Hearing Health Blog

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

Do you remember 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 bit more specific. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers start to become more appealing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. In some scenarios, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

This same mentality also pertains to hearing aids. Are new 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 impacts

Your daily life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. Social solitude that often comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what people are saying.

This can make you feel removed from your family and friends. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can bring about a faster mental decline as you get older.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

It isn’t difficult to understand why individuals would want to move towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.

By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to amplify the sound around you.

Your life can be profoundly and positively influenced by this.

In some circumstances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job

Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear in stores around 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.

It’s never been hard to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many people, unfortunately, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good alternative. But prescription hearing aids were never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

Sadly, 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).

What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?

In general, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.

So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in certain situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:

  • You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
  • 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 perform most optimally.)
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing checked. (Some individuals never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.

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

When OTC hearing aids are not a practical solution

So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?

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

  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you might need them to be. Sometimes, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You need to hear in complex or noisy environments. The majority of 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 profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
  • Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody with hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • 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.

Are there any dangers that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, 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

OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

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

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

Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is right for you.

Call Today to Set Up an Appointment

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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