A Guide to PSAPs: Everything You Need To Know
Updated: Oct 26, 2021
Personal sound amplification products, also known as PSAPs, provide users with the ability to amplify their surroundings. The PSAPs facilitate this by raising the volume of everything in the immediate vicinity, increasing volume levels, and sending it directly into a pair of attached headphones. PSAPs can provide a necessary boost to individuals, but they have their own specific advantages and challenges to consider before committing to an amplifier.
Very often, people believe that PSAPs are interchangeable with medical hearing aids. This is not the case, and it’s critical to know what product you need and why you should or should not use a specific device. Consider a guide to PSAPs and everything you need to know about them to make the best and safest decision possible.
What Are PSAPs?
A personal sound amplification product is a handheld device that channels the surrounding sound into a pair of headphones. This allows the user to raise or lower the volume to a comfortable level until they find the ideal settings. These settings can significantly increase the volume of a room or area, enabling the user to understand voices and sounds better.
Their most common application is for individuals who suffer from mild hearing loss, as the device increases surrounding volume directly into the ear. But other uses include hunting trips, bird watching, or listening to theater performances. The idea is that the audio device heightens sound levels, increasing convenience on these trips and offering a solution when enhanced hearing is a necessity, even for those with perfectly good hearing.
How Do PSAPs Work?
As mentioned, a PSAP is a handheld device, but to be more specific, it has an audio receiver that picks up surrounding sound. Different models can have different characteristics; some have a very directional receiver, which only heightens sound if you point them at specific points. At the same time, others have a broader range, where the PSAP increases the volume of the entire room.
Whichever model you have, the receiver picks up the sounds and sends the soundwaves through to a pair of attached headphones. The user can control the level of volume with a dial on the device, raising or lowering the sound as needed.
Are There Any Safety Considerations?
Ears are sensitive things, and too much noise will irreparably harm them. PSAP users need to understand this before they start using their devices; excessive or improper usage can result in hearing damage.
Because the PSAP increases the volume of every sound around the user, it risks the possibility of increasing an already loud sound. Users need to be aware of the environment they use their devices in. In a private space, such as the home, users can comfortably predict the expected noise levels, making it easier to control the PSAP. But in open, public spaces, the sound levels are significantly less predictable. An unexpected, loud sound becomes that much louder with the use of a PSAP, potentially hurting the ears and causing damage.
Always be cognizant of your surroundings and the possibility of encountering loud noises. While a single instance may not cause long-lasting damage, constant exposure to these loud sounds will inevitably damage the ears. You need to protect yourself and preserve your hearing and use your PSAP sparingly when you are unsure of the potential noise levels.
Can a PSAP Replace a Hearing Aid?
A personal sound amplification device is a commercially available tool that consumers can purchase without special permission. A hearing aid is a complex medical device prescribed by medical doctors and is only attainable through the permission of a doctor. While a PSAP can aid with mild hearing problems, it is not a cure for significant hearing loss.
Audiologists specifically calibrate hearing aids to the individual, customizing the mechanics to tailor the hearing aid to their particular needs. A PSAP is a general device that does not distinguish between different noises in the same way hearing aids do.
Those who suffer from significant hearing loss will find little use out of a PSAP; using the device may only serve to harm their hearing more. For significant hearing damage, individuals need to use hearing aids to listen to their surroundings properly and safely.
The Benefits of a PSAP
While audiologists do not recommend PSAPs for significant hearing loss, it is still a potential alternative to hearing aids for those only suffering from mild hearing loss. Due to the complexity of design, a hearing aid can cost thousands of dollars without insurance. This is prohibitively expensive for many people, especially when the loss of hearing they experience is still manageable. By contrast, most PSAPs cost less than $100, making them far more affordable for those with mild trouble hearing.
With the greater affordability, there are also no invasive procedures to install a PSAP; it is an independent device that you can put on and remove whenever you need to. You can have a choice of headphones and a selection of different devices for specific purposes.
The Risks of PSAPs
The possibility of causing more hearing damage through PSAPs is something you should not underestimate and something that bears repeating. Never use an audio amplifier in areas with already loud noises, and be aware of the potential for a sudden shift in volume. Be wary of using your device in public places, as you can never predict when you will run into a loud noise that will risk damaging your hearing further.
Know What You Need To Improve Quality of Life
Not everyone knows their level of hearing loss; some may think they have significant hearing damage, while the truth is that it may not be so bad. Make an appointment with an audiologist to determine the degree of hearing loss you suffer from.
With this knowledge, you can make an informed decision about your treatment going forward; whether you need a hearing aid, or a PSAP will do. Listen to the advice of your doctor and let their expertise assist in your decision-making process; they are trained professionals who have your best interests in mind. But before anything, always look for a guide to personal audio devices to go in with some knowledge beforehand and take an active role in your care plan.