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18 Best PSAP Hearing Devices of 2019

best-psap-hearing-devices

With the average cost of a hearing aid falling around $2,400, many people with hearing loss are asking, “Can a PSAP help my hearing?”.

Personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), are low-cost hearing devices that can range from just $10 to $500 and can be purchased without a prescription or even a hearing evaluation. They are sound amplifiers that are not tailored to an individual’s specific hearing loss.

However, many people with hearing loss are turning to PSAPs for help. And it’s understandable. The PSAPs on the market today look identical to hearing aids, are marketed to those with hearing loss just as hearing aids are, and are often much less expensive.

For those looking for low-cost hearing aids or those that don’t think their hearing is “bad enough” to warrant a hearing aid, it is understandable why a PSAP is being utilized instead.

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Our #1 Pick

LifeEar Empower BOOST Sound Amplifier

lifeear-cleartec-boost-colors


The LifeEar BOOST personal sound amplifier has 12 band digital signal processing that does more than just “turn the volume up.” Utilizing digital noise reduction, output limiting, feedback cancellation, and wide-dynamic-range-compression, the LifeEar device can help you focus on what you want to hear, without the distrubing background noise. Plus the device is easy to use and comes assembled in the box with clear user guide instructions.


 

The Otofonix hearing amplifier is a tiny, nearly invisible PSAP with 12-band digital sound processing, including adaptive noise reduction, feedback cancellation, and 4 user programs.

It comes pre-programmed with 10 volume levels to choose from and 7-10 days of battery life from this small device.

Our Runner-Up

Otofonix Elite Hearing Amplifier

otofonix-elite-colors

 


What is a PSAP?

A personal sound amplification product (PSAP) is not a hearing aid.

There are some similarities between PSAPs and hearing aids, as well as some big differences. The main difference between a hearing aid and a PSAP is its regulations (or lack of) and intended use, as outlined by the FDA.

Hearing aids are intended to compensate for impaired hearing, while PSAPs are not.

According to the FDA, “PSAPs are intended to amplify environmental sound for non-hearing impaired consumers. They are intended to accentuate sounds in specific listening environments, rather than for everyday use in multiple listening situations.” According to the FDA, PSAPs should not be considered replacements for hearing aids, nor should they be considered an over the counter (OTC) hearing aid.

Some examples of environments where PSAPs should be used include:

If you think you have a hearing loss, a PSAP is not recommended.

Note: many audiologists and hearing healthcare providers agree that a PSAP may be suited for people with a mild conductive hearing loss, but this should be differentiated from a sensorineural hearing loss.

Since the recent FDA draft guidelines on hearing aids and PSAPs in 2013, other hearing technology such as hearables have emerged, further muddying the waters.

In addition, a lot of focus in the US hearing healthcare industry within the past few years has been about the affordability and accessibility of hearing aids, which many believe is a big problem, and the major reason why so many people with hearing loss do not seek help, or rely on PSAPs for management of their hearing loss. You can read more about the current state of hearing healthcare here.

Before discussing PSAPs in more detail, it is important to understand the current hearing device technology differences.

Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP): PSAPs can be purchased directly by the consumer, without the need for a consultation from a hearing healthcare professional. There are FDA regulations for labeling products as personal sound amplification products but there are no regulations for manufacturing standards of PSAPs.

Hearing Aids: Hearing aids are Class I medical devices that are regulated by the FDA in regards to manufacturing and must be registered by the FDA. They are intended for prescription by a hearing healthcare professional following evaluation and consultation of the person’s hearing level.

Hearables: Hearables are a newer type of wireless earpiece that are being used to enhance sound, as well as additional features such as health monitoring and audio Bluetooth streaming. There are currently no FDA regulations for hearables when it comes to sound amplification.

Over the Counter Hearing Aids, Non-Prescription Hearing Aids, Ready-to-wear Hearing Aids: Several different names exist for hearing aids being sold direct to consumer without medical evaluation or prescription. There are no current FDA regulations but there is pending legislation for the creation of this category with regulatory standards. Read more about OTC hearing aids here.

