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What is a Personal Sound Amplifier?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2016
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A personal sound amplifier is a device intended to amplify sounds and enhance hearing. Personal sound amplifiers are not the same as hearing aids, which amplify sounds to enhance hearing for the hearing impaired. In fact, many experts believe personal sound amplifiers shouldn't be used as a substitute for hearing aids. Instead, they should generally be used by those with normal hearing to amplify the sounds of televisions, radios, or voices in conversation. While personal sound amplifiers are typically inexpensive, they are not as specialized as hearing aids, and they can have some drawbacks.

A person with normal, unimpaired hearing may find a personal sound amplifier useful for distance hearing, or for listening to particularly quiet voices or sounds. Common uses of the personal sound amplifier include watching TV with the volume turned low, monitoring children as they play at a distance, or conversing with those who are naturally soft-spoken. Though not generally intended to enhance hearing in the hearing impaired, personal sound amplifiers can make conversations and recreational activities more enjoyable for many.

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Those who believe they may be suffering from hearing impairment are often strongly advised to seek medical attention from an audiologist. Many causes of hearing loss are treatable, and using a personal sound amplifier to enhance hearing without first consulting a professional can lead to further hearing impairment and even dangerous medical complications, depending on the causes of impairment. Experts further believe that hearing aids are better suited to enhance hearing for those with hearing loss because they are often more specialized than personal sound amplifiers. Hearing aids are often better able to filter out background noise than personal sound amplifiers, and are generally smaller, more discreet, and more comfortable to wear.

A personal sound amplifier is typically inexpensive. Models range in price, with the most expensive costing a few hundred dollars. Consumer and professional reviews often point out that inexpensive personal sound amplifiers can have the drawback of amplifying every sound, including the sounds produced by the user's own physical contact with the device.

Personal sound amplifiers do not necessarily filter out background noise. They can be bulky and uncomfortable to wear. Consumers wishing to benefit from a personal sound amplifier may be well advised to research carefully before choosing a product, and may want to consider spending more for a higher quality product.

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