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 grocery stores? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But as you grow up, you start to get a little more particular. Your ice cream tastes get more specialized and you have a tendency to go for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.

Still, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. Which means that each type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in certain situations, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.

Of course, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what your goals are.

There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss

Your daily life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can encounter social isolation, it’s harder to have even simple conversations, so you stay away from situations where you encounter other people who might want to speak with you.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s lonely. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you get older.

So it’s not just that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be increasing your risk of other potentially serious health issues.

How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?

It’s not hard to understand why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

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 stroll into your local pharmacy. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to boost the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.

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

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

It’s never been hard to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.

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

What’s the difference between over-the-counter and 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 customized to your needs.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in specific situations. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You have really basic or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
  • You have no plan to get your hearing assessed. (Some individuals never will, even though they absolutely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.

It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you purchase any hearing aid, OTC or not).

OTC hearing aids are often not the ideal choice

So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everyone in every circumstance. OTC hearing won’t be the ideal option for you if:

  • A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t adequately manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • You need to hear in complex or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for less significant hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • OTC hearing aids are not 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 lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.

What are the risks of over-the-counter 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 individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

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