What makes a good PSAP?

Because PSAPs are under-regulated, there is significantly limited data on their performance in real-world situations.

A few studies have looked at the performance of several PSAPs using real-ear measurements and found that they under-amplified the high frequencies and over-amplified the low frequencies.

Since most people have greater difficulty hearing high frequencies, this would prove a PSAP to be useless for a high-frequency hearing loss. Especially because a lot of the energy of background noise occurs in the low frequencies, making the PSAP wearer perceive the amplified low frequency sounds as “noisy”, with no improvement in speech clarity.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) compared the speech understanding in noise of participations with mild to moderate hearing loss while wearing a popular hearing aid (Oticon Nera) and 5 different PSAPs.

 

The speech understanding improvement without any amplification to the hearing aid was 11.9 points, a positive improvement, while the improvement of 4 of the PSAPs ranged from 4.9 to 11.0 points. However, one of the PSAPs tested (that retails for $29.99) actually caused the speech discrimination scores to get worse by -11.2 points while wearing the devices versus wearing no amplification at all.

One thing that a second PSAP study verified was that low-range (<$100) PSAP devices performed poorer on real-ear measurements than high-end (>$100) PSAP hearing devices did. This goes back to the “you get what you pay for” principle.

Although a PSAP may be a low-cost hearing device, it is important to remember that the lower you go in cost may also mean the lower you go in performance.

A cheap PSAP device may hinder your hearing progress instead of helping.

A good PSAP (and how we selected our top picks) has:

  • a good frequency response that includes small differences in the output of low frequencies versus high frequencies,
  • includes updated digital sound processing including noise reduction and/or directionality,
  • has a good design and overall fit for the user,
  • is easy to use with a clear instruction manual,
  • and has a positive user rating and reviews

Top 18 Best Personal Sound Amplifiers

We created the table below so you could have a place to quickly compare each of our picks.

Below the table you’ll find another section that goes into more details about each PSAP, if you’re still unsure which one to go with.

RankPictureNameStyleWhere to Buy
1LifeEar Empower BOOST Sound AmplifierBTECheck the price
2Otofonix Elite Hearing AmplifierBTECheck the price
3Williams Sound Pocketalker Ultra EarphonesCheck the price
4Nuheara IQbuds BoostEarbudsCheck the price
5RCA SymphonixBTECheck the price
6Bose HearphonesHeadphonesCheck the price
7Soundworld solutions C550+BTECheck the price
8Williams Sound Pocketalker Personal Amplifier PKT 2.0EarphonesCheck the price
9Etymotic Bean Quiet Sound AmplifierITECheck the price
10ZVOX VoiceBudBTECheck the price
11Merry Personal Amplifier ME-200PEarbudsCheck the price
12Merry Personal Amplifier ME-700EarbudsCheck the price
13Able Planet PS1600BTBTECheck the price
14Perfect Choice HD UltraRICCheck the price
15Starkey AmpITECheck the price
16PLAIDBTECheck the price
17Prosounds H2PITECheck the price
18Phantom Sound AmplifierBTECheck the price

A closer look at each PSAP

We’ve gone through each of our top picks and listed the major features of each.

If you’ve still got any questions after reading this section then feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

#1 LifeEar BOOST Sound Amplifier

lifeear-cleartec-boost-colors

Read more reviews

  • Type: BTE
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Size 10 zinc air
  • Battery life: unknown
  • Feedback cancellation: Yes
  • Noise reduction: Yes
  • Directional microphones:No

#2 Otofonix Elite Hearing Amplifier

otofonix-elite-colors

Read more reviews

  • Type: BTE
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Size 312 zinc air
  • Battery life: 7-10 days
  • Feedback cancellation: Yes
  • Noise reduction: Yes
  • Directional microphones: No

#3 Williams Sound Pocketalker Ultra

williams-sound-pocketalker

Read more reviews

  • Type: Headphones
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Two AAA Alkaline batteries
  • Battery life: 200 hours
  • Feedback cancellation: No
  • Noise reduction: No
  • Directional microphones: No
 

