Over the Counter Hearing Aids: Are You Taking a Chance?

Pharmacy drugstore blur abstract background with medicine and over the counter hearing aids on shelves

Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at supermarkets? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But as you grow up, you start to get a little more particular. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers begin to become more appealing.

But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in some situations, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other situations.

Of course, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.

Hearing loss can have serious affects

Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social isolation, it’s harder to carry on even simple conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to talk to you.

This can make you feel distant from your friends and family. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s lonely. And it can bring about a faster cognitive decline as you get older.

So it’s not just that you can’t hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be increasing your chances of other potentially severe health problems.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not very difficult to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to buy.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You’re on your way home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, they function to amplify the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.

In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can work

Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to get prescription hearing aids. Many individuals, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the appropriate option lies with the consumer.

How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?

In general, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct needs and they won’t fit as well.

So is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in some cases. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:

  • You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You absolutely should. But we also understand that some people simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • You keep a set on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.

It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best option. (So before you invest in a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are often not the best choice

So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Will you encounter unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing will not be the best choice for you if:

  • Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
  • When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. In some cases, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.

What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? Generally speaking, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. Whichever option is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.

You will be able to get better treatment when you know more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.

We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.

If you think you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are right for you, schedule an appointment with us today.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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