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

Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at grocery stores? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they promised a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!

But as you get older, you start 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 smaller containers are the ones that are enticing.

Still, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some circumstances, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

This same mentality also applies to hearing aids. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.

There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your day-to-day experiences. 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 cause you to feel distant from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

Given the harm that hearing loss can cause, it’s not very difficult to recognize the appeal of hearing aids that are easy to purchase.

Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home as soon as you get and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, they work to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively impacted by this.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some situations

Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear in stores around 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 people who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

It’s never been difficult to get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good alternative. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the best option lies with the individual.

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

In general, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly 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 benefits to an OTC in particular circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they suggest using an OTC hearing aid. (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 very basic or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing checked. (You really should. But we also acknowledge that some people simply never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best choice. (This is why it’s good to know more about your own hearing loss before you purchase any hearing aid, OTC or not).

OTC hearing aids are often not the best choice

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

Well every situation won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody who has hearing loss. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • A cheaper hearing aid that does not sufficiently manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you might need them to be. Sometimes, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are often almost as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • 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 risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? Generally speaking, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

You will be able to get better treatment when you understand more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.

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

If you think you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, make 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.

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