#4 Nuheara IQbuds Boost

nuheara-iqbuds-boost

Read our full review

  • Type: Wireless earbuds
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes with smartphone app
  • Battery type: Rechargeable
  • Battery life: Up to 32 hours
  • Feedback cancellation: No
  • Noise reduction: Yes
  • Directional microphone: Yes
 

#5 RCA Symphonix

rca-symphonix-case

Read more reviews

  • Type: BTE
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Size 312 zinc air or rechargeable
  • Battery life: 7 days zinc-air, 15 hours rechargeable
  • Feedback cancellation: No
  • Noise reduction: No
  • Directional microphones: No

#6 Bose Hearphones

bose-hearphones-sound-amplifier

Read more reviews

  • Type: Headphones
  • Volume control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes with smartphone app
  • Battery type: Size 312 battery
  • Battery life: 3-4 days
  • Feedback cancellation: Yes
  • Noise reduction: Yes
  • Directional microphone: Yes
 

#7 Soundworld solutions C550+

Read more reviews

  • Type: BTE
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery type: Lithium-ion rechargeable
  • Battery life: 15 hours
  • Feedback cancellation: Yes
  • Noise reduction: Yes
  • Directional microphones: Yes
 

#8 Williams Sound Pocketalker Personal Amplifier PKT 2.0

williams-sound-pockettalker-2

Read more reviews

  • Type: Earphone or Headphone
  • Volume Control: No
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Two AAA Alkaline batteries or NiMH rechargeable
  • Battery life: 105 hours with Alkaline, 80 hours with NiMH
  • Feedback cancellation: No
  • Noise reduction: No
  • Directional microphones: No

#9 Etymotic Bean Quiet Sound Amplifier

etymotic-qsa-psap-colors
  • Type: ITE
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Size 10 zinc air
  • Battery life: 10-12 days
  • Feedback cancellation: No
  • Noise reduction: No
  • Directional microphones: No

#10 ZVOX VoiceBud

ZVOX-VoiceBud-VB20-Hearing-Amplifier

Read our full review

  • Type: BTE
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes with smartphone app
  • Battery type: Rechargeable
  • Battery life: Up to 10 hours
  • Feedback cancellation: No
  • Noise reduction: Yes
  • Directional microphone: Yes
 

#11 Merry Personal Amplifier ME-200P

merry-personal-amplifier-me-200p

Read more reviews

  • Type: Earphone
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Rechargeable Li-ion
  • Battery life: 20 hours
  • Feedback cancellation: No
  • Noise reduction: Yes
  • Directional microphones: No

#12 Merry Personal Amplifier ME-700

merry-personal-amplifier-me-700-tv

Read more reviews

  • Type: Earphone with Wireless Microphone
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No but includes wireless microphone
  • Battery type: Rechargeable Li-ion
  • Battery life: 3 hours
  • Feedback cancellation: No
  • Noise reduction: Yes
  • Directional microphones: No
 

#13 Able Planet PS1600BT

able-planet-bte-amplifier

Read more reviews

  • Type: BTE
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Size 10 zinc air
  • Battery life: unknown
  • Feedback cancellation: Yes
  • Noise reduction: No
  • Directional microphone: No

#14 Perfect Choice HD Ultra

perfect-choice-hd-ultra-psap

Can only be purchased through a provider

  • Type: RIC
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Size 312 zinc air
  • Battery life: 7-10 days
  • Feedback cancellation: No
  • Noise reduction: No
  • Directional microphone: Yes

#15 Starkey Amp

starkey-amp

Can only be purchased through a provider

  • Type: IIC
  • Volume Control: No
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Size 10 zinc air
  • Battery life: unknown
  • Feedback cancellation: Yes
  • Noise reduction: No
  • Directional microphone: No

#16 PLAID

plaid-personal-listening-aid

Can only be purchased through a provider

  • Type: BTE
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Size 312 zinc air
  • Battery life: 5 to 7 days
  • Feedback cancellation: Yes
  • Noise reduction: No
  • Directional microphone: Yes

