For decades, the world of hearing health was very one-dimensional. Those with hearing challenges went to an audiologist for assistance. The professional would then diagnose your condition and potentially issue a prescription for a hearing aid.
Nowadays, as with many facets of life, technological advancements have opened up the field of hearing health. Today’s consumers enjoy a myriad of options such as hearing amplification devices (also known as personal sound amplification products or PSAPs) and hearables. Yet this increased level of choice comes with the possibility for confusion.
If you’re looking for assistance with your hearing health issues, you might have questions like the following:
- What are PSAPs?
- How do they differ from hearables and hearing aids?
- What type of device is right for me?
If that all sounds familiar, then don’t panic. We’re going to examine the different options available today and provide you with some valuable insights. These insights should hopefully empower you to make more informed decisions about your hearing health.
Hearing Amplification Devices
Also known as Personal Sound Amplifiers or PSAPs, personal amplification devices boost environmental hearing. That is, they amplify sound from the world around you.
Because of this, some tout personal sound amplifiers as a cheaper alternative to hearing aids and hearables. However, audiologists and doctors stress the key differences in the functionality of personal amplification devices. These differences make such devices unsuitable for those with profound hearing loss.
To put it simply, PSAPs aren’t selective and simply make all noises louder, regardless of their frequency or volume. This is why they’re primarily designed to be used by people who have a full range of hearing. Such devices provide useful amplification for recreational activities such as watching live theatre or birdwatching.
Are Hearing Amplification Devices Dangerous?
PSAPs aren’t inherently dangerous in and of themselves. However, their misuse can potentially be harmful in a number of ways.
For example, the inappropriate use of a hearing amplification device can further damage your hearing. Beyond that, using PSAPs in situations where hearing aids are needed may delay proper diagnosis and treatment. Such delays potentially increase the risk of further hearing loss.
“So”, we hear you asking, “what exactly are hearables and how do they differ from personal sound amplification devices?”
Coined in 2014 by tech analyst Nick Hunn in his blog post “Hearables – the new Wearables”, the term refers to a range of smart, wireless earbuds with hearing enhancement capabilities. His post foresaw the evolution of wearable devices from the wrist to the ear, as he wrote the following:
“Currently Credit Suisse holds the prize for unwarranted optimism with a prediction of a market value of up to $50 billion for wearables in 2018. I think they’ve all missed the largest potential market for wearables – a category I’m going to call Hearables. The ear is the new wrist.”
Unlike PSAPs that simply use microphones and/or earbuds to amplify the sound around them, hearables are in-ear devices that harness a range of cutting-edge technologies. These hearing devices change the way that you engage with the auditory world around you while integrating smartphones and mobile applications.
The Hearables Use Case
As stated earlier, it’s important to recognise that hearables aren’t the same as medically-certified hearing aids. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that not everyone with hearing health challenges needs an audiologist-prescribed hearing aid.
It’s an especially significant distinction given that hearing aids often set patients back thousands of dollars. By contrast. hearables represent a less expensive, more easily accessible option that can provide significant hearing health benefits. A large percentage of those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss neglect to address their challenges. Hearables, in addition to new regulations governing how hearing devices are classified, will give consumers more options in the years to come.
Nearly 40 million adults report difficulty hearing, yet only a fraction of them use hearing aids, primarily due to high costs. @ChuckGrassley & I passed a law in 2017 to make hearing aids available over-the-counter & drive down costs. Today that law is closer to the finish line.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) October 19, 2021
Many hearables use cutting-edge smart technology (such as the Passive Noise Control, Active Noise Cancellation and Directional Focus used in our IQbuds2 MAX) to enable users to actively shape the way that they interact with their auditory environment. Whether it’s tuning out the world around you while you focus on a call or enhancing your ability to listen to a conversation in a noisy, crowded bar, many hearables empower their users with the ability to take control of their hearing health.
Hearables can also be used in conjunction with a number of other hearing apps to help people with hearing challenges live fuller lives.
A Whole New World of Sound Control
Let’s explore how hearables differ from PSAPs further. Specifically, consider how IQbuds2 MAX empowers users to actively control ang augment their auditory worlds:
- World Volume Control (a function that controls ambient noise and speech in the user’s physical environment)
- The Focus feature enables directional sound control. Notably, the feature isolates sound and speech from directly ahead of the listener, while reducing noise and conversations from the sides and behind.
- Ear ID self-assessment and auto-calibration functionality that enables them to adapt to the user’s hearing strengths and weaknesses and deliver superior performance (when compared with more basic PSAPs).
- IQstream TV companion device enables surround sound quality television audio with independent volume control.
IQbuds2 MAX provide an excellent example of the immense control and versatility that hearables offer. Music, podcasts, TV shows, phone calls, ambient noise, conversations – Today’s consumer can personalise all of these audio streams from the one device.
Hearing Aids, PSAPs or Hearables – Which One Is Right For You?
The short answer is, if you were experiencing any form of hearing challenge then a simple personal amplification device is not the right option for you. These devices primarily offer ambient sound amplification for people without hearing loss or sensory issues.
For those experiencing mild-to-moderate hearing loss or who live with sensory issues such as ASD and APD – or for people simply wanting more control over their auditory world – then smart hearables are a great, accessible and cost-effective option.
However, if you have severe hearing loss that seriously affects your quality of life, then an audiologist-prescribed hearing aid might be the right solution for you.