Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Pump Up the Volume: Gadgets for Improving Your Hearing

By Yelena Sapin

Problem: Trouble Hearing
As you add another candle to your birthday cake, you might begin to notice that your hearing isn’t as sharp as it once was. It might be brought to your attention by loved ones complaining that the TV or radio is too loud, or you might find it increasingly difficult to follow conversations in noisy rooms or restaurants. Dr. Ingrid Edwards, the audiology team leader at Heuser Hearing Institute, suggests two types of products that can help whether or not you wear a hearing aid. But regardless of your hearing needs, remember to use earplugs or protective ear gear when engaged in any noisy activity, and consult a hearing specialist before inserting any device in your ear.

Solution: Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs)
Intended for use by people who do not wear hearing aids, a personal sound amplification product is neither a medical device nor a replacement for a hearing aid. It can, however, provide a boost when watching TV, listening to lectures or distant speakers, or trying to keep up with conversations in noisy environments. “It’s appropriate for people who have a very mild hearing loss or just situational problems,” Dr. Edwards says. PSAPs come in many different forms, shapes, and sizes. Some deliver sound via earphones while others may be placed inside the ear. Higher-end PSAPs are adjustable not only for volume but also for frequency, and can be synced with your phone or other electronic devices.

Solution: Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)
While there is overlap in functionality with PSAPs, assistive listening devices can also be used by people with more significant hearing impairment. “You can use an assistive listening device by itself if you have situational hearing loss, or by using different hardware you can pair it with a hearing aid or cochlear implant to stream the sound directly to your ear,” Dr. Edwards says. ALDs come in wired, Bluetooth, FM, infrared, and induction loop systems, and most public venues are now set up to offer use of the technology to anyone who needs it.

Where to get them: Amazon, RadioShack, online retailers, and most audiology centers offer a variety of PSAPs and ALDs. An audiologist can guide you in choosing a device that best meets your needs.

Cost: $10 to $500 and up depending on the device and features

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