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 find at supermarkets? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they offered a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!

But you start to become more specific in your taste as you get older. Your ice cream tastes get more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those smaller containers are the ones that are appealing.

But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. There are pros and cons to each choice. In some scenarios, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

Obviously, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have serious impacts

Hearing loss can have a considerable effect on your everyday experiences. Social isolation that frequently accompanies hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.

Which means you find yourself estranged 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 isn’t a happy way to live. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.

So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays much less fun, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about too!

How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?

It isn’t hard to recognize why individuals would want to move towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some situations

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can cause people to stay away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad solution 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.

Unfortunately, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of knowing when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).

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 functions 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 any good at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in specific circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:

  • You have no intention of getting your hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also understand that some individuals just never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is very simple. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For best results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs 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).

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit

So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit for everybody in every circumstance. OTC hearing will not be the best option for you if:

  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are frequently almost as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. In some cases, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for less significant hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?

What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? You could be wasting good money and further damaging your ears by using OTC hearing aids if they’re not the best solution for your specific hearing loss.

Consult a hearing specialist either way

OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some people and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

You will be able to get better treatment once you know more about your hearing loss. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

Similarly, we can help you better adapt to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

Make an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is right 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.
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