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

Remember when you used to be able to find those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you mature. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you have a tendency to opt for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those smaller containers are the ones that are appealing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in some situations, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.

This same attitude also applies to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.

There can be real detrimental effects from hearing loss

Your day-to-day life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to talk to you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the supermarket you use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s easy to see the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to buy.

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 go into your local pharmacy. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once they’re in your ears, they function to boost the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made 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 neglected hearing loss.

It’s never been hard to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. For people who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good option. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.

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

How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?

In general, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in certain situations. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
  • You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You absolutely should. But we also understand that some individuals simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (For best outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)

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

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical fit

So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter 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 good fit for everyone in every situation. OTC hearing will not be the best option for you if:

  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
  • 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 environments. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of using really loud earbuds.)
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.

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 distinct hearing loss.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

OTC hearing aids are suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

That’s because knowing 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.

Schedule 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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