite Hearing Amplifier edges them all, and in my opinion is the best of them all. While the features are more or less the same as those of the competitors, the highly rated customer support provided by the manufacturer gives it an edge over the others.