Sentire Med advertises hearing amplifiers for those with normal, slight, mild, and moderate hearing loss. Their digital hearing amplifier, the SP-Micro 100, is a high-end PSAP solution. If you are unsure what a PSAP is, and how it differs from a hearing aid, be sure to check out this article to learn more.
Many people with hearing loss are searching for less expensive hearing amplification options to help enhance their hearing abilities. Which is why a new law for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids was recently passed, and why hearables are on the rise.
We had the opportunity to review the SP-Micro 100 hearing amplifier, as well as test is out with a patient with mild hearing loss.
Sentire Med Digital Hearing Amplifier Review by Patient J.C.
Product Reviewed: Sentire Med SP-Micro 100 hearing amplifier, single, beige
Hearing: Mild hearing loss in both ears (see audiogram below)
Previous hearing aid experience: Used as subject in Bean amplifier review
J.C. volunteered to review the Sentire Med product without compensation. The patient was asked to discuss his opinions in relation to fit, sound quality, and ease of use. The images below are of a model and not the actual tester (as he asked to remain anonymous).
J.C. was given the box to open and try without any instructions by the audiologist.
The amplifier came with four tubes, 2 sizes for the right ear, and 2 for the left ear. One of the right ear tubes was already attached to the device but J.C. was unsure which ear it was for. (Note: often times hearing aids or PSAPs will color the end of tube red for right ear and blue for left ear.)
It also came with 3 ear tip sizes, one of which was already attached to the tube.
After looking over the instructions, J.C. put the hearing aid on. He had quite a bit of difficulty, especially with trying to insert the retention tail on the end of the tube. The tube size (2R) that came attached was “too big for my ear” according to J.C.
He switched to the 1R tube size with little difficulty after reviewing the tube installation instruction sheet provided.
The amplifier did come with left tubing as well but I believe that since it came with the right tubing attached, J.C. chose to wear it in his right ear. Once J.C. was able to properly insert the device, it fit well and was comfortable.
Overall Fit Review: Positive
The Sentire Med amplifier comes with 4 pre-set modes that you access by pushing a button. Each mode is louder, starting at 1 and going up to mode 4.
Sentire Med provided us with the electroacoustic analysis measurements of the device which indicates a peak gain (i.e. maxiumum amplification) of 35dB and an average peak gain of 28dB. This means that sounds coming into the device microphone in the high frequencies will be amplified an average of 28dB at the highest volume setting (mode 4).
We also appreciate that Sentire Med has included measurements of the maxiumum output level of 110dB SPL. This meets our criteria for a safe PSAP output level (<120dB SPL).
J.C. tested the amplifier in all 4 modes but quickly decided that mode 3 and 4 were too loud. He used mode 1 and 2 while watching TV, having a conversation with his wife at home in quiet, in the car, and while eating in a noisy restaurant. He noted that it did help him to turn the TV down and he heard his wife’s voice better in their home, but that the car and restaurant were very noisy and he took it off in the restaurant because even mode 1 was too noisy and “sharp”.
He also noted that when he put his hand up near the device to find the button, the sound amplifier squealed in his ear.
Overall based on J.C.’s experience it sounds like the amplification for soft sounds was too much for J.C. to make good use of it in a noisy environment.
Overall Sound Quality Review: Positive in quiet environment
Ease of Use
The SP-Micro 100 comes with an instruction manual, a pack of batteries, cleaning tools, 3 eartip options, 4 tube options, and a storage case. It is important to keep in mind that the replacement eartips, tubes, and batteries will need to be purchased beyond the initial supply. This will be an additional expense beyond the initial purchase.
J.C. has a lot of difficulty inserting the amplifier in his ear, particularly the tube section. It took approximately 4 tries for J.C. to get it on his ear properly without any verbal instructions. While the user guide describes the process in writing, we don’t believe it is enough for most people that have never worn a hearing device to know how to properly insert. A corresponding video, or help from a professional would have aided during this process.
After reading the instruction guide, he was able to insert the battery with ease.
He also had some difficulty finding the button on the back of the hearing aid to change modes. While he stayed in mode 1 most of the time, this may be something to consider for those with more hearing loss who will need to switch to mode 2,3, and 4 more often. It may be easier for them to change the mode before putting the device in the ear.
Overall Ease of Use Review: Negative
Overall Review of The Sentire Med Digital Hearing by Everyday Hearing Audiologist
While I would not substitute the SP-Micro 100 for a pair of digital hearing aids prescribed and fit by an Audiologist, I believe it does have a place in the hearing wellness industry.
Some people are not quite ready to wear hearing aids, but would like to experiment with amplification and/or use amplification in some unique situations, such as when watching TV.
There is also the issue of cost. A hearing amplifier can be purchased online or at a drug store for 1/6 of the cost of the average hearing aid. People are demanding low-cost options for hearing loss and the industry is beginning to see a shift in that direction with the recent passage of the Over The Counter Hearing Aid Act.
However, it is important to note that while a PSAP like the Sentire Med amplifier can be purchased through an online retailer without a prescription, we at Everyday Hearing always recommend evaluation of the ear and hearing by an audiologist prior to the use of any hearing enhancement device.
You can read more about the Sentire Med SP-Micro 100 personal sound amplifier on their website here.