#17 Prosounds H2P

prosounds-h2p

Currently only available on IndieGoGo

  • Type: ITE
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Size 10 zinc air
  • Battery life: 140 hours
  • Feedback cancellation: No
  • Noise reduction: Yes, marketed for hearing protection as well
  • Directional microphone: No

#18 Phantom Sound Amplifier

phantom-sound-amplifier

Can only be purchased through a provider

  • Type: BTE
  • Volume Control: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery type: Size 10 zinc air
  • Battery life: unknown
  • Feedback cancellation: Yes
  • Noise reduction: Yes
  • Directional microphone: Yes

Why should you trust us?

Hearing health and safety is our highest priority when it comes to the recommendations we make on Everyday Hearing. Therefore, for this PSAP review article we have removed all the personal sound amplifiers that we know have potentially dangerous output levels (>120 dB).

Using any hearing device at high sound levels can be damaging to the user and that is why we have removed those PSAPs as options in the list above.

Based on our research, we also found that very low-end PSAP devices (<$50) showed very little hearing benefit and can actually have the opposite effect…actually blocking sounds and acting more like an expensive earplug. Therefore, we have also eliminated the very low-cost PSAP devices from this review (<$50).

You can read more about our expertise and motivations here.

Some things to consider when buying a PSAP

We have been hesitant to write about PSAPs because at Everyday Hearing we understand the value of the hearing healthcare professional and believe that anyone who suspects they have a hearing loss should see an Audiologist for proper evaluation and treatment.

We recommend that you have a hearing evaluation before considering one of the PSAP devices listed above.

Did you know? You can use our free online tool to get matched with trusted hearing specialists in your area, click here to get started.

Final thoughts

When it comes to purchasing a PSAP device, not one PSAP is going to be right for every person. It is going to depend on what your individual needs and wants are from the device.

For example, some devices have Bluetooth capabilities but most don’t. Some are worn on or in the ear and are very discreet, and others are worn as headphones.

You will want to consider what function you are wishing to use the PSAP in. Use our information in the charts and lists above to narrow down which PSAP would be best for you.

If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment below and we will get back to you.

Lindsey Banks

Audiologist

Lindsey Banks is a graduate of the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) program at the University of Florida. She uses her diverse experience in hearing healthcare and her passion for helping people to provide credible information to those with hearing loss who visit Everyday Hearing.

Comments

  1. Frank Grayiel says:

    I was tested at Duke medical center and was told I have moderate hearing loss in both ears. I have the print out but am unable to convert the chart to usable information. I think that a psad would help me and be more in my price range. What do I look for on the chart to see if this is a possibility?

    1. Helpful Specialist says:

      Frank,

      I am a licensed hearing aid specialist. A few things to consider before purchasing any non programmable device are as follows..how much loss do you have in the high frequencies, how often are you in background noise, and what is your Word Recognition score percentage. If your high frequency (anything from 1.5k-8k Hz) thresholds are above (less than) 55dB, a PSAP would probably work for you…If you are not in that much background noise (going out to restaurants every once in awhile, attending a meeting a couple times a month, a relatively non-noisy work environment) then a PSAP may work for you…If you Word Recognition percentage is above 85%, then a PSAP may work for you. There are clear advantages to investing in a digital, programmable hearing aid (the programmable part is the biggest) but if you have some loss in the highs, live a relatively quiet life and have good speech understanding, you may be able to get by with a PSAP. And if you are just dipping your toes into the world of hearing amplification I would say give an amplifier a shot, just make sure you check the return policy because you may quickly realize that while it helps every now and then, a real hearing aid may be what’s best for you in your everyday life for the long haul.

    2. Everyday Hearing says:

      Unfortunately there’s not much the chart will tell you for a PSAP because PSAPs are one-size fits all, they cannot be adjusted for your hearing loss anyways. If you have a more flat hearing loss you may benefit more from a PSAP.

  2. Sj says:

    Thoughts on the eargo device out of my. View ca

  3. Karen H. says:

    What criteria did you use to rank these products?

