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 you start to become more particular in your taste as you get older. You start going for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.

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

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

There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss

Your day-to-day life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social isolation, it’s harder to have even basic conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you confront other people who may want to speak with you.

This can make you feel removed from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your mental faculties can decline faster.

So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays a lot less enjoyable, for instance), but you have other health issues to worry about also!

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

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

Convenience is the very backbone of the appeal 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 grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they function to amplify the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.

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

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 thinking was that if hearing aids were more readily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.

It’s never been hard to get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad option for individuals who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. 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 appropriate option lies with the individual.

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

In general, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, efficient, or personalized 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? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in specific situations. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:

  • You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (For best results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (You definitely should. But we also recognize that some individuals just never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • You keep a pair on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.

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. (So before you invest in a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are frequently not the ideal choice

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

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

  • A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t sufficiently treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to get is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
  • Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. In some cases, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.

Are there any dangers that come with OTC 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 distinct hearing loss.

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. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.

You will be able to get better treatment when you know 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 circumstance.

In the same way, we can help you better adapt to a new pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you find out 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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