Better Hearing Through Bluetooth


Larry Faust, 61, uses a Bluetooth-based personalized sound amplification device.Stuart Isett for The New York Times Larry Faust, 61, uses a Bluetooth-based personalized sound amplification device.

Like many men of his generation, Larry Faust, 61, of Seattle, went to a lot of rock concerts in his youth. And like many men of his generation, his hearing isn’t what it used to be.
“My wife has been bugging me for several years to do something about my hearing,” said Mr. Faust. “I spent part of the summer of 1969 at Woodstock. So that probably didn’t help.”
Instead of going the traditional route — buying hearing aids through an audiologist or licensed hearing aid dispenser — Mr. Faust purchased a device that is classified as a personal sound amplifier product, or P.S.A.P., which is designed to amplify sounds in a recreational environment.
Unlike hearing aids, P.S.A.P.’s are exempt from Food and Drug Administration oversight and can be sold as electronic devices directly to consumers, with no need to see a physician before buying one. They come with a range of features and vary widely in price.
And while some hearing professionals have long cautioned against the devices, citing their unreliability and poor quality, many also say that a new generation of P.S.A.P.s that utilize the latest wireless technology are offering promising alternatives for some people with hearing loss.
The device Mr. Faust bought, the CS10 from a Chicago-based company called Sound World Solutions, cost $299.99, thousands of dollars cheaper than most digital hearing aids. While it has many of the same features that high-end hearing aids have, including 16 channels to process sound, directional microphones, feedback insulation and noise reduction, it has one capability that hearing aids and other devices on the market currently don’t have. It comes with software that enables consumers to program it themselves, a feature made possible in part by the adoption of the widely available Bluetooth wireless technology, rather than the proprietary platforms used by most wireless hearing aids.
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