  4. Kitty C says:

    Why do you not define your acronyms? What do BTE, ITE, etc. stand for???

    1. Everyday Hearing says:

      Sorry about that…BTE is behind-the-ear, ITE is in-the-ear

      1. Don Alexander says:

        When you say in the ear or out, my hearing aid is behiund my ear and goes into the ear. ???

  5. Michel Kun says:

    Please quote # 12 Merry Personal Amplifier Mod. ME-700

  6. Pat R. says:

    Please explain the acronym RIC. Thank you.

    1. Everyday Hearing says:

      Pat,

      RIC stands for Receiver-in-canal. It is a style of hearing aids which have a behind-the-ear component, and an in-the-ear component. You can read more about it here: https://www.everydayhearing.com/receiver-in-the-canal-hearing-aids-ric/

  7. Rob says:

    Well done article, provides accurate information about state of the art of today’s hearing aid technology

    1. Danette says:

      Remember Rob, they aren’t hearing aids they are personal sound amplification devices and will not correct your hearing loss if you have one.

  8. Jean says:

    First, I really appreciate your review in a world where audiologists are hesitant to comment for obvious reasons. My father has moderate dementia and has lost 3 pairs of $5-6K hearing aids, They just can’t afford to keep replacing these. His last audiogram was very similar between ears and showed he could hear at 20-30 dB at 250-500HZ, 50 DB at 1K-2K Hz, 60 dB at 3K, 80 dB at 4K; he has been evaluated by ENT without any other underlying condition. He probably would like something that looks like a traditional hearing aid. It doesn’t need blue tooth, but could be a rechargeable brand. He really is only at home watching TV or participating in small family gatherings. Any recommendations?

    1. Everyday Hearing says:

      You may consider #1 and #2 on our list although they are not rechargeable. The Bose hearphones are rechargeable but they don’t look like traditional hearing aids.

  9. Dr. Joseph gross says:

    I have profoundone hearing loss.
    I am currently using the reizen mighty loud ear which provides 120 dB amplification which is the MINIMUM I require, all other assisted hearing devices are not loud enough. I am not at all concerned therefore about so called potential damage from loud sounds…doesn’t bother me in the least.
    So which of the 18 recommended devices…and especially the others you did not recommend because they were “too loud”, can provide me with the amplification I require?

  10. Ernest Cunningham says:

    Thank you for your very informative review. I’m a 85 year old male who wants to hear conversations better, both in person and on the telephone speakerphone. I’ve just had a hearing test that indicates moderate to slightly severe age related hearing loss in both ears. I’d prefer an ITE type bud that is simple to install and operate. (I’m not a techie and I’m inpatient with constant maintenance and adjustments) Quality is my prime concern. Price is a secondary concern. Could you recommend two or three devices that I should seriously consider. Thank you in advance for your help

    1. If you have a moderate to slightly severe hearing loss you need a digital hearing aid, not a PSAP. You may want to check out this article: https://www.everydayhearing.com/hearing-aids/articles/best-hearing-aids-moderate-hearing-loss/ which describes hearing aid options for your hearing loss.

  11. B. R. Fleming says:

    Why did you not include Zyon hearing amplifiers? I know the market contains plenty of devices and companies, but I just wondered if you had a particular reason for not including Zyon, particularly the Zyon Rechargeable Hearing Amplifier RIC.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Trying to help a homebound 93 year old friend of the family who needs hearing assistance for small, mostly one-on-one conversations. He had a hearing test 2-3 years ago with pretty typical results. He and his wife, and I, are overwhelmed with the choices. Please, while I realize that he may get the MOST benefit from true hearing aides, he needs something that will, at least, improve his ability to understand speech when his wife speaks with him. Cost under $1000 would be acceptable. Any suggestions would be so appreciated. Thank you.

    1. You could consider the pocket talker device listed above for help in one-on-one conversations with his wife. The best option would be to have him have a consultation with a local hearing professional to discuss your options for him. You can find one here: https://quotes.everydayhearing.com/org-hearing-tests?comment

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