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? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you mature. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. There are pros and cons to each choice. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you may want more specific ice cream in other situations.

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

Hearing loss can have significant impacts

Hearing loss can have a considerable impact on your day-to-day experiences. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you confront other people who might want to speak with you.

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 cause a faster mental decline as you get older.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

Given the damage that hearing loss can cause, it’s not hard to see the appeal of hearing aids that are simple to purchase.

Convenience is the very nature 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 stroll into your local pharmacy. You’re on your way home as soon as you pick up and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they function to amplify the sound around you.

Your life can be significantly and positively influenced by this.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The rule change focused on 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. For people who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good alternative. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

Regrettably, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good choice (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 much more customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific requirements and they won’t fit as well.

So is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in particular circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (Some individuals never will, even though they absolutely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.
  • 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.)

It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some devices are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (This is why it’s good to know more about your own hearing loss before you buy 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 encounter unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?

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

  • Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • Exactly which hearing aid to get is still uncertain to you: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s comparable to 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’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.

Are there any dangers that come with OTC 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 individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

That’s because understanding more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

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

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

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