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

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

Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But as you get older, you start to get a little more specific. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you may want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.

This same mindset also pertains to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.

There can be real negative effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a considerable impact on your everyday experiences. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s harder to carry on even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other individuals who may want to speak with you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And it can lead to a faster cognitive decline as you age.

So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less fun, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about too!

How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?

Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not hard to see the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to purchase.

By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You’re going home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they work to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some situations

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

It’s never been hard to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many people, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad choice for individuals who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t designed to take the place of their prescription counterparts.

Regrettably, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of knowing when OTC hearing aids are a good choice (and when they aren’t).

How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?

As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have a lot more personalized functions than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.

So is there anything helpful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in particular circumstances. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:

  • You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing test. (You absolutely should. But we also acknowledge that some people just never will.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)

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

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good solution

So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well every situation won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t sufficiently treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to get is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody with hearing loss. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are usually almost as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • You have more severe hearing loss. More profound cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.

Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? You could be wasting good money and doing more damage to your ears by using OTC hearing aids if they’re not the best solution for your distinct hearing loss.

See a hearing specialist either way

For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

You will be capable of getting better treatment once you understand more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss requires prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.

Similarly, we can help you better adjust to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

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

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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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