Sound amplification device may be a cheaper hearing aid choice

In the journals

Hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars, but a study in the July 4, 2017, Journal of the American Medical Association found that less expensive over-the-counter personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) might be a good alternative for some people.

PSAPs resemble hearing aids and help amplify sounds the same way, but are not regulated by the FDA and thus cannot be marketed as a correction or treatment for hearing loss. They often are advertised as being helpful in noisy places like crowds and meetings, and are sold online for about $200 to $400.

In the study, researchers compared the effectiveness of a traditional hearing aid with five of the most common PSAPs among 63 adults, average age 72, with mild to moderate hearing loss marked by trouble hearing soft sounds from a distance (such as sitting in the back of a room at a meeting) or in a crowded environment (such as a busy restaurant).

Researchers had the two groups repeat back sentences under different background noise conditions. They found that the hearing aid group was able to repeat back 88% of words spoken to them. In comparison, four of the PSAPs helped people repeat 81% to 87% of spoken words, which was clinically equivalent. (The fifth PSAP had only a 65% success rate.) The researchers noted that for some people, a PSAP might be a low-cost option for people with situational hearing loss.

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