Most older adults choose not to use hearing aids. Many find them too expensive, difficult to manipulate, embarrassing — or just too poignant a reminder of advancing age.
But hearing aids aren't the only options available. In selected situations, a device known as a personal sound amplifying product, or PSAP, can be a useful alternative, experts say — with some caveats.
The category includes a wide range of products, from $20 units that indiscriminately amplify sound, to pocket-size devices with microphones and headphones that cost roughly $100 to $150, to sophisticated $500 earpiece units with some of the noise-canceling, sound-enhancing technology found in hearing aids.
Almost two-thirds of people age 70 or older have some degree of hearing loss, yet just 20 percent use hearing aids, which can cost thousands of dollars and aren't covered by Medicare.
PSAPs can be "entry-level devices for people with mild hearing loss who know they need some help but are sitting on the fence," said Barbara Weinstein, head of the audiology program at the City University of New York Graduate Center.