Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at grocery stores? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you grow up, you begin to get a bit more specific. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.
But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. Which means that each type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other situations.
This same attitude also applies to hearing aids. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Hearing loss can have a considerable effect on your everyday experiences. Social solitude that frequently accompanies hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what others are saying.
This can cause you to feel distant from your friends and family. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster mental 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 instance), but you have other health issues to worry about also!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not hard to see the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to get.
Convenience is the very nature of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just go into your local pharmacy. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once you put them in, they function to amplify the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.
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 idea was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can keep people away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good option. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never designed to replace their prescription counterparts.
But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right choice lies with the consumer.
What’s the essential difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, efficient, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? Well, yes, in certain situations. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
- You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
- You have no plan to get your hearing assessed. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
It’s pretty typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models 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 option
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there adverse 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. Generally, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
- When you’re in challenging and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. In some cases, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
- Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still uncertain to you: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are frequently almost as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly profound stage. More severe cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.
See a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are suitable for some people and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. Whichever option is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.
That’s because knowing more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. We can help steer 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.
Make an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is best for you.