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? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you start to become more specific in your taste as you mature. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those smaller containers begin to become more enticing.

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

Of course, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.

There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss

Your day-to-day life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s more difficult to carry on even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to speak with you.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the supermarket you use self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

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

By their very 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 as soon as you pick up and pay for these devices. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.

Your life can be significantly and positively impacted by this.

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

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

You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. For people who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good option. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

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

What’s the essential 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 features than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.

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

  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also recognize that some people simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.

It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get 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 option. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are frequently not the right choice

So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter 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 ideal option for you if:

  • Your hearing aids don’t fit well. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
  • Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
  • Exactly which hearing aid to get is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody who has hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of using really loud earbuds.)
  • You need to hear in complex or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.

What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good fit 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. Whichever decision 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 once you understand more about your hearing loss. 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.

Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is best for you.

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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.