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? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But as you grow up, you start to get a bit more particular. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. All of a sudden, those smaller containers are the ones that are enticing.

But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you may want more specific ice cream in other circumstances.

This same mindset also applies to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have serious impacts

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your everyday activities. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s harder to carry on even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you encounter other people who might want to speak with you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And it can cause a faster mental decline as you get older.

So it isn’t just that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be increasing your chances of other potentially severe health problems.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

It’s not difficult to understand why people 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 simply go into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they function to amplify the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.

In some instances 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 changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more readily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good option. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t designed to replace their prescription counterparts.

Unfortunately, this means that consumers 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?

As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more personalized features than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct requirements and they won’t fit as well.

So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in specific circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)
  • You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You keep a pair on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
  • You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (You really should. But we also acknowledge that some individuals just never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.

It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. Some devices are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (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 frequently not the best option

So are there negative aspects 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 everybody in every situation. In general, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:

  • A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t sufficiently manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody with hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
  • 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.
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. In some cases, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • You have more severe hearing loss. More severe cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.

What are the dangers 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.

Consult a hearing specialist either way

OTC hearing aids are suitable for some people 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 have an appointment with us.

You will be capable of getting 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.

In the same way, we can help you better adjust to a new pair 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.