Over the Counter Hearing Aids: Are You Taking a Chance?

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 grocery stores? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But as you grow up, you start to get a little more particular. Your ice cream preferences get more specialized and you have a tendency to go for your favorite brand. Those little containers start to become more appealing.

But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. Which means that each type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in certain situations, but you might want more specific ice cream in other situations.

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

There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss

Your daily life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. Social solitude that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.

This can make you feel distant from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And it can bring about a faster mental decline as you get older.

So it’s not just that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially serious health problems.

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

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

By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

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

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The thinking 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. 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 option. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never manufactured 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 individual.

What’s the essential difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?

In general, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, efficient, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct requirements and they won’t fit as well.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? Well, yes, in certain cases. 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 perform most optimally.)
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
  • You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.

It’s fairly common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some devices are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are often not the right option

So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing will not be the best choice for you if:

  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
  • You need to hear in complex or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
  • You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you might need them to be. Sometimes, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.

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

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

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

That’s because understanding more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. Whether your hearing loss requires 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.

Make an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is best for you.

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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